Friday, April 29

Yet Another Of My Supposedly Big Ideas That Never Went Anywhere

The Mark Rothko Paint-by-Numbers Kit

Happy Birthday, Duke

Edward Kennedy Ellington 1899-1974.

"I took the energy it takes to pout," he said, "and wrote some blues."

Friday Unified Shuffle

The Unified Vinyl, Cassette, CD, and I Ching generator is now in full operation. Incidentally, this works because I keep all this stuff alphabetized, the only instance in my life of anything approaching organization.

Blues Magoos: We Ain't Got Nothin' Yet
Proclaimers: Throw the 'R' Away
Bangles: Hero Takes A Fall
Django Reinhardt, Stéphane Grappelli et al.: I've Found a Brand New Baby
Savoy Brown: Made Up My Mind
John Hiatt: How Bad's The Coffee
Frank Black: I Heard Ramona Sing
Lush: De Luxe
Tom Waits: Back In Ruby's Arms
Mudy Waters: Long Distance Call

S'an odd mix, doncha think? Hard to dance to.

Thursday, April 28

Poetry Month

Almost forgot my contribution, which in fact is stolen from Garrison Keillor:

Emily Dickinson's "Because I Could Not Stop for Death" can be sung to:

St. James Infirmary
Marines Hymn
Amazing Grace
Wabash Cannonball
Ghost Riders in the Sky
Yellow Rose of Texas

and Robert Frost's "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening" can be sung to:

Hernando's Hideaway
When the Saints Go Marching In
Sixteen Tons
San Antonio Rose
The Doxology
I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate
Your Cheatin' Heart

My personal favorites are the last ones listed. Try it with your circle of friends!

Gang Tag

First up, last week the bloggy goodness that is Corndog tagged me with the Caesar's Bath thing which runs:

List five things that people in your circle of friends or peer group are wild about, but you can’t really understand the fuss over.

I responded in his comments that I had no circle of friends, but that was somehow lost in the aether. I received a miraculous reprieve when he imagined that my Mission Statement was a cryptic answer, as perhaps it was, but in fact I had taken the matter under advisement and the result was an incredibly long post I was hoping to make short in time for some Saturday hilarity. I still may.

Then Kathy, whose blog is quietly excellent in its quiet excellence, and whose name for such exercises, Slambook! we hereby vote to enshrine, stabbed me with the Huffington Blog Meme: Which five people, alive or dead, would you like to see blog? That one I did in the car driving home.

I'd rather name five people who could never blog again, but hey, play the game by its rules:

Webb Wilder, the pride of Hattiesburg, MS, whom some of you may know from Politically Incorrect but the cognoscenti know as The Last of the Full Grown Men and an eponymous kick-ass band.

Michael Harrington once upon a time the best known socialist in America, which Bill Buckley compared to being "the tallest building in Topeka." Elitist.

A Group Blog with Seth Green, James Brown, Amy Tan, Kate Moss, and Henry Clay, called Earth Tones.

Hannah Arendt. Now more than ever.

Chuang-tsu Chinese philosopher and stand-up comic.

Too busy right now to see who hasn't gotten this yet.


We at BLTR recognize the true importance of blogging. It's a sacred trust, as sacred to us as the scripture he agrees with is to James Dobson. We have a responsibility to educate as well as to inform. When we fall short of our standards we have an obligation to correct our mistakes in the same forum in which they were made, and to hold ourselves responsible. Just like the real media.

Last night we wrote the piece below replying to a New York Times op-ed piece by Bob Dole. It has come to our attention that many of the younger denizens of the Blog-o-rama might not be aware of Bob Dole's place in history, and we were remiss in not identifying him. Bob Dole is the former US Senator from Archer-Daniels-Midland.

We apologize for any inconvenience.

Tap Dancing Lasting For More Than Four Hours, While Rare, Requires Immediate Medical Attention

Bob Dole goes all weepy about judicial filibusters.

In the coming weeks, we may witness a vote in the United States Senate that will define the 109th Congress for the ages. This vote will not be about war and peace, the economy or the threat from terrorism.

First of all, who do we have to thank for that? The Bush administration and the majorities in both houses have done all they could to minimize public debate over war and peace, the economy, and the threat from terrorism. The Senate is supposed to be the deliberative body. The filibuster is supposed to be a tool of minorities. It's supposed to force the majority to compromise.

When I was the Senate Republican leader, President Bill Clinton nominated two judges to the federal bench - H. Lee Sarokin and Rosemary Barkett - whose records, especially in criminal law, were particularly troubling to me and my Republican colleagues. Despite my misgivings, both received an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor and were confirmed.

Both were filibustered, Senator. Both were filibustered. So too was Surgeon General Designate Dr. Henry Foster, in 1995, while you were Republican leader.

When I was a leader in the Senate, a judicial filibuster was not part of my procedural playbook. Asking a senator to filibuster a judicial nomination was considered an abrogation of some 200 years of Senate tradition.

The cloture rule was extended in 1949.

President Bush has the lowest appellate-court confirmation rate of any modern president.

You just have to read that sentence to figure there's some statistics-mining going on, don't you? But what you won't realize at a glance is this: in Clinton's second term his appellate-court confirmation rate was nine percentage points lower than Bush's.

Let's just all turn our cards up at this point. Senate Republicans systematically obstructed Bill Clinton's judicial appointments. Sixty is the commonly-given figure, as opposed to the ten Bush appointees we're willing to change the rules over here. Republicans changed the blue-slip rules once that petard was in their own hands. That has led to less bipartisan consultation on appointments. Use of the filibuster is their remedy under the circumstances.

Old whores become respectable. Once upon a time old senators did too.

Wednesday, April 27

What Did The Student Say When He Woke Up?

This is not a punchline. See below.

He was reportedly "rather sheepish" about having fallen asleep. He was shown photos of the work on a couple of those picture-takin' cell phones the kids all love. No report on his reaction to that.

Other info is classified, as the ROTC is involved. Actually it's because I'm about to reveal that my wife said this is her "Dream Class of bright, funny kids" and I don't want that going to anybody's head. As for potential "trouble" au contraire. She's having it blown up into a poster.

Bush Extends Social Security Tour

Nation Extends Middle Finger.

Nyuck, Nyuck.

Seriously, I miss having the guy around. Sometimes I wish he were still President.

Tuesday, April 26

Happy 100

Jean Vigo 1905-1934

Vigo made four short films before he died at 29 of complications from his lifelong bout with consumption: A Propos de Nice, a silent and satirical social documentary about the lives of rich and poor on the Riviera, where he'd been sent for his health; a short film about French swimming champion Jean Taris (which I've never seen); and his two masterpieces, Zéro de Conduite and L'Atalante.

Zéro, (which, due to the fact that I thought his birthday was tomorrow and so planned to watch tonight, I haven't seen in a while) is about a rebellion at a French boarding school, where Vigo spent his youth (after his father, Miguel Almereyda, a notorious anarchist, died under "mysterious circumstances" in his jail cell). It's lyrical, wildly comic, surrealist, and above all, remarkably true to childhood seen through the eyes of children. The film was banned as "anti-French" shortly after its release.

L'Atalante suffered a different fate. Vigo was ill during filming; he wasn't able to direct the last day of shooting and someone else had to edit it. He died the day before it opened (to mediocre reviews). A legendary film maudit, like Renoir's Rules of the Game, it survived for years only as a mutilated print. Meanwhile, Vigo's reputation slowly grew. Some hacked-out footage was eventually restored (in the 50s, if I recall), and in 1999 it was re-cut after even more footage was discovered. Of course no one will ever know Vigo's intention.

Still, it is perhaps the most beautiful film ever made and the closest thing to poetry in the cinema. The captain of the ironically-named barge and his new bride spend their honeymoon going up the Seine to Paris (they march directly from the church to the boat) with the two-man crew, and the small-town bride's head is turned by the big city and the contrast between the charms of a small-time huckster and her hot-tempered husband. The extraordinary Michel Simon plays the cat-loving mate Jules, the coarse and seemingly somewhat dull sailor whose hidden depths are revealed in quite remarkable ways. There are few of Zéro's surrealist touches (though one, where after an early spat the bride, still in her wedding dress, walks to the stern like she's going to keep on walking, takes my breath away every time); in fact the film presages post-war neo-realism. Although in any HFPST-like semi-finals I'd have to vote Rules of the Game or Citizen Kane the greater work, it's still, probably, the film closest to my heart. Wherever that is. Bon anniversaire, Jean.

The Kids Are Alright

The best part's the set-up:

The young fellow there is one of my wife's students who was feeling under the weather one day and asked if he could just put his head down. He pulled his ROTC jacket over his head and went to sleep.

A few minutes later another student asked her if she had any red construction paper.

Stalking The Ellusive Theocrat

Michael Barone: Faith In Our Future?

If you read the headlines, you run the risk of thinking we are headed toward a theocracy.

Why do headline writers hate America? See, Michael, I gotta stop you right here. Let's agree that there are theocrats, okay, and that they are primarily clustered in your party. And further, let's ask ourselves where these scare headlines are (don't worry; I'm not expecting you to provide evidence or anything) and how they got there. They're there because those issues--gay marriage, Terri Schiavo, abortion, stem-cell research, the Ten Commandments on the courthouse lawn, the supposed persecution of Christians--are the issues of that faction. The forces of secularism did not put the Schiavo case on the front pages. Gay marriage, I admit, came about as the result of legal decisions and later of legislative ones. But who made it a religious issue? Not gays. I'd be happy if we declare all those matters of civil rights or privacy rights and take 'em out of the headlines all together. Are we agreed?

Of course we ain't. You want those issues, those votes, that source of funds. And you've recently come to realize they're a two-edged sword, so we get another lecture about how it couldn't possibly happen here. Just some "alarmists" talking.

But whether the United States is on its way to becoming a theocracy is actually a silly question. No religion is going to impose laws on an unwilling Congress or the people of this country.

