So I don't know if anyone has noticed but I've been slowly working up to changing the appearance of the blog, bit by bit. When I first moved from blogger to Movable Type (thanks again Michele!) I used the pre-packaged, vanilla stylesheet template called "Gettysburg." I think Gettysburg looks great, and is the most appealing of those they offer, but so do a lot of people. One of the nice things about the whole blogger routine is that there are enough pre-packaged templates that you can easily change the appearance of your blog so that it doesn't look confusingly like anyone else's blog in your "neighborhood" without having to go to the trouble of figuring out how to change anything. It's not that hard to figure out, but if you know nothing about how these things work, it can be just puzzling enough to discourage you from attempting it. Hence, I imagine, all the beautiful, feature-laden, fully functional, elegant, and utterly identical MT-powered blogs out there.
It's a bit disorienting when other peoples' writing is set in a context that looks more or less exactly like yours. For awhile there, I almost thought I was the president of the Strom Thurmond Appreciation Society. Hang on. You've got me mixed up with someone else. No Dr. Frank, you've got yourself mixed up with someone else... Luckily, I figured it out before I sent myself a cordial yet withering email. I wouldn't have liked that one bit.
But where was I? Oh yeah, so all I did was change the font to Trebuchet, and reduce the line height slightly. It's not much, but at least it helps with the identity crisis. Why do I get a warm, comfortable feeling from Trebuchet? Maybe because it (or something close to it) is the interface font for the Movable Type cgi thingummy and it's still so new and thrilling that I always feel a little sad to see it go when I'm finished with it; and maybe also because that's the font that Oliver Kamm's blog uses, and because that's still so new and thrilling that I somehow fool myself into believing that by using it I can capture just a bit of that Kamm magic. In my dreams, I actually am mistaken for Kamm on occasion.
That is not the way forward, I realize. I have no answers. The human soul is a grand, unfathomable mystery. And mine's not so fathomable either.
Anyway, I'll probably fool around with the colors as well. (If I can figure out where they plug in to the stylesheet template-- it's more flexible, but just a bit more complicated than the blogger template situation. And I'm still just a bit worried that I'm going to break something, like I did the last time I tried to muck about in my own innards.) I liked the green of the old one. And who knows, maybe something more elaborate later on. Though I kind of doubt it, lazy sod that I am.
I also added to the sidebar a link to this post, labeled "post a comment on 'eight little songs'..." Like it says, the idea is that people who have comments, questions or suggestions concerning these or other songs can leave comments there instead of emailing them, since I've been so behind in answering my mail. Plus, it would be a way for people to comment on the comments, which might be kind of cool. (By the way, Chach just posted a pretty extensive one, and so did I in response.)
Ben has a follow-up post to his original essay on copyrights, internet theft, etc., where he summarizes and answers the arguments of some of the comments it provoked. Well-worth a look.
Photodude's recent post on this sparked a cranky comment from frequent blogospheric commenter M. Simon, which was of the "boo hoo, poor baby, that's just your tough luck" variety. The fact that the sound of the smallest violin is completely irrelevant to any of the issues involved hasn't stopped it from being the most commonly-voiced non sequitur whenever the issue of copyrights and music is raised. (It's the most common from my correspondents, at any rate, though few mention Mr. Simon's buggy whips.) Photodude's response concludes:
Saying "tough luck" is hardly a solution. But thanks for making my point: keep screwing individual creators (the people who make the music you enjoy), and shrugging off their inability to make a living in an "information wants to be free" environment, and very very soon, when it comes to "free music," you'll get exactly the value you pay for.
"Other than the harm to entrenched interests who think the world owes them a living because previous technology supported their business model I don't see a problem."
What the hell are you talking about? Name one other situation in which someone's expectation of rights to (or contractually specified compensation for) a ware she produced would be reasonably describable as "thinking the world owes you a living." The only sense of entitlement here is that of the mp3 thieves.More discussion to follow, no doubt.
First off, this post has a warning label:
Cigarettes are called "fags" in England. It seems only prudent to mention that, for the benefit of those who might not realize it. Slang can cause confusion.
The first time you overhear someone saying "I'd murder a fag right now," it can be pretty shocking. But "I'd murder" means "I would rather enjoy," and a fag is a smoke. It's a substitution cipher; you just have to have the key.
