Thursday, September 28, 2006

A Happy Congruence

At last, the modern Republican Party tries to make good on its claim of being the Party of Lincoln. (Link via Lawyers, Guns and Money)

Update: Yes, some Democrats are even bigger schmucks. From now on I will be referring to the President as El Presidente'-Generalisimo Jorge Arbusto.

Update II: Also this.

Update III: And this. A happy effin' congruence indeed.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Write Letters

And this particular one says:"Torture doesn't work."

Monday, September 25, 2006

Universal Suckitude

In case you were still denying the fact that Rumsfeld is at best an idiot and at worst, is possessed of a cruel disregard for the soldiers he commands and is an idiot, here are some generals who want to tell you you're wrong. The most frightening quote came from retired Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton who called Rumsfeld, "“incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically." He further called for the replacement of Rummy and his immediate team, "or we will see two more years of extraordinarily bad decision-making."

Of course, the current administration's near complete ineptitude in foreign relations hasn't stopped them from bungling things at home. Turns out the Bush administration is not content to simply stack the E.P.A., as well as the intelligence and defense wings with corporate shills and ideologues. According to the Office of the Inspector General in their audit of the Reading First program, part of No Child Left Behind, the Bush Administration has "stacked panel review committees with people who had clear conflicts of interest." It further claims, "The Education Department (ED) ignored the law and ethical standards to steer money how it wanted."

Does this surprise anyone? Should we be shocked that a crew that has eviscerated the army, our intelligence services and the idea of clean air in our nation would bend our federal education system over a log and make it squeal like Ned Batty.

Been wondering how program director Chris Doherty fits in at the G.O.P. cocktail parties? Well, as a consummate educator speaking on an organization he doesn't see eye to eye with he said, "They are trying to crash our party and we need to beat the [expletive deleted] out of them in front of all the other would-be party crashers who are standing on the front lawn waiting to see how we welcome these dirtbags." You can almost smell the concern for children. I'd say he fits right in.


Friday, September 22, 2006

Delusions of Grandeur

Just in case your getting stressed out about the end of the world, remember, it's really not that big a deal. This tiny speck is The Earth as photographed by the European Cassini Probe circling Saturn. It's the farthest image yet taken of our iddy-biddy blue ball.


Mine Eyes Deceive Me

I must need reading glasses because every time I read the phrase "today's compromise" in any blogpost or article relating to the detainee treatment legislation, I read it as "Toady's Compromise". And it takes me a while to figure out that I've made a mistake because McCain's name is generally all over the article.

Update: So ya'll macho bad boys wanna prove you're tuff enuff to "protect" America? While I apppreciate that your basement fantasies of retribution are a result of the brown hordes what made you wet your bed, people who might actually know what they're talking about might recommend a different approach.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Political Rhetoric

I'm in a seminar at the University of Baltimore called Political Rhetoric where we analyze the rhetoric in everything from speeches to music.

One of my projects is to create and maintain a blog for the class. The blog is called Rhetoric: Word. Image. Sound and it's starting to look pretty interesting.

There's about 10 people in the class, each posting at least once a week. Most students swing left, a few swing right. The professors (there's 2) are great and the subject matter is good enough to get everyone all riled up.

Please check it out. I think you'll like it and I'd love to get some input.



More Macacas

Some idiocy recently highlighted in the MN elections for 2nd Congressional District (suburbs and cities south of the Twin Cities) between incumbent Kline (R- MN) vs Rowley (the 9/11 whistleblower). Brought to you by the Inside Minnesota Politics podcast/blog: The return of Japanese-bashing! (warning: video clip). What a refreshing break from a-rab bashing. Everyone.... Celebrate.

Happy Empire Day!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Did I Read This Right?

Maybe it's my radical past attempting a full-scale return to prominence, but this sounds like a suggestion that ussens the masses rise up and toss off the yolk of themens the oppressors due to said oppressors eccentric incompetence. That this is coming from an ex-CIA guy makes it that much more confusing.

We Interupt This Pit Beef Indulgence To Bring You...