Hey, Michael, if you're in the neighborhood this Sunday let's go get ourselves a couple of six packs, huh? Oh, I almost forgot, can't buy beer here on Sunday. Though I'm sure there's no religious significance in that.

C'mon, now. Who was holding those hoops for Bush and DeLay and Frist to jump through on the Schiavo case? If it's a silly question, then I'm sure the Republican party would have no qualms explaining that to the Dominionists. Next time around, I mean.

The real question is whether strong religious belief is on the rise in America and the world. Fifty years ago, secular liberals were confident that education, urbanization and science would lead people to renounce religion. That seems to have happened, if you confine your gaze to Europe, Canada and American university faculty clubs.

Okay, I said I wouldn't ask you for evidence. I didn't say no spit takes.

It is absolutely clear that in the past fifty years, by any measure you'd like to use, that religion has become less important to people in America. Church attendance and church membership are down. Religious tenets inform people's personal behavior much less than they did in 1955. The culture is much more secular. Fundamentalism and evangelicalism did enjoy a brief increase in the 1980s in the percentage of Christians who profess them, but that began to fall back a decade later and is still declining. The only place religion holds real sway is in the number of political operatives using it as a crutch.

And I'm not sure what the rest of the world has to do with American theocracy, unless you're planning on granting suffrage to South America. You aren't, are you?

But this movement has not been as benign as expected: The secular faiths of fascism and communism destroyed millions of lives before they were extinguished.

All right, that's the last invitation you're gonna get from me. Communism and fascism occurred in the last fifty years in America?

And while the argument itself is beneath contempt--certainly far beyond anything you Poor Persecuted Christians have had to endure--it's not without its unintentional humor in its development from wise-ass retort to semi-literate pronouncement. Because while the extent of the secularism of the Nazi party can be disputed, "fascism" sticks its hand in a rat trap while groping for some political schmierkase. Italy was fascist. Spain was fascist. And Catholic. Any second thoughts?

Monday, April 25

Our Mission Statement

We started this blog (and, to avoid any confusion, frequent use of the journalistic "we" is now part of our mission) as the result of a handful of fellow commenters inquiring as to whether we had one or planned to start one. One of those mysterious occurrences in Life--who knows?--biorhythms, phases of moon, nothing on teevee, bad pot roast the night before? made me stand up and say, "You want to know why I don't have a blog? I'll show you why I don't have a blog!"

But as sure as there are Mods and Rockers, there are Gods and Mockers. I was misled. I've--that is to say, we've--floundered. We don't need to tell you that. It's depressing as hell. It's easy enough to shine in the reflected genius of an s.z. or a norbizness; there's a giddy thrill that comes from being the only Michael Bérubé commenter without a high school diploma, but it's a much different matter when you're staring at a blank Create Post field and you've lost track of how much cinnamon schnapps you've had. It's Dark Night of the Soul time, baby, as someone said in a movie I saw once.

Last week, or month--I dunno, I seem to be sleeping a lot these days--I dashed off a pretty good bit, I thought, with Michelle Malkin as a dominatrix with a phony German accent, about to hit Hindrocket with a pie. Only this was in World O'Crap's comments. I almost cut and pasted it here. Reduced to stealing from myself. Next I'd be posting that really funny fake news story I wrote about Mr. Hutchins in high school.

It was the Slough of Despond bell ringin', dude. (Did you know that "slough" is the only word in English which is pronounced three different ways for three different definitions?) I though maybe I could get by posting parenthetical trivialities. I went through the cat pictures. Enough fluff stuck to my clothing to somehow keep posting (Moon Martin Week! That'll bring 'em in.) But my heart just wasn't in it.

Then it happened. I'd dashed off another of those pro-forma TV Guide™ things (I know...I'll say I don't know the answer to the Crossword puzzle clue! Har har har.) And this morning there's a comment from:


Alex is the living embodiment of a cosmic truth I've learned the hard way: while old age, guile and bitterness trumps youth and inexperience, a smart young person will kick your ass every time. Alex's Virginia Woolf parody turned up on roughly the same day we started this blog, and we almost quit right there. But Alex sent us a link to a story that has changed our life.

TV Guide™ is in trouble.

Advertising revenue is way down. The demo is all wrong: traditionalist, analog rather than digital, fearful of technology. The very people the Bush administration plans to leave on ice floes if there are enough left. You can buy a share of stock for what you pay for an issue. Only the intervention of Rupert Murdock has kept the magazine from abandoning its traditional role and turning into something edgy. Paris Hilton edgy. Or edgier. Who's edgy this week? You see, we don't know, and we're tired of not knowing stuff.

It's Road to Damascus-ville, Mildred. In God's name, what are we becoming? I don't mean that Patriot Act-bankrupting the country-invading the Third World stuff. That's last year's outrage. The people have spoken, and that "Huh?" echoes loud and clear. But what will happen to us when every last room in America has been made over, when every last straight guy 18-34 is restyled, when our toasters won't work without a USB cable?

I'm convinced now. One man can make a difference if he simply refers to himself in the plural. I pledge to you that wherever there's a confused old person clinging to analog, I'll be there. Wherever there's a demographic unpopular with advertisers, I'll be part of it. If you drive a Buick, I'll be behind you, matching your 32 mph. As long as there is one man left who says "What the fuck is this?" when served mango chutney, or chases teenagers off his lawn, or secretly yearns to throw 'er in reverse and slam the rolling boombox stopped behind him at the light, I swear they'll have a champion. That is our mission.

Or maybe I need another eyeopener.

Redefining "Redefining": A New Definition

Rice Redefines Role As Secretary of State by Anne Gearan, AP Diplomatic Writer:

She walks fast, talks fast and packs her schedule, from her ritual exercise at 5:30 a.m. to phone calls late at night. She glides on the thin ice of diplomacy in a whirl between continents, a former competitive skater who gave up the sport because it was too solitary.

Actually, the same was true of Charles E. Hughes.

Everywhere she goes abroad, Rice occupies front-page real estate in the local papers. At home, it is possible her clothes and hair are under closer scrutiny than her job performance.

Not unlike Walter Q. Gresham.

She was brave enough to stride through a U.S. Army base in Germany wearing a long, high-necked coat and black stiletto boots. She laughed off stares and admiring comments when she wore a daring red ball gown to a staid Washington dinner.

Two words: James Buchanan.

All of the travel aside, whether she will end up as a consequential secretary of state remains to be seen.

Or she could just redefine "consequential", I suppose.

She likes the give and take of a setting like the political science academy Sciences Po in Paris, where she gave a speech in February. Centerpiece of a fence-mending trip to Europe, the speech was mostly notable for its location -- a hotbed of French academic liberalism.

Try Googling "Thomas Jefferson" "France" and "hot beds".

While breaking no new ground, Rice was charming and sharp in answering questions, impressing scholars not easily swayed by U.S. arguments.

And they didn't swoon for William Rogers?

Rice manages to look perfectly put together almost always. Bobby pins keep that modified 1960s flip hairdo in place.

Okay, this one's an innovation.

A minor exception: her occasional appearance on her plane wearing a velour track suit. But even that is a step above the polyester track suit Powell used to wear, which appeared to be chain-store quality and Reagan-administration vintage.

I went to an AP wire story and an episode of What Not To Wear broke out. (/Rodney Dangerfield)

Rice even managed to look dignified, if startled, when a former Japanese sumo star enveloped her in a bear hug on the tarmac in Tokyo.

A first for a Secretary of State, but the great Yokozuna Tochinishiki did the Twist with then Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall in 1962.

She could have worshipped in South Korea instead and still kept her perfect attendance record; doing so in China was a subtle poke at the atheistic communist leaders.

I have nothing to add here. I just love it that "atheistic communist" can still make it into an AP story.

Some in the crowd of paparazzi shouted "con dolcezza," the Italian musical term from which her unusual first name is derived. It means to play "with sweetness."

Some of you might have imagined they were just shouting out her name, and that Ms Gearan has used the occasion to end her piece with one last lingering soul kiss for the Secretary. But the Italians are a very musical people, which explains why those same paparazzi were shouting, "Hey, Semplice!" at Bush.

Sunday, April 24

TV Guide™ Roundup

It's The Agony and the Ecstasy week at The Magazine of Record. Bad news first: it's the sneak previews of Hot Finales issue, meaning all our best friends are going on vacation for the summer. Will we still love them in September, or lose them to a summer love? Look inside for answers, plus suggested makeovers for American Idol finalists. Personally, I did my own with Magic Marker. Lots of beards and glasses and missing teeth.

But, oh, the lowest lows mean the highest highs! No only are we coming up on another sweeps month--and local news has just discovered that breast augmentation is sexier than mammograms--but the Letters column goes wall to wall with--I'm typing and swooning--reader suggestions for the TV brats left off the "10 Biggest Brats" list from two weeks ago. It's like that second hit you're not sure you should have taken:

The remarkably perceptive, not to mention as old as I am, Dan Weiler of Morton Grove, IL, votes for Claudia Lamb, "Heather Hartman" of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. In those pre-VCR days I actually scheduled my college classes around MH, MH. No, really.

Not unsurprisingly the rest of our correspondants can't measure up. Several appear to have missed the fact that it was a list of ten, and offer multiple choices. San Diego's encylopedic Ken Nakamura for example, nominates Megan of Drake & Josh, Pim of Phil of the Future, Bobby Brady, Rosanne's D.J. Conner, and the suspiciously-nepotistic-sounding Matt McGuire of Lizzie McGuire. Alfie Svoboda, who calls Pittsburgh home, wants to know how they could have missed Cartman, Wesley Crusher, or Arnold from Different Strokes. And Heather Hurd, another San Diegan, waxes poetic about Rugrats' Angelica Pickles, and though she stuck to one choice, both she and Wethersfield, CT's Harry Lichtenbaum (Larry Mondello) penned novellas.