If you give a cigarette to the guy asking if he can "bum a fag," he might smile, look you over, and say "Nice one!" But that's not what you think, either. "Nice one" means "thanks ever so much." (And no, it doesn't work the other way around: a rude type does not, typically, refer to a gay man as a "cigarette." I think that rude word is "pouf." I even once heard "iron" - pronounced like "ion" and so doubly confusing - which is rhyming slang derived from "iron hoof," or so I'm told. If one doesn't wish to be rude, I think one says "nice man, never married.")
Anyhow, Samizdata's David Carr reports on fakefags.co.uk, an outfit that sells satirical faux warning labels to replace the recent EU mandated mega-warnings that have started to appear on British cigarette packs:
People who earn their living promoting the dubious notion that such labeling ever does, ever has, or ever will deter even one person from smoking aren't amused. But I think it's pretty funny.
Oh, and by the way, the one that says "smoking makes you look hard," that's not what you think, either...
I, like many others, first discovered Michele's blog via an InstaPundit post about the last round of Ceremonial De-Linking of A Small Victory in November 2002.
Back then it was "liberals," upset about her support for the war on terror mostly, who held the De-Linking Ceremonies. ("I'm sorry, but I find I can no longer remain silent. I am second to none in my support for free speech and the free exchange of ideas, within reason. But I cannot in good conscience continue to engage in dialogue with someone who disagrees with my position on such an important matter. Therefore, it is with a heavy heart and after a great deal of painful soul-searching, that I have decided to take the ultimate step-- which I do not take lightly-- of removing from the pure and noble sidebar of my hallowed and sacred weblog the tiny strand of html that, in happier days, once led to the site of a former friend who suddenly turned into an insane maniac. And as my Will, so mote it be..." You know, that sort of thing.)
Now it's a right-wing blogger who questions the bona fides of "self-professing conservative" Michele because she dared to refer to Thurmond as "100 year old racist rubbish." So conservatism means Up with Strom, does it? OK.
There is a certain sort of person who can't bear the thought that there might be anyone, anywhere, who might disagree with any aspect of his or her precious world-view. Such sociopaths are widely distributed across the political spectrum, though here in the San Francisco Bay Area the sample is skewed, and you tend to encounter more of them among self-proclaimed "liberals" than among self-proclaimed "conservatives."
Speaking as a determined centrist whose fervent wish it has long been to be kicked out of both clubs, it seems to me that the compulsion to seek out heretics rather than converts, to see your mission as one of exposing apostasy within your ranks, purging dissenters and winnowing down the mailing list till it includes only certifiably pure ideologues afflicts the "liberals" more often than the "conservatives" these days. It was not always thus, certainly, nor is it always the case now, as we see.
"Another self-professing conservative and blogger - A Small Victory - trashes Thurmond and in the process gets her link yanked from our list." With enough diligence, I'm sure this list can be limited to people with nice things to say about Strom. All it requires is ceaseless vigilance. Best of luck.
The Backcountry Conservative can do anything he wants with his own club, obviously. (For my part, I tend to agree with the Mark Graham assessment that he excerpts with qualified approval.)
But it seems to me that a house that demands public deference to Strom Thurmond as the price of entry is destined to be a very small tent indeed.
And you'll miss Michele. She's a lot of fun.
It's not easy being France's full-time Headscarf Mediator. Herewith the tale of a 16-year-old Muslim schoolgirl who refused to remove her head covering during school hours, the Headscarf Mediator's efforts to broker a deal, a three week stand-off, and the 200 teachers who staged a walkout and strike to protest the school-board governor's decision not to expel her for "just a bandanna."
"A scrap of cloth doesn't threaten the foundations of the republic," he said.
Jean-Claude Santana, the teacher who led the anti-scarf protest, sees his role in the headwear wars in slightly grander terms: "the Republic is changing," he says, "and we are the last resisters."
(via Sound and Fury.)
Well, not so elusive anymore, now that Sheila O'Malley/Astray has rambled over to new environs. Check her out-- she's one o' the best, as they say.
Speaking of song-poems, Treacher reports that, as I might have known but didn't, Lileks wrote an extensive, track by track review of the Bar None comp. when it came out. And if this account of the strange, sad, amazing life of celebrated song shark Rodd Keith doesn't make you at least a little sad and a little glad to be alive, there may be something wrong with your soul. Get it checked out, will you?
Mona Baker's spirit lives on, at Oxford.
