Sunday, April 29, 2007

oh snap - Frank Rich on fellow media types

Frank Rich said:
That state of denial was center stage at the correspondents’ dinner last year, when the invited entertainer, Stephen Colbert, “fell flat,” as The Washington Post summed up the local consensus. To the astonishment of those in attendance, a funny thing happened outside the Beltway the morning after: the video of Mr. Colbert’s performance became a national sensation. (Last week it was still No. 2 among audiobook downloads on iTunes.) Washington wisdom had it that Mr. Colbert bombed because he was rude to the president. His real sin was to be rude to the capital press corps, whom he caricatured as stenographers. Though most of the Washington audience failed to find the joke funny, Americans elsewhere, having paid a heavy price for the press’s failure to challenge White House propaganda about Iraq, laughed until it hurt.

You’d think that l’affaire Colbert would have led to a little circumspection, but last Saturday’s dinner was another humiliation. And not just because this year’s entertainer, an apolitical nightclub has-been (Rich Little), was a ludicrously tone-deaf flop. More appalling — and symptomatic of the larger sycophancy — was the press’s insidious role in President Bush’s star turn at the event.

It’s the practice on these occasions that the president do his own comic shtick, but this year Mr. Bush made a grand show of abstaining, saying that the killings at Virginia Tech precluded his being a “funny guy.” Any civilian watching on TV could formulate the question left hanging by this pronouncement: Why did the killings in Iraq not preclude his being a “funny guy” at other press banquets we’ve watched on C-Span? At the equivalent Radio and Television Correspondents’ Association gala three years ago, the president contributed an elaborate (and tasteless) comic sketch about his failed search for Saddam’s W.M.D.

Who could ever forget THAT disgrace?

Monday, April 23, 2007

Excellent essay about OUR TOWN in the NYTimes

Jeremy McCarter says some of the same things I said a while back about OUR TOWN.

McCarter's essay here.

I do have to disagree with this bit though:
Grover's Corners is, in retrospect, an unbearable place: quite content to be homogeneous, conformist, anti-intellectual and lacking ''any culture or love of beauty.'' When staged properly, the play doesn't let us to feel simple nostalgia. We ought to weep at Emily's famous line not because she finds earth wonderful, but because she was unable to find it so during her close-minded life in her close-minded town -- which is, of course, our town.
While I have no doubt that McCarter would find Grover's Corners unbearable, Emily certainly does not. And it's surprising, since drama critics tend to be such irony mongers, that he doesn't get the irony of Wilder's line about lacking any culture or love of beauty, when it's all over the play, from the flowers that the women grow to the church choir to simple appreciation of good weather. I'm certain that Wilder's point is that snobs believe that culture and beauty don't count unless they're on display in a museum or featured in the NYTimes Arts section.

Most people would NOT find Grover's Corners unbearable, and whether drama critics believe it or not, they are people too. Those of us who can't live in Grover's Corners come to live in the city. But then some of us get pretentious and kewl and believe that our understanding of life is superior to that of the Grover's Corners townsfolk, when, what Wilder is saying, is that deep down we are all the same. Which is why theatre hipsters, who want their plays fresh from an angry young man like John Osborne from 50 years ago, heap derision onto OUR TOWN. Cause unlike Emily, THEY are going to live forever and they have no patience for tiresome mortals.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Smurfette Dowd strikes again

In case there was ANY doubt that Smurfette at the NYTimes Op-Ed hive colony is a complete idiot.

Smurfette believes that John Edwards is too attractive to be elected.

I'm sure she said that about JFK too.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

I love me some Dahlia Lithwick

It's hard to fathom why Kennedy has so much more sympathy for the women who changed their minds about abortions than for those who did not. His concern for Inconstant Females might be patronizing in any other jurist. Coming from him, it's brilliantly ironic. Kennedy is, after all, America's Hamlet. The man who famously worried that "sometimes you don't know if you're Caesar about to cross the Rubicon or Captain Queeg cutting your own tow line," will long be remembered as the living incarnation of agony and indecision, And today he seamlessly rewrites his Stenberg dissent as a majority opinion that blasts his earlier Casey vote to its core.

I'm no psychologist but in light of today's Gonzales opinion one has to wonder: Is all of Kennedy's tender concern over those flip-flopping women really just some kind of weird misplaced justification for his flip-flopping self?