Taking a quick break from the HampdenFest to note (with some undisguised excitement) that one of our own does real journalism. I'm not telling you which one though.

What are we really saying when we say The Wire is the the best show on television?

Wire criticism has gone extremely meta. Everyone from Gawker to eebmore has noticed the comparisons to Dickens, Shakespeare, and the elevation above all the cinema and television of the last century. The show devastates me, too, but I can't figure out why a show with The Wire's subject matter is the one to be given these unprecedented accolades. To some degree, it disturbs me.

David Simon has no intention of changing the world with his show. Fer Christ's sake, it's about the primacy of institutions over individuals who flail like a beetle on its back with what agency they have left. But how can poverty, crime, violence, disrespect for life, and all the things we abhor about the existence of an underclass be the top priority on television, but be such a low priority in real life? Simon takes everything that terrifies us about the inner city and puts it inside a tiny box in our living rooms. Is that as close as we'll ever get?

I've got a lot of thinking to do about this. More later...

More Saturday Frivolity

Read the comment threads to these two posts, and then read this. I hope no one takes it as sexist when I say that it's a shame Ms. Althouse has any opportunity to mold young minds. (Links via Feministing, Lawyers, Guns and Money and my own gin-soaked memory.)

Update: All ya'll Wire hatahs can eat me (link via Yglesias.)

Update: Why yes, I am finally having a chance to catch up on my blog reading. Thanks for asking. Shorter Terry Teachout: "The great thing about New Media is that now everyone really is entitled to their own set of facts."

Friday, September 15, 2006

Annoyingly Apt

Nota Apologia: This post was originally written on 09/11/2006 but I felt really stupid publishing it on that date. Seriously, would it have been commensurate with the gravity of the day to say "On this somber occasion, I come before you to say that Frank Miller is an over-rated hack!"? No. But it's the weekend now, so maybe its frivolity is a little more tolerable. If you want some 9/11 reflections, please look at our archives from last year at this time. Those statements still stand. Otherwise, enjoy.
That's how SteveG described the whole Hitchens giving the Mencken Day lecture thing. It's also a term I'd use to describe NPR's decision to have Frank Miller deliver today's "This I Believe" essay. It seems somehow fitting that a comic book artist (who's currently engaged in a painful 12 year decline *) would be chosen to commemorate the 5 year anniversary of the first American tragedy of the 21st century and explain again how "9/11 changed everything." These days most of what we get from our current leaders and commentators is comic book sentiment anyway - especially today. It's nice that 9/11 awakened Miller (and many others like him) from his masturbatory fantasies of naked girls, big cars, rugged individualism and violent retribution. It's also somehow fitting that an artist who's speciality is violent retribution manages to come to the conclusion that what's necessary today is more fantasy retribution. And it's sad that he had to breathe in the ashes of his burning city (ain't that just so Milleresque?) in order to appreciate that there's such a thing as collective concerns. But seriously, if you needed exlposions in your streets to alert you to the fact that there's a world out there and a country in here, and that both might need some of your attention or they'll both go to hell, you'll excuse me if I don't take your exhortations to solidarity, patriotism and recognition of an "existential menace" particularly seriously. It's just a tad too much the reaction of a wanna-be tough guy who's just wet the bed.

* While some of my favorite Sin City work did appear after 1994 (That Yellow Bastard, in 1996), 1994 is the year he published his comic adaptation of Atlas Shrugged: Martha Washington Goes To War. Enchantment with Ayn Rand is always the death-knell of artistic sensibility and intellectual engagment. It takes a particular sort of talent (and it helps if your name is John Lydon) to phrase "I got mine so eff you!" in an aesthetically interesting manner. Yet somehow, year after year, people of adolescent temperment (if not actually adolescent themselves) mistake 500 pages of stentorian meandering for artistic expression, and then mistake pretentious justifications of said worldview for a philosophy. I guess no one likes to be considered just plain crass.