UPDATE: I had my doubts about the letter's authenticity when I first saw the LGF post (hence the "apparently.") It appears to have been genuine, though. Professor Wilkie has issued the standard non-apologetic apology. Roger L. Simon has a good post on the subject. The succinct analysis contained in Simon's second update is quite accurate, though I'm too polite to quote it. There's something wrong with these people.
Maybe I haven't managed to take over too much of the world, or make anything like a dent in America's collective media consciousness or popular culture, but things seem to be going pretty well in Fairfield County, CT. Thanks, Mike!
Oh, and by the way, here's another review of that Living Room show.
I keep meaning to mention, for those of my readers who may not know, that Reid Photodude Stott has been engaged in the fairly thankless task of championing and arguing for preserving the rights of individual copyright holders for years now. Well worth reading his take on it if you're at all interested in such things.
For the last few years, top executives from all the major record companies have been giving interviews in which they criticize consumers for doing exactly what the execs have been doing for years - getting music for free. I was “in the loop” for a couple years, when I was writing about music for a free weekly, as well as a major daily newspaper, in Los Angeles, many years ago. And I can tell you – none of these characters paid for anything, ever.This is accurate, of course, and he's quite right when he says of music biz folks that the "piousness of their pronouncements" is often offensive. But I don't know how relevant it is. I get all my friends' CDs for free if I want them, and they get mine. Ben's going to send me the new Riverdales when it's ready, as I sent him mine. It's not "stealing" because I get it in the mail from him. It's not the same thing. Promo-ing your own CDs to friends and other music-biz folks is normal. All of it, ultimately, is paid for by the artist anyway. Maybe labels can be a bit free and easy with the promos, but most artists wouldn't dream of complaining. The idea is that it's worth it on the outside chance that someone will write about you, or grant some other publicity-related benefit.
The bookcases in their offices and their homes were (and are) filled with “product” that they receive for free as a matter of course. They would not dream of ever paying for recorded music, themselves, with very few exceptions. But now that the average consumer can download a ripped file from the Internet, you’d think it was the end of Western Civilization, from the way they talk...
There's an apparent irony there, certainly, but it's beside the point. The point, as I see it, is: music costs money to produce, and somewhere at some point in the process, through some means or by some mechanism, however it is characterized, or conceived of, or disguised, somebody has to buy something.
That said, there is a rather galling aspect to the attitudes of many who end up on the promo list. (This has nothing to do with "stealing," but it's irritating nonetheless.) Rock journalists make their living by getting loads of free stuff, writing about the same eight to ten new records that everyone else is already writing about, ignoring or snidely dismissing the rest, and subsidizing it all by selling most of the "crappy" material at the local record shop.
I satirized this in a song on the MTX album Alcatraz, in the rock-critic-slagging song "I Wrote a Book about Rock and Roll." (Hey, turnabout is fair play.)
If you start doubting meWhen this album came out, we expected some kind of reaction from the hundreds of rock journos to whom we sent the CD, but very little was forthcoming. Then we emailed the lyrics to the song, hoping to provoke a reaction. The result was a barrage of requests for another promo from all the writers who, presumably, had already sold their copies without bothering to listen to them. Ah, irony. Or rather, not irony. Rather, the pure one-to-one correspondence between a purported satire and actual human behavior, which I think is slightly different. There's probably a Greek word for that, but I don't know it.
there's something you should see
take a look at these thousands of CDs
no one has more than me
and I got all of them for free.
Hey, thanks for the free CD, I can sell it at the store down the block...
I'd still be happy if one of these dopes ever deigned to review one of my records. (Fat chance!) Promos are part of the budget. That's what they're for. And even if you forced every label employee, every band member, and every journalist to purchase every single promo, it still wouldn't address the issue. You can't put the whole world on the promo list. Rock and roll costs money, and the money has to come from somewhere.
I'm just trying to imagine Italian TV without sexy. Er, sexist. Uh, ism.
Or a cold and uninviting Sun, where page four directly follows page two.
Or what our television world (face it, the only world you really care about) would be like if they really were successful in banning all programming and advertising that "did not respect human dignity." Come on. Lack of respect for human dignity is what TV is all about.
Don't you guys have some condiments to classify or something?
Or postcard rather. This postcard was addressed to a former resident of my building, who has long since moved out. It's been sitting on top of the building's bank of mailboxes with a stack of other pieces of "return to sender" mail, staring me in the face for several days now. Finally, I could resist no longer, and made the following transcription, leaving the card in situ, of course.