And many thanks to the pride of Kokomo, reader HP, who sent me the code for hiding spoilers. Unfortunately I don't have to try it out for this week's Crossword Spoiler, because I don't know the answer:

51 Across: Ricky of Kentucky Jones

ANS: I have no idea. It's three letters. Try "Lee".

It's Moon Martin Week

Too bad the snow spoiled the parade. Yeah, snow.

Saturday, April 23

Saturday Morning Cold And Rainy Edition

All right, then, I'll say it: Dante makes me sick.

-last words of Lope de Vega

For the last twenty-four hours I've been trying to think of something Michael Bérubé doesn't know more about than I do. I think Major Central Nervous System Depressants is one, and Sports Americans Are Actually Interested In is listed as possible.

I mean, the man comes up with a nearly perfect operant definition of the perfect pop song, comes up with choices I can't top (okay, not by much), and name-checks X-Ray Spex into the bargain. Probably tosses off Recuerdos de la Alhambra at faculty mixers. On a borrowed Kay guitar.

Since his comments on music topics run into the hundreds, and since I've embarrassed myself on several occasions in the past by posting three or four time (Oh! I forgot...), and since I now have what passes for a blog, my second thoughts are going here.

My official response was standard, for me. For the last twenty-five years my answer's been the same: Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues" in a dead heat with Nick Lowe's "I Knew the Bride" (Dave Edmunds version). You simply cannot have more fun than either that's supposed to last for less than three minutes.

Of course I've been niggling this like a kid with a loose tooth ever since. Why didn't any R&B spring to mind immediately? (Short answer: though I found a couple, I think most great R&B performances lift songs beyond simple pop classic-ness.) And why, when there seem to be so many perfect little pop gems, have I never written one?

Oh! I forgot...

Odds, Satisfied
Sam Phillips, Tripping Over Gravity
Little Feat, Easy to Slip
Eddie Floyd, Knock On Wood
Skylighters, Since I Don't Have You
Prince, Mountains
Fountains of Wayne, Red Dragon Tattoo
Unit 4+2, Concrete and Clay
Carlene Carter, I'm So Cool
Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks, Moody Richard
Aimee Mann, I Should Have Known
Smithereens, Blood and Roses
Chuck Berry, School Days
Beau Brummels, Cry Just a Little
Crystals, He's a Rebel
Wall of Voodoo, Mexican Radio
Tanita Tikarum, Twists in My Sobriety

I'm glad there's too much of this stuff, rather than not enough.

Friday, April 22

Lest We Forget

The fine folks at Southern Heritage Designs would like to remind you that Prom season is almost here. Now is the time to order the formal which will make you the envy of your peculiar particular institution.

Due to the late unpleasantness we are no longer able to ship to Kentucky. It turns out that Kentucky was actually a part of the Union, that three times as many Kentuckians joined the Federal forces as the Confederacy, and that when the beloved Gen'l Albert Sidney Johnston marched on Bowling Green in 1862, expecting throngs of volunteers to flock to the Lost Cause he found instead "much hostility".

Who knew? Evidently not readers of public school history texts. Certainly no reader of Shelby Foote's much-acclaimed Civil War trilogy, which refers to three Kentucky-born Confederate general officers coming to "the defense" of their state, an odd choice of term when it was their side which had invaded, and speaks of the period of Kentucky "neutrality" [quotes in original] as though it were something imposed on the citizens from outside. We apologize for any inconvenience.

Friday Vinyl Shuffle

Last week's inaugural shuffle was so popular I decided to do the stairs again this week, even though the Grand Unified Media Selector and I Ching Generator is now fully operational--in time, I hope, to prevent my having to reveal I own Moon Martin's Escape from Domination. It has also occurred to me, too late, that I could have saved the programming and just bought thirty-eight K-Tel™ Record Selectors. Oh well:

Game Theory: I've Tried Subtlety
Wire: The 15th
Pere Ubu: Radiation Waves
Family: Between Blue and Me
Ian Dury: Inbetweenies
Gruppo Sportivo: P.S. 78
Los Lobos: Evangeline
Iggy Pop: Mr. Dynamite
Graham Parker and the Rumour: Help Me Shake It
Was (Not Was): Boy's Gone Crazy

Thursday, April 21

Dennis Miller Time

Dennis Miller was the guest on The Daily Show last night and raised a couple of interesting questions, such as why he was given two segments and WTF does he think he's doing with his career, if any.

Miller's schtick was wholly scripted, which allowed him to follow the time-honored showbiz tradition of bringing the show to a screeching halt right off the bat. Sal Mineo's chalk outline? Popeye Doyle and the Peter Principle? He righted himself momentarily with a Pope joke ("I don't know about you, but when I see a German guy on a balcony and cheering throngs below, I get nervous") before lurching into unwatchability. Then came the moment I tuned in for in the first place: "I know a lot of you think I'm a right-wing nut because I backed Bush and the war, but I'm a libertarian." This, by way of explaining that he was actually personally opposed to child molestation by priests (!). Really? That's what distinguishes the libertarian wing of the party now--it believes that child abuse laws should extend to religious figures?

Then came the second segment. Lordy. They should have booked the chimp. "I'm a libertarian" about three more times, apparently playing to TDS's dope-smoking demo, a defense of the war on Iraq based on the fact that it was a handy target, and a riff on the ridiculousness of global warming. Sheesh, Dennis, is that CNBC audience too big for you? The fall from C-list comedian to no-list comedian to Netscape pitchman hasn't been rapid enough?

I switched over to the last few minutes of his own show, which I hadn't seen since day two. His skills are not improving, but I noticed something which also happened when he was with Jon. Miller now careens into people on stage, fist-bumps guests, etc., in what comes across as a desperate attempt to demonstrate that he's not a right-wing nut. He's a libertarian. And zany.

I don't get it. It has nothing whatsoever to do with his political views, for me, but the violation of a cardinal rule of comedy: you can't expect us to laugh at your view of the world's foibles unless you include your own. Otherwise you're like Jack E. Leonard peaking though the curtains at a half-empty house before a dinner theatre production of Waiting for Godot. Babe.

Ann Coulter Time

I don't care about Ann Coulter. That doesn't mean I don't find her beneath contempt. But basically she's a comic foil for World O'Crap and TBogg, and a target for vitriol on a dozen other blogs I read, and that's sufficient. She's not just the voice of aggressive stupidity, she's the voice of an aggressive stupidity which takes pride in its own stupidity, and if I need to hear that I know a number of people who can provide it without my having to pay them a book royalty or further their celebrity.

No, the big problem with Ann Coulter is the "news" culture, and the larger entertainment culture which has subsumed it, which rewards loud-mouthed loutishness with little concern for content. Ann Coulter eats bugs on teevee for the chance to win fabulous prizes. I'm old enough, and conservative enough, to believe that public discourse ought to be conducted with the proper gravitas. I also believe that there's a place for outlandishness in that discourse; it just shouldn't be allowed to drown out serious debate. So yes, there's bug eating and then there's bug eating.

Ann's impinged herself on my resisting consciousness twice now in recent days. The first was when I noticed a low-level rebranding operation going on. "Oh, she's not really serious about the things she says," was the new line. The idea is simply breathtaking. In what way is that not a greater condemnation of the woman than taking her seriously would be?

The second, of course, is Time putting her on the cover along with a piece which would have given a professional fluffer TMJ, one week after naming her one of its "100 Most Influential People". I have no concern about Time's reputation (apparently, neither do they), but they might want to rethink sending John Cloud out to reveal that massive chip on his shoulder. Shoddy journalism is a much bigger threat than some pathological attention seeker who's too crazy even for the National Review.

Wednesday, April 20

Wall To Wall

Turned on CNN three times today, at random. All Pope all the time, apparently.

I'd like Amy Sullivan to consider what pandering has accomplished for CNN's ratings.

That's Funny

Okay, time to open the envelope and reveal my Final Four predictions. And remember, I don't get paid unless I can find where my paycheck is hidden.

Life of Brian vs. Dr. Strangelove

Duck Soup vs. Raising Arizona

Is that scoffing I hear? I'll clear the room. Remember, before the competition began I said that Brackets 3 & 4 belonged to the Brothers. Strangelove is a gimme. And Python beats Brooks on the reputation of their respective bodies of work, after both cleaned up on the three better films in the category, which were all in black and white and probably half unseen.

So, two films from the certified Comedy Pantheon vs. the two best moderns on the list, and justice is served at the top. Which is cold comfort to the character-and-dialogue driven works that crashed early, but then one commenter on the bracket-setting round likened The Ladykillers to Jacques Tati and Jerry Lewis, so what did you expect?

Tuesday, April 19

Okay, Here's The Thing I Don't Understand


As a young priest he was on the progressive side of theological debates but shifted to the right after the student revolutions of 1968

So, now you're twelve years old when the Fatherland invades Poland, and if I recall my history correctly, things were a little bumpy in Europe there for the next couple years. You're a reluctant Hitler Youth and serve on an anti-aircraft gun crew. Then you find your calling in the Church.

And your Road to Damascus moment is a bunch of French hippies parading with banners?

Official Benedict XVI photo courtesy General J.C. Christian.

There's Two Sides To Every Two-Headed Coin

Forgive me, I don't check in with Howie Kurtz very often, but haven't I seen this exact same column before?

The growing tide of personal attacks by bloggers and e-mailers "can make you really paranoid," says New York Times reporter Adam Nagourney.

Well now, that didn't take long. We're rewriting Daniel Okrent's column from last September, where he called out the big bad emailer who made Adam Nagourney cry. Yeah, it went over so well the first time.

Just what is it with these guys? The offending email to Nagourney said, "I hope your kid gets his head blown off in a Republican war." At this, said Okrent, "a limit had been passed."

But why? What limit? It's unpleasant. It's downright ugly. It also clearly expresses, however unfortunately, a political thought: "If you support the war I hope your child dies in it." I don't expect Mr. Nagourney to like it, any more than pro-reproductive rights types like being called murderers. I do expect that political reporters be somewhat conversant with the timbre of our public debate. But apparently they aren't, or else they believe what they do is so subversive to the machinations of the party in power that its opponents should be offering to buy them a beer.