For Miller's work, not counting That Yellow Bastard, it just gets worse and worse. Hell and Back is just The Hard Goodbye with a different ending, the less said about Dark Knight Strikes Again the better, and All-Star Batman and Robin is plain hackwork. I think the problem is that Miller really only has one good idea (and it isn't really his): The (mostly) regular guy with a unique sense of honor is placed in a corrupt and threatening urban nightmare (Daredevil's New York, Batman's Gotham, everyone in Sin City). Once placed in this situation, the regular guy constantly finds his unique sense of honor offended and is thus inspired to avenge whatever slights to his honor occur. This avenging is achieved by the regular guy heightening his physical abilities and then beating the shit out of - or shooting - everyone involved in the slights to his honor, and since he's the honorable guy, everything he does is beyond reproach. Yeah, it's the old Noir Schtick and I gotta say I love it. The tension produced between the honorable guy and the world-gone-crazy has endless potential and Miller should be applauded for bringing it successfully to comics.

But it also has downsides. First, if the challenges presented to our regular guy don't tax him mentally as well as physically, then the stories get stuck in an infinite regress of increasing carnage to over-come the readers's increasing carnage tolerance (this is the largest problem with later Sin City). Second, if the challenges posed to our regular guy aren't convincing challenges, then the only story being told is violent revenge and we're back to the infinite regress (this started setting in durring Dark Knight Returns). Third, if the stories don't have any humor, they end up dull (in Miller's case this is another mark of creeping Randroidness; for some reason they always end up totally humorless). Compare anything in Miller's run on Daredevil 25 years ago with late period Sin City or the Martha Washington series and you'll notice that where there was a natural sense of humor at work in Daredevil you'll only find "J O K E S I AM TELLING YOU, THE READER" in the later work. Finally, as in all pop-genres, when the creator starts taking themselves seriously as A Serious Artist the work goes to pot; there's something about becoming ASA that makes you forget you have to work for your audience and instead makes you think the audience is supposed to appreciate Your Seriousness As An Artist, and Miller has been Seriously Artistic for too long.

It's not Miller's fault that he's burnt-out on his chosen genre; it happens to everyone, even the most brilliant (and given how much adulation he got early on, it was probably way too easy to just start coasting on his rep). It's also not his fault that other writers have lately picked up where he left off and done far superior work (Bendis with Daredevil, Rucka and Loeb with various interpretations of Batman, or the 100 Bullets team who also had a great recent run on Batman). Miller was the first, and the innovator deserves props, whatever his future output. And of course, none of this griping should detract from Miller's real enduring contribution to popular culture: Half-naked, death-dealing chicks in spandex.

Friday, September 08, 2006

If Every Bar In Town Is Closed Tomorrow...

I would probably show up and ask our mobius-strip contrarian about this (via No Quarter), specifically:

The purpose of a visit to Niger by the Iraqi ambassador to the Vatican, Wissam al-Zahawie, was to invite the president of Niger to visit Iraq.

I'm sure he'd find a way to say this proves exactly the opposite. Yes, yes, yes, "to invite the president of Niger to visit Iraq so Saddam could try to buy uranium!!!!" Or something.

Lucky for me there is 0% chance that all the bars in town will be closed, so I won't have to bother and neither will he.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Dear Enoch Pratt

ARE YOU EFFIN' KIDDING ME? It's bad enough the world's most unfunny "satirist" claims fealty to the Sage. Now the man who's famed iconoclast status comes from holding the same positions as those in power gets to give the public the finger once more by delivering the Mencken Day lecture. I suppose to some this is the "obvious" choice - and there are valid points of comparison, most notably their shared sense of self-satisfaction with their status as iconoclasts - but really though? When I think of Hitchens it's this passage that comes to mind:

What ails him mainly is that he is a man without sufficient force of character to resist the blandisments that surround him from the moment he sets foot in Washington. A few men, true enough, resist, and their papers, getting the benefit of it, become notable for their independence and intelligence, but the great majority succumb almost at once. A few months of associating with the gaudy magnificoes of the town, and they pick up its meretricious values, and are unable to distinguish men of sense and dignity from mountebanks."

When we heard the event announced on the radio this morning, my girlfriend fiance cheekily asked me if we were going. I managed to sort of grumble "probably not" because it was too early to say what I was really thinking: "Only if every bar in town is closed."