In Slate
via Pandagon

Monday, April 16, 2007

Twisty is a genius

I've had a few minor disagreements with Twisty, primarily with her debate style, but it cannot be denied that she is a fucking genius. When is someone going to give her a book contract, op-ed column or TV show?
Do you guys get, I mean actually get, that our society is a patriarchy? Patriarchy isn’t just a gimmick for a blog. It really exists. There are actual implications. Do you get that a patriarchy is predicated on exploitation and victimization? It’s not a joke! It’s not an abstract concept dreamed up by some wannabe ideologue making up catch-phrases while idling away the afternoons with pitchers of margs. Exploitation and victimization is the actual set-up! A person is either an exploiter or a victim, or sometimes both, but never neither.

This means me! This means you!

This means that, until patriarchy is smashed, we ain’t got a chance.

Meanwhile, do you guys see that there is no other possible outcome, in a society based on exploitation and victimization, than for the Don Imuses and the Daily Koses of the world to shit, frequently, on members of the lower castes? Shitting on the lower castes is a privilege built into the system. When exercised with macho aplomb, it attracts advertisers. It creates prestige. It makes money. It entertains the masses.

If, by some Stone Age fantasy-world turn of good fortune, our society had not been permitted by the clumsy aliens of the planet Obsterperon to devolve into a patriarchy, Kathy Sierra wouldn’t have done anything wrong. The Rutgers basketball team wouldn’t have done anything wrong. They would have just been human beings, doing whatever the fuck they felt like doing.

But it is a patriarchy. And in a patriarchy, where women are the lowest caste, a public woman is always wrong. Which is why Sierra and the basketball players and lard knows how many others over the millennia have been victimized by a gazillion patriarchy-enthusiasts. These women attempted publicly, in a society in which they are devalued as dirty jokes, hysterics, babymommas, and receptacles, to behave as sovereign human beings. It is one of the first laws of patriarchy that insubordinate females should be jeered at and harassed, from the moment they dare, as members of the sex caste, to step into the gray subumbra of proto-celebrity, to the moment the last blurb is written by some feminist blogger who criticizes their behavior as victims-who-let-the-terrorist-manbags-win.

I Blame the Patriarchy

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The astonishing Bill Clinton

How different was our last president of the 20th century from the first president of the 21st century.

from Stephen Greenblatt in the New York Review of Books

In 1998, a friend of mine, Robert Pinsky, who at the time was serving as the poet laureate of the United States, invited me to a poetry evening at the Clinton White House, one of a series of black-tie events organized to mark the coming millennium. On this occasion the President gave an amusing introductory speech in which he recalled that his first encounter with poetry came in junior high school when his teacher made him memorize certain passages from Macbeth. This was, Clinton remarked wryly, not the most auspicious beginning for a life in politics.

After the speeches, I joined the line of people waiting to shake the President's hand. When my turn came, a strange impulse came over me. This was a moment when rumors of the Lewinsky affair were circulating, but before the whole thing had blown up into the grotesque national circus that it soon became. "Mr. President," I said, sticking out my hand, "don't you think that Macbeth is a great play about an immensely ambitious man who feels compelled to do things that he knows are politically and morally disastrous?" Clinton looked at me for a moment, still holding my hand, and said, "I think Macbeth is a great play about someone whose immense ambition has an ethically inadequate object."

I was astonished by the aptness, as well as the quickness, of this comment, so perceptively in touch with Macbeth's anguished brooding about the impulses that are driving him to seize power by murdering Scotland's legitimate ruler. When I recovered my equilibrium, I asked the President if he still remembered the lines he had memorized years before. Of course, he replied, and then, with the rest of the guests still patiently waiting to shake his hand, he began to recite one of Macbeth's great soliloquies:

If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well
It were done quickly. If th' assassination
Could trammel up the consequence, and catch
With his surcease success: that but this blow
Might be the be-all and the end-all, here,
But here upon this bank and shoal of time,
We'd jump the life to come. But in these cases
We still have judgement here, that we but teach
Bloody instructions which, being taught, return
To plague th'inventor.

There the most powerful man in the world—as we are fond of calling our leader—broke off with a laugh, leaving me to conjure up the rest of the speech that ends with Macbeth's own bafflement over the fact that his immense ambition has "an ethically inadequate object":

I have no spur
To prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself
And falls on th'other....

I left the White House that evening with the thought that Bill Clinton had missed his true vocation, which was, of course, to be an English professor. But the profession he actually chose makes it all the more appropriate to consider whether it is possible to discover in Shakespeare an "ethically adequate object" for human ambition.