The rise of the blogosphere remains one of the most exciting communications developments in decades, giving ordinary folks the chance to bite back at a media establishment widely viewed as arrogant.

Okay, the fourth-rate impersonation of an NFL Films voice-over aside, where would any of us "ordinary folks" get the idea that the media establishment is arrogant?

Where does that come from, Howie? Your paycheck, or your byline, makes you "extraordinary"? Or your teevee gig? Or, what, a journalism degree? What makes any of you any more important than a good auto mechanic or a decent bartender? If this exciting communications development called "blogging" has demonstrated anything, it's that anyone with a reasonable command of the language and a lick of sense can do your job as well as you do.

But the increasingly caustic nature of some online criticism is prompting many journalists to complain that their honesty and motivation are being trashed along with their work.

Oh yeah? Well, let 'em complain. This isn't some invention of the blogosphere, nor is it restricted to crackpots typing away in basements throughout the land. There's a real, and serious, concern about the effects of corporate ownership and advertiser influence, of dumbed-down and tarted-up coverage, rewrites of Republican blast faxes and faux-balanced, opinion pieces disguised as straight news. It's not just "ordinary people" talking about this, Howie, it's people in your own industry. Maybe if we heard that sort of thing addressed on your show, instead of these endless circle jerks of hurt and astonishment, us basement-dwellin' bumpkins would quit writing you all those emails and set about marryin' our attractive cousins and pickin' up your garbage like we oughta.

And Howie? Whatever the excesses of the great unwashed--and apparently I'm more familiar with them than a lot of journalists--you and Howard Fineman are about the last two who deserve any sympathy.

Monday, April 18

This Is No Time To Run Out Of Popcorn

Scott Lemieux at Lawyers Guns and Money points out that even David Brooks gets what Amy Sullivan don't.

Okay, but I'd still like to salvage the idea they're both wrong.

Brooks is continuing his mission to deny there's such a thing as a religious right, or rather that it holds any more sway with his party than any of the hundreds of other Republican factions which are constantly bickering about abortion and proper approaches to Edmund Burke. It's a sham, of course; you don't see the Landed Gentry faction or the Objectivist Society yanking Bush onto a plane and away from vacation. The only reason to read Brooks is to watch him try to come to grips with this without getting his hands dirty.

Brooks quotes a couple factoids, without citation, to the effect that teen pregnancy rates are dropping and the number of fifteen-year-old virgins increasing on his way to doing what he does best, the imaginary demographic dance. But Sullivan could cite those figures as evidence that the concerns of all those moral voters out there are real, and do real good. We're talking about the generation since MTV but also Just Say No, after all. If children now are benefitting from an increased respect for parents and ministers, as Brooks says, why shouldn't those parents and ministers continue to drive our politics?

But Brooks would rather live in that happy land where such people turn out every two years to vote Republican, then turn their attention back to the culture and leave their legislators the fuck alone. Faced with the end of the era when they did precisely that, Brooks wants to declare the debate the children themselves. Sure, 50 Cent releases "hit after pornographic hit", but it's just make believe, get it? You folks down there go back to sleep until we need you again, 'kay?

If Brooks has been made belatedly, like many of his non-social-radical compatriots, to see the real electoral threat to his party from a band of unfettered extremists, maybe Sullivan could, as Lemieux suggests, take the hint and let them fight it out among themselves instead of urging the Democrats to step in as peacemakers. Brooks' motivating factor isn't principle, it's fear.

Don't Blame Me, I Voted Democratic

Okay, okay, I should have known. The public has spoken--volumes--and never let it be said that I can't tell which side of the toast has the lo-fat partially hydrogenated butter substitute on it. So I'm going to be making periodic fart noises all week. Pfffffttttttttttt!!! Check in often and collect 'em all!

Sunday, April 17

TV Guide™ Roundup

Finally another special Collector's Edition, the first in almost six weeks. This time it's Star Trek, as the folks at Our Favorite Checkout Line Publication belatedly acknowledge the popularity of science fiction. But, please, can't we come up with a special four-slot rack so I don't have to hunt through every copy to make sure I've got them all? The bag boy got testy when I didn't tell him I wanted paper promptly enough.

And inside it's more thrills and surprises! You can pick up TV Guide's™ memorial tribute to the recently deceased Pope John Paul II, on newsstands now. And even though I'm not sure about that "Champion of Faith" tag--I thought the replays showed His Holiness had one Shoe of the Fisherman on the line when he canned that jumper--let's put aside our differences and echo the editors: He will be missed.

Plus we get articles on Lost, Survivor: Palau, American Idol, The Amazing Race, and The O.C. And I've just created a macro.

Letters: Newark, Delaware's Larisa Parker-Watt is unhappy that Simon Cowell said Paula Abdul "wanted" him. She can get that sort of thing at the cafeteria of her local middle school. Don Stern, from rainy Seattle way, is gratified by 24's Edgar Stiles, the short, dumpy, balding hero for the rest of us. The new Battlestar Gallactica doesn't measure up to the old one, opines Joseph P. Pintar, while Norm Washecka loves Rob and Amber on The Amazing Race. Norm hails from Fort Collins, CO; I have a friend who lives there, and he name-checks Rupert from Survivor, who's from Indianapolis. Coincidence?

This week's highlighted letter features another fellow Hoosier, St. John's Jayne Kranc. In fact, there are two St. John, Indianas, one near the Region and the other down by Evansville, and I've never been to either one. Jayne thinks James Marsters, Spike of the Buffyverse (really, that's what she called it) should have his own movie, and both she and her daughters agree he looks great for a man of 42. The weird thing here is that when I first caught his pic in the lower left hand corner I thought somebody had written in about 70s pop never-was Jobriath. And I always thought he should have had his own movie.

Don't read the rest of it. Believe me.

Crossword Spoiler, and I'm gonna have to learn the code for those little boxes that hide this sort of thing until you highlight it:

1 Across ___ Dawn Chong

ANS: RAE (it's spelled funny).

If Voting Changed Anything They'd Make It Illegal

The ballots are up in HFPST's comedy film championship. Go vote for whichever film had fewer fart jokes.

Okay, it's all in fun, just like my posing as an embittered, rapidly aging crackpot. I really love this sort of thing, and I hope that comes shining through the curmudgeon dance I do to entertain the kiddies. TV Guide's™ "100 Best Friends Hairdo Moments", or Rolling Stone's "100 Greatest Stars Who Played Guitar Or Wore One As A Prop"--these are the moments I live for.

So take these comments as they're intended. Norb is much more talented and intelligent than I, a fact which is obvious to anyone who's read both, but I get the distinct impression--from him, as it happens--that he smokes entirely too much weed. When it comes to funny, you don't want the opinion of someone who smokes weed. You want the opinion of someone with seventeen major central nervous system depressants in his bloodstream. So I'm your candidate.

Seriously, though: it's gratifying that my young friend champions Preston Sturgis (even if we wound up with an Eddie-Brackenless choice) and the great Ealing comedies. But, no Road pictures? Any Bing & Bob made while they could still walk without assistance is the equal of Christopher Guest's best work, which makes any of them better than any of the modern stuff not made by the Coens, not to mention the separate slots for W.C. Fields and Harold Lloyd.

As for fart jokes, look, I'm not a snob. Blazing Saddles is an hysterical movie. But let's recall that the late Johnny Carson famously said of Chevy Chase "he couldn't ad-lib a fart at a bean dinner". He did not say "he couldn't ad-lib a remarkably rich and inventive comic universe based on an historical incident in which grace and violence, poignance and slapstick combine in unforeseen ways to show us a world flying apart in all directions at a bean dinner. And do it without sound."

Saturday, April 16

Yard Sale Manifesto #6 (Beauty Pageant Blogging)

AKA "I Know Why The Caged Barbie Doesn't Do Math"

sculpture by Debi, newspaper by Riley, Ziggy by Tom Watson

Friday, April 15

Digital Media

M*lk*n is all over the finger-in-the-chili story, wah wah wah, serial litigator, boo hoo hoo poor Wendy's. You'd think that recent events might make her a bit more reticent about jumping all over a story before the facts are in, but that's your problem right there. Thinking.

First, let me make it plain: there are people who try to prey on businesses that way. Restaurants are particularly vulnerable. The word for such people is criminals, and that's how they should be treated when caught.

But if we want to talk about the effects of bad publicity on the Wendy's Corporation then it's another group we're discussing. They're called The Media. And yes, our M*chelle likes to bash them too. But in neither instance is she interested in more than a temporal political gain, which is roughly equivalent to the scoop mentality that brought the problem on in the first place. Okay, a finger tip in somebody's food has its ghoulish charms. But there's such a thing as understanding the layout here. You can't tell me that reporters, or editors, are completely unaware of the concept of frivolous lawsuits. Hell, they're happy to tout the story every time Bush brings it up. Nobody at Wendy's claimed the finger, and it was likely clear to the untrained eye the thing wasn't fresh. So you've got a story with only a couple possibilities: either the woman, or someone else, maliciously put it in her provender, or it came from somewhere back along the supply chain. In either case that's a rather considerable argument for keeping your powder dry until the facts are in. But that didn't happen. It rarely happens. And M*chelle's okay with that so long as the papers are whoring the latest White House distortion or school-board removal of somebody's flag decal.

If M*lk*n wants to confront that issue, fine. There must be a couple of windows left in that glass house she inhabits. And if she wants to tell us all that she herself would stand on principle and not sue faster than Dan "Million Dollar Paper Cut" Burton if she found something human floating in her soup, I'll believe her. But the idea that some tabloidized incident of criminal behavior makes a grand statement about genuine liability claims is just right-wing moonshine. The principle is old enough that it comes to us in Latin: abusus non tollit usum. The Romans didn't have a catchy phrase for "bad anecdotes don't make good arguments" but then they didn't know M*chelle.