The postcard depicts "Oxford Gargoyles" from All Souls, University College, and New College, and bears an uncancelled 42p British stamp. The text is written in blue ballpoint (biro, I think they'd say) in a breezy, confident hand:
I've written about a bazillion postcards so I doubt I have anything creative left in me.
I discovered a new store here called Lush. They sell freshly made, all-natural body cleansers & bath stuff.
Very exciting and [underlined] they just opened a store in SF. We'll have to check it out together.
Rall, of course, is only one of many purveyors of myriad versions of this absurd exercise. It has become something of a literary genre in itself; and Rall has studied at the venerable feet of Pinter and Vidal.
Such presentations always remind me of those lists of shocking parallels between, say, Lincoln's and Kennedy's respective assassinations. You know the kind of thing I'm talking about: Lincoln's secretary was named Kennedy! Kennedy's secretary was named Lincoln! Coincidence? That's what they want you to think!
As for the Twilight Zone notion that Hitler's Germany has managed to rise from its ashes and reconstitute itself in modern American society, Bush = Hitler is merely the most recent version. It has a long pedigree as a goofy, beloved, rhetorical touchstone amongst America's crackpot Left (hence the spelling "Amerika," soon to be further developed by adding a couple more Ks.) This state of mind is difficult to fathom by anyone other than the hipsters of the revolution (you had to be there, we who were not there are so often told.) I imagine lots of things seem to make sense when you're on acid, but it's doubtful whether anyone not on drugs (if such in fact there ever were in 1968) believed it literally. I doubt Rall believes in it either, other than for its virtues as an easy, self-generating column. On the other hand, Rall, like me, is of the generation and the specific subculture that was able to find profound wisdom in the observation that each of Ronald Wilson Reagan's names had six letters (666-- aaaah! the Great Beast!) No one believed that literally either, of course (the Great Beast part, I mean.) You said it as a joke. But we all know people for whom this kind of joke was a mere step along the way to a final slip off the deep end, with or without the aid of narcotics. Purveyors of this latest version, therefore, bear close watching, for their own safety and that of others, if for nothing else.
At any rate, Harry's final comment stands as a suitable, succinct, and politely understated response to the Bush-Hitler parallel-mongers as a group:
in case you are still hoping to be taken seriously at some stage, here is a quick piece of advice. Bush may be right-wing, you may dislike his foreign policy, and you may be concerned about spending priorities and some of the civil liberty issues. And you might not like the dominance of right-wingers in the media and the tone of debate in your country - I can understand all of that.
But America really is not Germany in the 1930s.
Lookout Records is putting on some shows to mark its 15th anniversary, July 25th - 27th. (15? No way. Yes way.)
I'm playing solo on Friday, July 25th at the "Launch Party" at thee Parkside Lounge in San Francisco. It's a private party from 6 to 8, and a public show (in the sense that it will be public if anyone shows up) from 8 to 10. I'll probably play at around 9. I heard a rumor that Jesse Michaels might play some songs, too, but I have no idea if that's true. Anyway, if you're planning to go and have some particular song you'd like to hear, email me and I'll try to learn it if I can. (I can never remember my own damn songs.)
On Saturday, July 26th, at the Great American Music Hall, the line-up is:
The Queers, The MTX, The Smugglers (!), and the Enemies.(It might not be a bad idea to purchase tickets in advance for this one, if you want to go.)
Ted Leo, the Pattern, the Oranges Band and Communique will be playing at the GAMH the following night. I won't be playing that night but I'll be there, looking a little worse for wear and tear I imagine.
I still don't have a clear picture of how many readers of this blog are interested in my rock and roll activities, and vice versa, and how much overlap there is between the two groups. But for those who do fall into the little shaded portion of this ungodly Venn diagram, I'm trying to encourage people with comments, criticism and suggestions concerning "eight little songs" and the new album-in-progress to consider leaving them in the comments section of this post instead of emailing. For the time being anyway. I have no idea if anyone will take this up, but it's worth a shot. And again, to anyone who has mailed comments, be patient-- you'll get a response eventually.
So I just had a TV crew in my little hovel, taping me as part of a segment on internet downloading of music, sparked by this.
I have no idea how much they're going to use, but they taped me playing "Even Hitler had a Girlfriend," as well as an awkward little interview. (Short version: PTP file-sharing is a non-trivial issue that must be dealt with, but suing individuals is crazy.)