Friday, April 13, 2007

I love me some Harvey Fierstein

In the NYTimes
For the past two decades political correctness has been derided as a surrender to thin-skinned, humorless, uptight oversensitive sissies. Well, you anti-politically correct people have won the battle, and we’re all now feasting on the spoils of your victory. During the last few months alone we’ve had a few comedians spout racism, a basketball coach put forth anti-Semitism and several high-profile spoutings of anti-gay epithets.

What surprises me, I guess, is how choosy the anti-P.C. crowd is about which hate speech it will not tolerate. Sure, there were voices of protest when the TV actor Isaiah Washington called a gay colleague a “faggot.” But corporate America didn’t pull its advertising from “Grey’s Anatomy,” as it did with Mr. Imus, did it? And when Ann Coulter likewise tagged a presidential candidate last month, she paid no real price.

In fact, when Bill Maher discussed Ms. Coulter’s remarks on his HBO show, he repeated the slur no fewer than four times himself; each mention, I must note, solicited a laugh from his audience. No one called for any sort of apology from him. (Well, actually, I did, so the following week he only used it once.)

Face it, if a Pentagon general, his salary paid with my tax dollars, can label homosexual acts as “immoral” without a call for his dismissal, who are the moral high and mighty kidding?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

So it goes.

''When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in a bad condition in that particular moment, but that same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is 'So it goes'.''
- Slaughterhouse Five

Last I looked, not even Vonnegut web was on top of the news.

Wikipedia, however, reliably was.

NYTimes: Kurt Vonnegut, whose dark comic talent and urgent moral vision in novels like “Slaughterhouse-Five,” “Cat’s Cradle” and “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater” caught the temper of his times and the imagination of a generation, died Wednesday night in Manhattan. He was 84 and had homes in Manhattan and in Sagaponack on Long Island.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Survey Finds Girls Morally Superior to Boys

An article in today's NYTimes states:
The wink-wink methods have filtered down to the students, as this survey of high school athletes found.

¶43 percent of boys and 22 percent of girls said it was proper for a coach to teach basketball players how to illegally hold and push.

¶41 percent of boys and 25 percent of girls saw nothing wrong with using a stolen playbook sent by an anonymous supporter before a big game.

¶37 percent of boys and 20 percent of girls said it was proper for a coach to instruct a player to fake an injury.

¶29 percent of boys and 16 percent of girls said it was acceptable for a coach to urge parents to allow an academically successful athlete to repeat a grade in middle school so that the athlete would be older and bigger for high school sports.

¶6.4 percent of boys and 2 percent of girls admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs.

Imagine if the genders were reversed - I have no doubt that the headline would be screaming something about boys' moral superiority. But here the gender discrepancy is explained as the result of school sports. So it's not the boys' fault. Just as girls beginning to surpass boys in academics is also not supposed to be boys' faults - our school system is just too "feminine" and punishes natural male vigor and curiosity - although the system doesn't seem to have changed since the days when boys surpassed girls.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Isn't It Ironic? Yes, it is, Einstein.

It's common knowledge that Alanis Morissette's song "Ironic" contains no irony, which is itself ironic, hyuk hyuk hyuk.

Unfortunately for the pseudo-certain grammar scolds who think they caught a pretty chick singer being stupid - which is such a satisfying thing for a certain brand of hipster male and his female enablers - the song does in fact contain irony.

The most obvious example is in this stanza:
Mr. Play It Safe was afraid to fly
He packed his suitcase and kissed his kids goodbye
He waited his whole damn life to take that flight
And as the plane crashed down he thought
"Well isn't this nice..."
And isn't it ironic... don't you think

Since we can be fairly certain that Mr. Play It Safe doesn't want to die in a firey plane crash, his thought "Well isn't this nice" is indeed ironic. The rest of the song contains dramatic and situational irony. The people who claim the song doesn't contain irony don't know the meaning of irony.
And so here is the Merriam-Webster definition:

Pronunciation: 'I-r&-nE also 'I(-&)r-nE
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural -nies
Etymology: Latin ironia, from Greek eirOnia, from eirOn dissembler
1 : a pretense of ignorance and of willingness to learn from another assumed in order to make the other's false conceptions conspicuous by adroit questioning -- called also Socratic irony
2 a : the use of words to express something other than and especially the opposite of the literal meaning b : a usually humorous or sardonic literary style or form characterized by irony c : an ironic expression or utterance
3 a (1) : incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result (2) : an event or result marked by such incongruity b : incongruity between a situation developed in a drama and the accompanying words or actions that is understood by the audience but not by the characters in the play -- called also dramatic irony, tragic irony