With Timely Medical Care She'd Be Turning 111 Today

Happy Birthday, Bessie Smith, Empress.

Badges? We Don't Need No...Wait, Do We?

I'm slow at everything. My parents were hardworking people. I think there was a mix-up at the hospital.

I labored over that Murdock story, and I wound up taking out the part of his speech which had really incensed me in the first place, because it wasn't working. But today, via Roxanne it's back in.

First, here's Rupert:

According to one recent study, the percentage of national journalists who have a great deal of confidence in the ability of the American public to make good decisions has declined by more than 20 points since 1999. Perhaps this reflects their personal politics and personal prejudices more than anything else, but it is disturbing.

I've been in similar situations many times, and I can attest that there's nothing that compares to having some megalomaniac lucky sperm badmouth his underlings for their insufficient enthusiasm for perfect little plans. What's really disturbing here is the idea that this must reflect personal prejudices rather than, say, a functioning cerebral cortex. Can anyone look at what's happened since 1999 and say their confidence in the American public is unchanged? Only if it started at zero.

This is a polite way of saying that reporters and editors think their readers are stupid.

No, it's a way of saying we're caught in a traffic jam of idiocy and you're the traffic cop, and reporters, and no doubt much of the public, are aware of it.

In any business, such an attitude toward one’s customers would not be healthy. But in the newspaper business, where we rely on people to come back to us each day, it will be disastrous if not addressed.

Yeah, swell. Now the man wants reporters to start acting like those idiot waiters who think you've come in to find a new best friend. Look, Bradley, take that pasted-on smile off your face and get my order right for once, huh? Then we'll be buddies.

[There's a cashier at my local drug store who is the freakin' poster boy for this. He says "thank you" after every sentence, even sentences which have included two or three in the body. Every single customer is another opportunity to make five minutes of small talk. By the time you get to the head of the line your prescription's expired. And you know, you know he thinks he's in the running for Midwest Cashier of the Year.]

Today, Roxanne catches our media pros chewing over the idea of training citizen journalists:

What this might mean is that news organizations would start training the public in how to be citizen journalists, perhaps by offering online courses, or even in-person seminars. By completing these courses or seminars, a citizen reporter could then receive some sort of elevated status when posting. [ Producer/Moderator Lindsay] Howerton suggests that this gives people something to strive for while at the same time "educating them toward more balanced submissions."

I can't say it any better than eRobin did in the comments:

I can't wait to sign up for an in-person seminar! At the end, I hear they give everyone who passes the written test a fedora with a press card stuck in the band. Only the card reads "Press?" To get the quotes removed and the question scratched out, you have to be invited to and attend at least a dozen power cocktail parties and get a nickname from BushCo - then you're in!

So, forget that earlier stuff about the cerebral cortex. Reporters don't trust Americans because we haven't learned our 5 Ws, haven't mastered the inverted pyramid, and need some pointers on sucking up, following the script, and phoning it in. Forget I brought it up. They deserve Rupert Murdock. And with their guidance, so will we.

And Kathy, much thanks for the book link.

The Poor Man's iPod Shuffle

Note: not affiliated with The Editors or any cute kittens.

I don't own an iPod. Or a cell phone. I still wear spats. You kids get off my lawn.

But dammit, I wanna have fun, too. And since sex is out of the question at my age I dusted off another relic, the lamentably no-longer-supported Apple™ Hypercard and programmed it to turn up random numbers between 1-762, which is the number of Long Playing Records stored in the basement, followed by a number from 1-15 indicating which cut was selected. (This only applies to tracks I actually listen to and intend to digitize before I die.) After that big buildup, you're just itchin' for the list, right? Me, too. But first, no, I didn't stop buying music in 1986; this is the stuff I have on vinyl. And show a little respect, I had to run up and down stairs for this:

    Robin Lane and the Chartbusters: Rather Be Blind
    Captain Beefheart: Candle Mambo
    Adventures: Send My Heart
    Scruffy the Cat: Hello Angel
    Eno: Cindy Tells Me
    Waterboys: A Bang On The Ear
    The Church: Constant In Opal
    James Brown: Get Up Offa That Thing
    John Renbourn: Alman/Melancholy Galliard
    Nick Lowe: 36 Inches High

Thursday, April 14

A Fair And Balanced Futurama

Rupert Murdock's speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

I don't think it's thought-provoking quite in the way intended.

What is happening is, in short, a revolution in the way young people are accessing news. They don't want to rely on the morning paper for their up-to-date information. They don't want to rely on a God-like figure from above to tell them what's important. And to carry the religion analogy a bit further, they certainly don't want news presented as gospel.

Instead, they want their news on demand, when it works for them. They want control over their media, instead of being controlled by it. They want to question, to probe, to offer a different angle. Think about how blogs and message boards revealed that Kryptonite bicycle locks were vulnerable to a Bic pen. Or the Swiftboat incident. Or the swift departure of Dan Rather from CBS. One commentator, Jeff Jarvis, puts it this way: give the people control of media, they will use it. Don't give people control of media, and you will lose them.

Now, first of all, this has a distinct air of "Times Style section declares Olsen twins fashion icons". There are only two things I know about trends among the young: 1) I don't know anything and 2) most of it is determined by what gets sold to them, not what they demand. And we are certainly living in an age where nearly every trend is despised by a large segment of the public almost as soon as it's embraced by another. "The swift departure of Dan Rather" or the "Swiftboat incident", whatever he meant by that, don't qualify as some utopian "people controlling their media" in any objective sense. Those are stories whose import is due to their having run in the mainstream, traditional media, not because they were on somebody's blog. Bob Somerby catches hundreds of stories like that, but none of those are ever cited as examples of "New Media", because they don't run on the "Old Media".

...we sensed ten years ago that people watching television news felt alienated by the monolithic presentation of the news they were getting from the nightly news broadcasts or cable networks. We sensed that there was another way we could deliver that news objectively, fairly, and faster-paced. And the result was the Fox News Channel, today America's number one cable news network.

Stifling the gag reflex, Murdock sensed ten years ago something which dated to the Nixon administration. He had enough money to take advantage of the end of the Fairness Doctrine and the public monopoly of the cable companies, and the moral code required to trash the very notion of balance and objectivity. That's no more heroic or insightful than bringing out a new flavor of soft drink. We are talking here of consumers "controlling their media" in the same way we talk about FAUX being fair and balanced.

What I worry about much more is our ability to make the necessary cultural changes to meet the new demands. I said earlier, what is required is a complete transformation of the way we think about our product. Unfortunately, however, I believe too many of us editors and reporters are out of touch with our readers. Too often, the question we ask is "Do we have the story?" rather than "Does anyone want the story?"

Is this why newspapers are in such dire straits? Because people don't want their stories? Why, a generation ago, did four out of five people read the newspaper, and so few want it now? Could the tabloidization of the news have anything to do with it? Hasn't the thirty-year slide into All Michael Jackson All The Time been defended as "giving people what they want?" But the fact is that change came about because media outlets, especially television, chose to trivialize their reporting in response to attacks from the right. Had they held to standards of real reporting, instead of sheltering behind Happy Talk and slick graphics, maybe a solid majority would now respect journalism. Pandering, slanting, and trivializing the news seems to have had the opposite effect. Is the ability to get that crap on your cell phone going to change that?

Wednesday, April 13

Teevee With The Sound Off

The worst thing about Turner Classic Movies is their theme business. I don't understand artificial excitement ("Every Tuesday this month: Movies About Twine"). But then, y'know, I'd rather just have the three day weekend and skip the holiday, too. The worst is August, when the do the star-of-the-day bit and you get to see just how many clunkers Kate Hepburn made.

But this month it's comedies, which is a very good thing. Buster Keaton two-reelers on the other late night. I'm a lifelong Buster fan. I'm not sure how far back it goes or where it came from--he had a teevee show in the early days, but that was before my time. But I distinctly remember The Great Stone Face from early childhood, especially "One Week", where he and his new bride (Buster frequently had a new bride) try to build a prefabricated house. Unlike Chaplin's music-hall artiface, Keaton's movies seem somehow personal, a celuloid precursor to "Borges and I", small obsessions turned into stagey mannerisms which in this case are actually on the stage.

I do remember where I first saw the Marx Brothers: the afternoon movies hosted by Frances Farmer. Frances ended her days in Indianapolis after running out of money doing summer stock. She was notoriously drunk, they say (I was just a kid; all grown-ups seemed loopy to me). Nobody knew what she'd gone through until she got cancer and her largely fictional autobiography came out. There's a former local "personality" who was supposedly her close friend I see in the grocery store from time to time. We make small talk. I think he used to be happy for the attention, but now this grizzled prospector probably reminds him of how long ago it's been. I've always been careful not to say, "I watched you when I was a kid." Never asked him about Frances, though. Maybe someday I will.

Tuesday, April 12

First The Garbage Disposal Breaks, Then The Lawnmower Won't Start, Now I'm Four Months Behind On My Outrage

Via M*chelle M*lkin, the story of the little girl punished for her patriotism continues.

First, despite something of a personal interest, I've lost count. What is this, the nineteenth incident of right-wing persecution of the school year? Oh, well, I suppose there's always the chance this one might turn out to be correct, huh?

Except that sharp-eyed readers have probably already noticed that young persecutee Raven Furbert seems to be wearing a Support Our Troops t-shirt with flag, and I'm gonna go out on a limb here and guess she wasn't told she couldn't wear that or we'd have heard about it.

If every time you took your car in the mechanic told you the problem was "the goddam liberal catalytic converter" you'd change mechanics. It should be the same thing with pundits. Nobody operates in real life like this.

I'd be the last one to say school administrators, or any related species of bureaucrat, never go off half-cocked. But fer cryin' out loud. Any school with a hint of gang activity inside its walls has got to be on top of the problem, and they've got to respond in a way that treats every student equally. You'd think it would be so-called conservatives who rallied around beleaguered administrators when this sort of thing made the papers. But no, suddenly they're champions of free speech.