Anyway, anyone in the Bay Area can catch it on channel 7 (ABC) tonight at 6 pm. It may be a vain hope, but I'm still hoping I don't end up looking too stupid...
There's a full explanation on the site, but in brief, what they call "song-poems" are what results when suckers with stars in their eyes respond to ads like this:
Then, in return for a fee, they get a "professional" recording of their words set to music, with the never-fulfilled promise of "promotion," royalties, etc. It's like a sound recording vanity press. (Just like this whole innernut publishing thing, as Ken would probably say.)
John Trubee's "Peace and Love" (more popularly known as "Blind Man's Penis") is beyond question the most famous song-poem there is, and is one of pop music's most demented treasures. It never fails to make me giggle, even having lost the vital element of surprise due to literally hundreds of listens. Here's Trubee's own version of the well-known story behind the song, if you haven't heard it.
"Peace and Love" is, I'd imagine, the high-water mark of what can result when a conscious ironist joins forces, so to speak, with the "straight" confidence men of a vanity publishing outfit. Part of the boundless appeal of this recording is the tension arising from the question of who's been conning who. You can hear it in the bemused voice of the singer Ramsey Kearny, whose deadpan delivery cannot mask the pathos of a professional performer, presumably with the hopes, dreams, regrets, and bitterness of all show-biz aspirants, having come to such a pass that he must mutter "warts love my nipples because they are pink" into a microphone as part of a comic-book swindle in order to pay the rent. And, of course, this pathos is a kind of mirror of that of the song-poem sucker who sees the comic book ad as a door to a bright future in the music business. In "Peace and Love," we're in on the joke, while the singer isn't, or doesn't appear to be. It's funny-funny, it's strange-funny, but it's also just a bit sad-funny.
Such intentional post-modern table-turning notwithstanding, the sad-funny part of most song-poems issues entirely from the user end. (So to speak.) Some are silly enough that you can laugh with few qualms, but others aren't quite so uncomplicated. There is an unarticulated "back-story" to each one of them, with no John Trubee to explain that it was all a big joke. You imagine the eyes of such a poet (say, the author of "I'm Just the Other Woman" or "How can a Man Overcome his Heartbroken Pain") alighting on the ad in Popular Mechanics; pausing to allow hope to do battle with skepticism; carefully typing out the lyrics, and perhaps a polite cover letter as well; addressing the envelope to Nashville, licking the stamps, the envelope flap; jumping for joy, and phoning up friends, upon receiving the "acceptance" letter; eagerly inscribing a check for $79.95, perhaps kissing it before sliding it into another Nashville-bound envelope; and so forth. Like all songs perhaps, but in a way all their own, such songs can be a sort of window into a sad, beautiful life. Sometimes I almost feel guilty for enjoying them. But I do enjoy them.
Anyway, the site lists several compilations of song-poems (complete with sample mp3s) in addition to the recent one on Bar None (which is the only one I'd heard of.) Now I know what I want for Christmas.
My friend, tireless supporter, and benefactress Michele has a new comics-related group blog, Four Color Hell. And here's a parody of her main blog-- not exactly a work of genius, but it made me smile a bit. (The Treacher parody, on the other hand, leaves me cold. Parodist, whoever you are: consider yourself lucky that Michele has a sense of humor, because she could probably hunt you down and kill you with one hand tied behind her back if she felt like it.)
Check 'em out.
As always, I'm late to the party, but I just learned from Jim Henley that the New Criterion now has a blog. He thinks it's "just wrong." Maybe. But if so, it's wrong in a pretty engaging way. Anyway, wrong is my favorite flavor. At any rate, they're not about to let Susan Sontag get away with anything.
Or how about these examples of "how not to submit your material to the New Criterion":
"At any rate, I hope that this poem will "meet (your) current needs." (But fuck it, I know better. And whom am I kidding here? I doubt if you will even read this letter let alone respond to it. Look here, let us, both you and I, face facts; this is all a charade, a sometimes polite but nevertheless, an eternal pro forma fandango of a closed, 'good ol' boys' network of barely second and third-rate manques poets; dilettantes and minimalists at best, and at worst, well I really cannot say. So why even bother, one might reasonably ask. Perhaps I do this solely with the intention, ambition and aforethought of simply annoying you--that is to say, if you even read this missive of mine--which perhaps might be the most I can truly hope for."Well done, fellows.
"I look forward to trampling the flowers on your grave."
Harry's Place has moved here.
The Talent Show has moved here.
The Edge of England's Sword has moved here. (I'm late with that one-- sorry Iain!)
Roger L. Simon on those elusive WMDs:
To complain about the absence of WMDs at this point would be like having liberated Auschwitz during WWII only to grouse that there wasn't any cylon-b in the concentration camp, just dead bodies.
There's no transcript available, so this is all from memory. The quotes and descriptions below are merely how I recall it, making no claim as to strict accuracy. OK?
Tonight's Fox News Watch had a brief segment on the BBC program "What the World Thinks about America." I haven't seen the BBC show, but this description of it by David Carr makes it sound pretty interesting, in a boring sort of way.
The panel was discussing what they construed as the main thrust of the program, which was that much of the world thinks that Americans are arrogant. To underscore this, they displayed a BBC graphic depicting a map of the world with the word "arrogant" plastered over each country.
The panelists each weighed in with tepid, unremarkable comments, most of them dismissive but not heatedly so.
Cal Thomas then said something like "well, you know, most Americans don't give a [quaint grandpa euphemism for 'rat's ass'] what the rest of the world thinks, and they're sick and tired of hearing about it, because we know that when there's any trouble in the world we're the ones who are going to have to go in there and sort it out..."
Like I said, that's only how I vaguely remember it, and I'm sure that's not anything like the literal quote (though I believe that it more or less captures the spirit of the thing.)
But what is crystal clear in my memory is that it was absolutely impossible to tell whether he was kidding or not. If so, it was deadpan brilliance, satire worthy of Steven Wright. If not, it was a classic case of inadvertent hilarity. Either way, it was worth a snort.
No idea which, though. I report, you decide.
Tim Blair catches Robert Fisk, ordinarily protected these days from blogospheric/cheapskate scrutiny by what Tim calls a "cash firewall", in the act of invoking the Wolfowitz "swimming in oil" quote that caused the Guardian so many headaches, and required a final humiliating retraction.
Fisk doesn't explicitly say, as the original die Welt-based Guardian piece did, that Wolfowitz admitted that "oil was the main reason for military action against Iraq." Rather, he simply inserts the strategically truncated quotation, deceptively divorced from its context, into a list of stories the American authorities would like to censor, calls it "revealing," and lets the reader draw the intended, baldly erroneous, conclusion. (This is the "and then there's the..." gambit, perfected long ago by Alexander Cockburn, by means of which practically anything can be plugged into an article, regardless of relevance and with no explanation expected or provided.)
Is it conceivable that Robert Fisk does not read the Guardian? That he is unaware of the flap, of the universally-acknowledged fact that this reading of the quote is inaccurate? Not bloody likely, as he might say. This is, as far as I can recall, the clearest example I've seen of Fisk having deliberately set out to mislead his readers. Because he had to have known what he was doing, had to have made the conscious decision to do it. Had to have made the conscious effort to deceive.
To what end? Well, who knows? The guy is clearly off his rocker. But regardless of how many pages he currently has stuck together, perhaps the answer nonetheless lies in this curious follow-up paragraph:
The one suspicion held in common by both Saddam's former Baathists and Saddam's bitterest opponents in Iraq is that Britain and America invaded their country, not because of chemical or biological or nuclear weapons, not because of human rights abuses, but for oil. Clearly, Wolfie's words are highly provocative, could give valuable propaganda to Saddam's "remnants"-- who are becoming as lethal as the now famous Taleban "remnants"-- and stir up disorder among the vast majority of peace-loving Iraqis who trust the Americans.Here's hoping, Fisk seems to be saying. But just to make certain, he wants to ensure that the bogus, uncorrected quote makes it into the google-able record, so that it can be reproduced, uncritically, on sites like Kilafah.com. Pretty slick.
Andrew Motion, Britain's Poet Laureate, embarrasses himself, the birthday boy, and everybody else in the room with this "rap" to mark the occasion of Prince William's 21st birthday.
Hey, neat! A rap! I'm down, homeboy:
Better stand backThe second in line is dealing with it fine?
Here's an age attack,
But the second in line
Is dealing with it fine.
It's a threshold, a gateway,
A landmark birthday;
It's a turning of the page,
A coming of age.