And the Court has been clear about it. Students do not have an expectation of protected speech, anymore than they have an expectation their lockers won't be searched. We can debate that. I think there is a genuine concern about an over-regulated school environment. But those are the terms of the debate, not whether the rules should apply to everyone except right-wing Christian students and teachers. Are they really too delusional to see the difference?

Does that necklace look threatening? No, it doesn't. If the law required me to act in loco parentis for Miss Furbert would I be willing to risk possible violence over it? No, I wouldn't. It's rather sad that a parent can't simply see this reasoning and teach her child to compromise over small things for the benefit of the community at large, but it's sadder yet that the M*lk*ns in this country can't at least approach it with some perspective. Would that they were one-tenth as concerned when people get tossed in a cell for five years without access to an attorney.

Tag, I'm It

Thanks again to Alex.

1. You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451 , which book do you want to be?

The Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes ed. Clifton Fadiman.

2. Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

I'm more a "Pictures of Lilly" guy. Louise Brooks or Tallulah Bankhead.

3. The last book you bought was. . .

The Living Lincoln ed. Paul M. Angle and Earl Schenck Miers. One of those cheapie Barnes & Noble imprints, compiled from the nine-volume Collected Works.

4. The last book you finished is. . .

Reginald Hill, Dialogues of the Dead.

5. What are you currently reading?

Michael Innes, The Ampersand Papers
and two re-reads:
David Fromkin, A Peace To End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East
Garry Wills, Inventing America: Jefferson's Declaration of Independence.

6. Five books you would take to a deserted island.

I'd try to save a guitar plus a transcription of Bach's Cello Suites and all the Tarrega I can play first, but:

Lolita, Gravity's Rainbow, Borges: A Reader, Thurber's My Life and Hard Times, and How to Stay Alive in the Woods, by Bradford Angier.

7. Who are you going to pass this stick to? (3 People)

Over to:

Tom Watson
Winston Smith and
s.z. who's probably already ignored it. I was gonna send it to you Kathy, but I see I'm too late.

Everything You Need To Know About Hoosiers

One thing I miss about Table Talk is threads lasting for entire administrations, mostly because I never met an issue I couldn't talk to death, but also because of this: in now-buried comments, Howard Peirce weighs in on Hoosier pie throwing from a few days back:

What I wanna know is, was it a sugar cream pie? Because I haven't seen one since I moved out of state. Also, someone should hit a conservative lecturer with a fresh-from-the-deep-fryer breaded pork tenderloin the size of a dinner plate. Because I miss those, too.

That, friends, is the sort of inside information you just can't fake. Three blocks away, Howard. The Tin Star. No sugar cream pie, but a tenderloin you can't lift.

Monday, April 11

Watch For Falling Objects

George W. Bush (remember him? He's the guy who accompanied Condi Rice to the pope's funeral) has the lowest approval ratings of any president ever at this point in his second term.

Put it another way: Bush is the earliest lame duck ever spotted. Or perhaps the only one ever to be re-elected.

From my perspective, that is, from listening to my Red State neighbors and contrasting that with the bleating of polls and the blathering of pundits, Bush has never been popular. His first election, if we may now be so gracious or resigned to call it that, was the result of an astute counter-marketing campaign cleverly disguised as the evening news. His "popularity", if one could believe in it (uh, 17% negatives after that election?) was clearly on the wane that first summer, and he faced actually coming out and standing for something beyond tax giveaways when Congress returned. It was becoming increasingly difficult to pretend the man had a functioning intellect, and it was about to be tested in the affirmative rather than the specious claim it was an act of reverse psychology aimed at getting liberals to misunderestimate him.

We all know what happened next. When Bush emerged from his hidey-hole after 9/11 and managed to speak through a bullhorn without actually electrocuting himself he was hailed as the straight-shootin' sheriff and the Christian Talisman Against Falling Objects. Panic does that to people. But remind me never to get in a foxhole with any of them if I can help it. It was evident that a sort of Hollywood-inspired hyperreality had set in that nothing was going to shake.

It was evident also that this amounted to a free pass to overreach, something which is never a good idea but particularly dangerous with a gang that had proclaimed a mandate after losing the election. The United States decided it could treat the rest of the world the way it has been treating the rest of the Americas for a century. Even liberal commentators fell under the sway (I still have that list of names, boys). And yet a majority of Americans felt this was a matter for the United Nations. Unfortunately, that particular majority had no representation in Congress.

Some small portion of the obvious has become obvious to many on the right in recent months. It's difficult to credit someone who has just now realized he'll be on the religious radicals' hit list along with the neo-Bolshevist Christmas haters, and this is not an over-reaction to a poll which happens to say something I agree with. The real answer is that what's obvious is obvious regardless of what polls say. In a time of all-out panic George W. Bush was granted moral and leadership qualities he does not possess, and as it has become increasingly difficult to duck those responsibilities or paper them over with brush-clearin' photo-ops, we find ourselves adrift and leaderless. The most we can hope for at this point is a belated recognition of what leadership means.

Friday, April 8

Friday Kevin Drum Comments Shuffle

    1) Raln: When did Washington Monthly become STFU A$$H0LES LOL!!!
    2) brb: Lefies: This is what it feels like to be right once. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.
    3) jojo: Its all George Bush's fault.
    4) conspiracy nut: You may be right, how about this: get your next candidate to condemn all Catholics. In fact, get them to condemn all Christians. Hell, get them to condemn all religion (except Marxism, you probably want to keep that).
    5) PMain: Fllow up:
    No conspiracy, fact. It's like whterh or not Terri Schiavo said what she did about being kept alive. No one will ever really know what was there & that is horrible.
    6) SavageView: Poor grammar aside, isn't Frank J. ever going to post something that will refute my prior that he's little more than a right-wing troll?
    7) Al (The Real One Back From Vacation): Power Line has already refuted the view that he only destroyed copies.
    8) Horrabin's Mistakes: MUCKADOO!!
    Sandy Burglar is a felon and a traitor. But that's different from Nixon's people, hmm?
    9) mudwall jackson: i liked the old al better.
    10) someone: Frist!

M*chelle M*lk*n Is No Stranger To The Embraces Of Barnyard Animals Or Domestic Pets

I'm a corn-fed Midwestern boy, but I've picked up some bad habits along the way. I say things about public figures I wouldn't say about private citizens, and that's not quite entirely justified by the fact that most private citizens I know are not scum-sucking megalomaniacs. I once caused (inadvertantly) a local reporter to receive a lot of insulting emails (apparently) by posting something she'd written on Salon's Table Talk. And I was profoundly sorry and told her so.

It's easy to snipe at people from a distance that won't get your teeth shoved down your throat. It is to the credit of the left side of the spectrum that many people objected to the language aimed at Michelle Malkin yesterday. In disagreeing with them I in no way meant to imply that I find gutter talk a good idea. I do think that Malkin, as a paid provocateur, ought to be above mentioning it in her column or seeking in out in another site's comments or on men's room walls.

We North Americans are particularly impoverished when it comes to cursing, and it's gotten worse in my lifetime. Not the volume, I mean, though maybe that's true as well, but the sort of mindless "Fuck you, you fuckin' fuck" stuff, the substitution of charged words for something that might require a bit of thought. But then what passes for thought has toyed with the poverty level lately, too.

Personally, I don't like anatomical curse words. I didn't join in in fourth grade when "asshole" took over the playground. But it is part of our common currency, and as such it can be used well, even artistically. There's a big difference between reflecting Life As We Know It and repeating something for its conventional effects, like there's a difference between a Stieglitz portrait and one of those disposable snapshots your grandma takes at family gatherings.

I guess what I'm saying is, in this age of polarized public discourse there's a great need not only for more precision in our language, even when expressing anger or outrage or schadenfreude, but for some more creative ad hominems. I hope you'll join me in searching for some. If not, you suck.

It's Animal Husbandry If You're A Republican

Paul Musgrave of In the Agora:

Actual, Real News

Much as I respect the right of the blogosphere to continue to beat a dead horse...

Pity the poor beast. I guess after taking three weeks of pummeling it was too weak to withstand a single day of bright light.


The Blog of the Year Explains It All:

HINDROCKET adds: A reader asks a good question: Where has Tom Harkin been for the last two and a half weeks? If he had come forward on March 19 or 20, there never would have been a "talking points memo" story, or at least not much of a story. The truth--that an obscure Republican staffer wrote a dumb memo that hardly anyone saw--would scarcely have created a ripple.

Never mind that you're the guy who turned the dumb memo into a ripple as big as The Ritz. Never mind that Senator Harkin may have better things to do than answer every self-important idiot with a blog and an endless supply of crackpot theories, or that he'd have needed to schedule time for The Washington Times, CNN's Inside Politics, The American Spectator, Rush Limbaugh, CNBC's Kudlow and Company, Michelle Malkin, Tucker Carlson, Special Report with Brit Hume, The Weekly Standard, The Daily Standard, AIM, Fred Barnes, Joshua Claybourne, NewsMax, and maybe dropped a line to Bill Bennett while he was at it just to answer questions from everyone who was publicly convinced the memo was a dirty Democrat trick. And never mind that a group so convinced on the basis of nothing whatsover wasn't gonna listen to him anyway.

Where was Mel Martinez for the past three weeks? And who were Clayborne's four inside tipsters?

Thursday, April 7

Hanging Slider

Gee, in all the excitement I forgot the most important thing: some of you nasty libruls sent Michelle profane emails. Shame.

Y'know, Michelle, when you get the hook after giving up seven hits and six runs in the first, just go to the showers like a professional. It doesn't matter that the concession stand was out of nachos.

You Think This Is Easy? You Try Walking Fast With Your Pants Around Your Ankles!

Taking responsibility, adult style. Michelle Malkin:

After John Hinderaker at Power Line first started asking necessary questions about the reporting on the memo, many on the Right jumped to conclusions that the memo was "fake" or a "dirty trick." I concur that those who made such claims should issue clear retractions and corrections. And I urge those bloggers and pundits to do so.

But contrary to what the left-wing gloaters who have not bothered to follow the story until last night are writing, I have never made such claims...

Correct, so far as I can tell. What she did do was spend a week calling it calling it "fishy" and linking to all those people she now says should retract.

No, Malkin did not, as Hindrocket did, call the memo an outright fake. Self-congratulations are in order, and they weren't long in coming. But then, words are the tools of wordsmiths, and when they use one--especially over and over again--we ought to take them at it. "Fishy" implies a lot more than "some have questioned its authenticity".

We got our last whiff of seafood on March 31. In what some (me) are calling The Miracle of the Fish Smell, the issue changed to a WaPo story which had gone out on the wires March 20, but included a line about the memo being "distributed by party leaders" that didn't run that way in the Post. Various WaPo spokesmen denied they had intended (or had the evidence to) pin the memo on any specific person, or party, for that matter. Now the memo was a mere puzzlement: "We may never know whether the memo was the handywork of a Republican staffer or a Democrat dirty trickster or an outside interloper..." Wish I could find an air freshener that effective.

Now that the "Democrat forgery" story has been thoroughly depantsed, the only issue is that three-week old wire story. Joshua Clayborn of In the Agora, who published insider tips about the memo's "fabrication", which Malkin linked to, now says:

If this story is true, ABC News, the Washington Post, and virtually every news outlet that ran the infamous story should now publish a retraction. Unlike what ABC and the Post reported, the memo did not originate from Senate Republican leadership. At most it came from one Senator, Martinez, and if we are to believe Martinez it was simply a foolish, sloppy aide. Either way the real turn of events appears to be much different than the one portrayed by most media outlets.

Or, say, under your own byline. It's a funny thing about the sense of smell, as we wine lovers will attest. It fatigues easily. Last week's razor-sharp senses, dulled by overuse, have become this week's docile acceptance of the Tale of the Rogue Aid. Time for apologies? Who cares with that crew?

ObBlogWildSpeculation: Were these folks tipped at the end of last month that the "fabrication" story couldn't be sustained, and some little fish would be taking the hook to protect "the leadership"? Why are the folks who used Terri Schiavo as a political football so concerned that the plan found its way into print?

Say What You Want To About Hoosiers, We Know How To Serve Dessert

Indy Star: Horowitz Hit By Pie At Butler:

It was the second time in a week that a conservative lecturer was hit by a pie at an Indiana university. On March 30, William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, was attacked during a speech at Earlham College in Richmond.

Butler spokesman Marc Allan called Wednesday's incident "deplorable."

"People are going to have to learn how to disagree civilly."

You talkin' about the pie man, or Horowitz, or both?

Next Up: Zogby Poll Proves Pulitzer Photo Committee Was Wrong!

Do they think we're morons?
–John Stewart

Released: April 06, 2005

80%: Non-Terminal Patients Should Not be Denied Food, Water; Three-to-One: Feeding Tube Should Stay in Place When Wishes Unknown; Americans Divided on Intervention by Elected Officials, Christian Defense Coalition / Zogby Poll of Likely Voters Reveals

Yes, thanks to the folks at the Christian Defense Coalition that incredibly biased ABC Schiavo poll (which, you will recall, confused respondants by referring to "life support" as "life support") has received its comeuppance; ask a completely neutral, non-biased question and you'll wonder where the controversy went:

Another Zogby question his directly on Terri's circumstances.

"If a disabled person is not terminally ill, not in a coma, and not being kept alive on life support, and they have no written directive, should or should they not be denied food and water," the poll asked.

A whopping 79 percent said the patient should not have food and water taken away while just 9 percent said yes.

Okay, I was educated in the last century, and I freely admit that the intricacies of faith-based reality elude me at times. But how is misrepresenting two details of the Schiavo case in four clauses "fairer", to use Zogby's term? Artificial hydration and nutrition are life support under Florida law, which obviously doesn't require written instructions, either. So I suppose if I were willing to credit this rather breathtaking piece of public prostitution, I'd conclude that a whopping 79% don't like Florida's law.

Note I said if.

The Zogby poll found that, if a person becomes incapacitated and has not expressed their preference for medical treatment, as in Terri's case, 43 percent say "the law presume that the person wants to live, even if the person is receiving food and water through a tube" while just 30 percent disagree.

As in Terri's case? Seeing as how two separate courts, plus appeals, found Terri had expressed a preference, I'm wondering what you call this if not biased? Made-up shit, perhaps? Well, let's not stop now:

When asked directly about Terri's case and told the her estranged husband Michael "has had a girlfriend for 10 years and has two children with her" 56 percent of Americans believed guardianship should have been turned over to Terri's parents while 37 percent disagreed.

In a non-scientific poll of persons in my office right this minute, 100% knew that it was the court which was Terri's guardian, not Michael. The same percentage wondered how that majority of likely voters plans to write their little moral code into the law. What percentage thought having one child was acceptable, but two was over the line? How many believe Michael should have undergone chemical castration or entered a monastery? Or just satisfied his beastial urges on his lawfully wedded but unfortunately persistantly vegetative wife?

How many of you folks, assuming you are real, which I frankly don't, have the slightest awareness of what Michael Schiavo did for his wife after her hospitalization? In thirteen years the woman never had a bedsore. If Michael Schiavo is morally suspect let's have Congress dissolve the marriages of anyone who has treated his spouse with less concern and see who's left standing.

What does it cost to get Zogby to perform these tricks in public? They didn't just conduct the poll so those Christian Defenders could wave it under legislators' noses; they feature this trash on their website. What's it worth to have to hire somebody to shave you because you can't look at yourself in the mirror anymore?

Wednesday, April 6

An Andy Rooney Minute

My wife has a mystical attachment to Miracle-Gro™ potting mix. She's like a gambler who wins big on her first bet. She got good results the first time with it, and now I'm stuck buying the stuff, which I figure is akin to Kellogg's Total™: two cents worth of vitamins dumped into a box of Wheaties™ for which the price goes up 50%. And I have to remember which pots can't be fertilized for a month after. Course of True Love, an' all that.

Anyway, I was dumping the first bags of spring into their storage bins, and I noticed the top of the bag:

Easy Open. Just cut along dotted line to open and pour.

Wow. What a breakthrough. Not like those other potting soil bags that require a torque wrench. It's like the folks at Miracle-Gro™ have harnessed some basic force of physics or something. And it works, too. Back over to you, Morley.

That'll Show Those Web Journal Logging Bloggers

Via World O'Crap the Des Moines Register's Erin Crawford rassels the broad side of a barn.

Okay, first up. I'd never seen anything about the Gannon/Guckert/Gosch business, and with luck I won't see any more. But the corporate press lost its standing to criticize the unprofessionalism of web logs ("blogs") about twenty years before the first one appeared. And that's due in no small measure to this very process: the creepy voyeur of the voyeur quality of second-hand tabloid journalism, the tsk-tsk of the schoolmarm with the secretly moist panties:

The most fervent bloggers on the Web aren't as interested in linking Gannon to Gosch as they are in presenting their version of a massive conspiracy. The story that excites them is a sordid tale about the CIA operating a pedophilia ring on behalf of dignitaries and politicians and training male prostitutes to serve as spies.

I'm not gonna count, but how many front-page Michael Jackson stories do you suppose the Register has run?

And that's not even mentioning the obligatory slagging of the whole of web log journalism ("the blogosphere"):

...the anything-goes nature of the blogosphere and self-proclaimed reporters on the Internet, who seem to find accuracy and proof a nuisance in uncovering fantastical conspiracies.

Opposed, I guess, to the uncoverers of fantastical conspiracies who use email, or church socials, or the History Channel, who are so scrupulous about fact. Throughout the piece Ms Crawford makes some handy hops from specific instances of alleged tinfoil hattery to blanket statements about web logs ("blogs") and their denizens. They're "credulous" believers in a "dark fiction" who "revel in the notion of political hypocrisy". This last is telling--the supposed hypocrisy is in the Jeff Gannon story, not the CIA pedophilia ring angle, no? But then Gannon gets the full protection of the journalistic panoply of balance. His career as a male prostitute is covered by the rubric "linked to gay escort addresses". JimJeffJohnny wasn't exposed to the world by "bloggers", he was "uncovered". Scare quotes in original.

Perhaps Ms Crawford is on a mission to eradicate unsubstantiated rumor from our national discourse. She says:

...lack of proof wasn't enough to stop a vast network of gossip from enveloping the story.

If so, Godspeed, Ms Crawford, and best wishes for a good corn crop. If you don't mind getting a tip from a "blog" you might Google ("use a web search engine") up "Al Gore" and "invented the internet" sometime.

Before I Realized What I Was Doing I'd Clicked The Link

David Brooks, you can find him if you really want to: A House Divided, And Strong.

That is, yes, The International House O' Republicans:

Conservatives have not triumphed because they have built a disciplined and efficient message machine. Conservatives have thrived because they are split into feuding factions that squabble incessantly.

And there is no better demonstration of this than David Brooks writing a column about the Schiavo Schism without ever mentioning it, or uttering a word about the religious radicals.

In the early days of National Review, many of the senior editors didn't even speak to one another.

Oooh, not to mention that bon mot the Earl of Beaconsfield got off on Lord Derby in 1867.

Whittaker Chambers declared that the writings of Ayn Rand, a hero of the more libertarian right, reeked of fascism and the gas chambers.

Yeah, I hear they had to separate those two in Hell twenty years ago.

And, look, don't get me wrong: you can have the old charlatan, and welcome to her, but the fact that a couple dozen people on the right like to pretend they're actually "libertarians" doesn't make that an internecine squabble.

It's been like that ever since - neocons arguing with theocons, the old right with the new right, internationalists versus isolationists, supply siders versus fiscal conservatives.

Cro Magnon vs. T.Rex...exactly where do those battles take place, Dave? Okay, there may be a few rightists who have awakened to the aroma of theocrat, but where in the Republican party is this furious debate taking place? The House? Senate cloak room?

As for the rest, Dave, what's left of the "old right" beyond a few old typists? Where does the isolationist wing of the party meet? When did fiscal conservatives oppose supply side snake oil? Is there a hue and cry about spiraling deficits? Now, maybe, when it's well beyond voting against tax cuts, but where was it when all the Bush giveaways were enacted? Cognitive dissonance is not debate. Neither is talking out of both sides of your mouth.

[out of power "conservatives"] argued about the order of the universe, and how the social order should reflect the moral order. Different factions looked back to different philosophers - Burke, Aquinas, Hayek, Hamilton, Jefferson - to define what a just society should look like.

Wait, he's got a point beyond "several of us memorized the syllabus fro Poly Sci 263 Foundations of Modern Conservatism":

A year ago I called the head of a prominent liberal think tank to ask him who his favorite philosopher was. If I'd asked about health care, he could have given me four hours of brilliant conversation, but on this subject he stumbled and said he'd call me back. He never did.

And if it wasn't for Burke's attitude about noblesse oblige he'd 'a named him, too.

We already caught you at this, David. Now come out of the bathroom and start talking to real people.

...liberal theorists are more influenced by post-modernism, multiculturalism, relativism, value pluralism and all the other influences that dissuade one from relying heavily on dead white guys.

Like Jesus?

As a result, liberals are good at talking about rights, but not as good at talking about a universal order.

Yeah, shit, an' that was #3 on my list of New Year's resolutions, too.

Garden Update

This little beauty is aloe polyphylla, spiral aloe, an endangered rarity from the Drakensberg and Maluti mountains of Lesotho, made available through the incredible efforts of Alan Beverly, who managed to propagate enough from seed (a very iffy proposition) to offer some for sale. His website says he's changing marketing arrangements for 2005; you can contact him if you're interested. Seed propagation is so chancey that most of what you find is probably micro-propagated; either way they're expensive. I doubt anybody is actually stealing plants from the wild, but do make sure the dealer is reputable.

She's heading for her second birthday (here, that is, making her four in aloe years). That's a 12-inch pot and she needs repotting. The rosette has splayed over winter under the grow-lights, but will tighten up with some genuine sun.

Two days of sun and seventy degrees and I got to do some work in it this afternoon. Everything's exploded; the tulip trees (the state tree and my favorite spring flowerer) are putting on quite a show. The earliest of the asiatic lilies are six inches tall overnight. Everything except the coneflowers and wormwood are at least poking their heads up in the herb bed. Wormwood, for some reason, just doesn't seem to overwinter here, though it's well protected and the one at our last house lived for years. Guess that's part of the fun.

Over the weekend I replaced the crumbling cement pavers in the path around the roses with bluestone. Three hundred fifty pounds of bluestone. I was fifty-one when I started. Not sure how old I am now. But I do intend to find out why fifty-pound sacks of sand weight ninety pounds.

Tuesday, April 5

Disremembering Those Fabulous 60s

Kevin Mattson "Goodbye to All That" American Prospect Online

If you read just one DLC paean to conservative intellectuals this month, you're lucky. I was gonna give this a good going over, but I couldn't even finish reading it. Let me know how it comes out.

Of course, the postwar left has been in opposition before...

Yeah, since, roughly, the war.

The world that existed before the ’60s is one that no one wants to go back to.

Excepting, Kevin, all those conservative intellectuals you've come to praise. Sure, they pay lip service to civil rights now, because they have to.

To romanticize protest and the decade of the 1960s cuts us off from rethinking -- with a cold, analytical eye -- the decade’s lessons. The spirit of the ’60s has something to teach us, for sure, but it’s a mixed message, one that lives on in the activist wing of today’s left in troubling ways. We need to search out styles, dispositions, and ideas that can inform our present sense of being an opposition party -- and we need to widen what we choose from.

Sheesh, did the maitre d' seat somebody wearin' too much patchouli at the next table or something? Those awful protesters are making it difficult to find common ground with George W. Bush and Tom DeLay?

Look, nobody enjoys deconstructing the Port Huron Statement more than I. We do it every weekend here, weather permitting. But jeez louise, it gets tiring listening to people spout off about the Sixties just because they don't like bell bottoms. Yes, the Right was able to cash in politically and economically, on anti-sixties backlash. Not with new ideas; with old money. Had the Democrats adopted this brilliant political maneuver as well, where would you be now? On the barricades, marching for women's rights and minority rights, or on the pages of TAP telling everyone to behave themselves?

It's easy, apparently, to ignore what was accomplished, just as the Right can now ignore opposition to desegregation. Because the dirty work has already been done for you. The reason we aren't drafting the poorest of the poor to go die in Iran or Syria or France is those lefties in the sixties. The reason women still control their own reproductive rights, the reason we're able to fight for gay and lesbian rights, the reason the entire national park system hasn't been deeded over to the multinationals, is what happened in 1968, not 1948.

The Man In Black

I didn't really have a dog in last night's hunt, even though Sean May is the son of former player of the year Scott May, who would have led the Hoosiers to undefeated back-to-back titles if those mizable pudknockers from West Lafayette hadn't cheap-shotted him and broken his arm in '75 (Q: What's the difference between Mackey Arena and a porcupine? A: A porcupine has the pricks on the outside). I spent most of the first half watching " Johnny Cash vs. Music Row" on CMT. Which was serendipitous, since I still have no idea what channel CMT is actually on.

They're repeating it Friday at 8 Eastern and Pacific, if you're interested. It's worth it.

Monday, April 4

Wall To Wall

All I have to say is if you have recently lost a religious leader and are now enduring a week's worth of coverage by that turnip truck Cary Grant, Bill Hemmer, a man with all the gravitas of a cartoon chipmunk, backed in the studio by the over-caffeinated Soledad O'Brien and the terminally graceless Daryn Kagan (who I swear that back when she was a sportscaster, in the days when I had no idea about her political inclinations or taste in beards, still gave the distinct impression that she couldn't wait to get back to her dressing room to continue pulling the wings off flies), you have my deepest sympathy.

Bill Hemmer, Reporting Live

"There is somewhat of a mayhem scenario environment developing there."

Sunday, April 3


"A nice dog," Appleby said.
Still benevolent, Mr. Gee swung round. "Dish-faced," he said in a voice of unfathomable gloom.
"Ah," said Appleby, rather at a loss.
"And undershot," Mr. Gee preserved his highly deceptive appearance. "Pig-jawed, in fact."
"Well, yes--I suppose he is, a little."
"Cow-hocked. No feather. Apple-headed. Pily."
"Pily? I suppose she is. But still--"
"Pily is the only good thing about her. Apple-headed. No feather. Cow-hocked. Pig-jawed. What do you think of the stifles?"
"I'm afraid," Appleby said modestly, "I don't know anything about dogs."
"I'm afraid you don't," said Mr. Gee gloomily. He continued to radiate the appearance of good cheer..
"At the moment, as a matter of fact, I'm more interested in horses."
"You don't look as if you knew much about them either. Taxis I should say was more your line."

from The Daffodil Affair by Michael Innes, pseudonym of the late John Innes Mackintosh Stewart, creator of Inspector John Appleby, first of the donnish detectives. Hamlet, Revenge! is the first and among the best. The comic spy novel From London Far is an underappreciated gem.

Saturday, April 2

TV Guide™ Roundup

Okay, last week set a standard that may never be met. This week's issue has a distinct check-the-wastebaskets-we-need-42-more-column-inches feel:

Letters: V. Aleman, glad Rob Morrow is back on teevee. Jim Peffley reminding us that Blind Justice has some big shoes to fill: James Franciscus' eponymous blind detective in Longstreet. Kathy Grillo revealing that Luke and Lorelai's reconcilliation on Gilmore Girls was the most romantic thing she'd seen "since Rhett carried Scarlett up that staircase". Bill Hicks, who is unquestionably not that Bill Hicks but does know comedy when he sees it, averring that Saturday Night Live is a shell of its former self.

Poll: Is 24 Too Violent This Season? Yes 8% No 92%.

Here's the odd thing about that. They provide you with the rationale for your vote (Yes: It seems like every week someone is getting Tasered or tortured; No: The show has always pushed the envelope). I don't know about you, but I've had it with The Man tellin' me what to think.

American Idol Watch: Oh, Babies! Match the baby picture with today's American Idol finalists.

I was still steaming about the poll thing, so I deliberately got them wrong.

Reason To Go On Living: Fran Drescher returns to teevee in Living With Fran, in which she plays a divorced mom shacking up with a hunk who's not much older than her bitterly neurotic, failed med-student son.

Top Ten-to-Hundred of the Week: The 10 Greatest Sports Rivalries.
#1 Bosox vs. Yankees.

For cryin' out loud. If I wanted three pages of time-wasting conventional wisdom which even its author can't seem to work up an interest in I'd be reading...nevermind.

Thing I Did Not Know: There's still an E! network.

Friday, April 1

Let Me Rephrase That For You

Media Matters takes Brit Hume to task for "minimizing Bush's actions" in the Schiavo case:

Fox News Washington managing editor Brit Hume downplayed President Bush's actions in the Terri Schiavo case by saying that "his [Bush's] intervention consisted mostly of a signature and some statements from the White House." Hume significantly understated the leading role the president and his staff played in the case.

Let's not be hasty. Try the picture without the frame. The Bush administration was dragged reluctantly into grandstanding the Schiavo case, let others do the heavy lifting, and faded into the woodwork as quickly as it could. On a single issue it proved that it must dance when the religious radicals pull the strings but will not offer leadership, even in a matter of the Right to Life, without reading every political signpost and covering its ass. And having been splattered with muck it will seek to disavow its own actions through a convenient media mouthpiece.

There. Same basic facts with the lights on. I think we all can agree about Bush now.