It's a day to celebrate,
A destiny, a fate;
It's a taking to the wing,
A future thing...
Andrew, we need to talk.
(via au currant.)
Noted by Steven Rubio:
Gary Huckabay, A's fan and Baseball Prospectus raconteur, on the kind of person who wears caps with the colors of both the A's and Giants, offered for your perusal as the two local teams prepare to take each other on:
"Those are David Koresh rejects who should be dragged from their '82 Dodge Colts and savagely beaten into a persistent vegetative state."
I've been missing Moira Breen since she disconnected herself from my window into her world. Now it appears that she's back in business. Huzzah!
The great Johann Hari weighs in on the Iran democracy movement, and the strange disinclination of many on the left to muster much enthusiasm for it:
The students of Iran are trying to foment a second Iranian revolution - one in favour of human rights and democracy - and, to my dismay, the very people who should be on their side are more interested in slating George W. Bush...
There is a reason the students in Tiananmen Square built a replica of the Statue of Liberty. There is a reason the Iranian students are so pro-American. They see that US support - and perhaps intervention - might be the only way of breaking the stultifying deadlock they find themselves in.
The US, they know, is not always bad; its people want to do good in the world and its power provides it with the opportunity to do great things. Yet because the Iranian students do not fit into the increasingly popular public view of US-bad, opponents-of-US-good, they are being ignored.
When they do achieve freedom of speech and travel, they will ask what we did to help them. Worryingly, as things stand right now only Amnesty International and George W. Bush - of all people - will be able to say that they backed the cause.
We just watched the "Criterion Collection" DVD of Straw Dogs (which has long been one of my favorite films, though I hadn't seen it in quite awhile.)
I gotta say, the commentary by film critic Stephen Prince (author of Savage Cinema: Sam Peckinpah and the Rise of Ultraviolent Movies) is really excellent. He announces at the beginning of the commentary that his goal is to explain to doubters why this, despite general condemnation, is a great film. He succeeds, to the extent that my wife (who didn't think much of it when we watched it the first time through) was persuaded after we watched the film with the comments on directly afterward. I learned quite a few things I hadn't known, and I feel that this unusually engaging commentary has deepened my appreciation and understanding of this strange, superb, unsettling film. How's that for a rave review?
In this commentary and in the accompanying booklets, there's an allusion to a famous review by Pauline Kael, who trashed the movie as "the first American film that is a fascist piece of art." This formulation seems to have become a kind of unofficial subtitle of the film, always mentioned in the same breath, as it were, as the movie's title when the subject comes up in print. I've tried to search out the review itself on-line without success, though references to it abound.
My question is, what do film critics mean when they label a film "fascist"? It comes up from time to time. The most recent one I remember having been identified as such is Fight Club (of which I'm not too fond), but there have been others. Is it simply the putative "glorification" of violence? (In which case, I suppose the bulk of contemporary American films might be so described.) Or is it the theme of territorial struggle, man as animal, survival of the fittest, that sort of thing? Aesthetically speaking, to my eye, there is nothing in Straw Dogs that resembles the "fascist aesthetic" of the Hitler-Mussolini-Franco cultural milieu. Perhaps it's a contemporary cultural politics angle, where the word "fascist" describes something that is perceived as undermining or attacking liberal values?
Here's my other film-related question, and it's more trivial:
Another of my favorite movies is Rosemary's Baby. There's a line in the film, spoken by Guy/John Cassavetes, that has always puzzled me. He has just lit a fire in the fireplace, and has forgotten to open the flue. Rosemary points it out and Guy says (if I recall correctly): "nobody but nobody has a fire tonight!" I believe this line is also in the novel (which the script closely follows). What is he talking about or referring to? I've never understood this, and I've always wondered. Any ideas?
Pretty much, anyway.
Here's Ben's promised, fiery (and terrific) essay on how the the "totally free music" conceit and internet theft impacts The Little Guy.
I wrote a bit about this last year (and received tons of abuse for it-- get ready, Ben.)
Many of the evangelists for the free content revolution, and a fair few of the less strident advocates, often mention that (a) some tech-savvy musicians have been able to use the digital-swap culture to their advantage, recognizing that unauthorized copying is going to occur anyway, and employing it as a marketing tool for other commercial products; and (b) that the music fans who download a lot of mp3s end up buying more CDs than those who don't; hence (c) Free Music is a net plus for independent musicians, at the expense of no one but the evil record companies. (d) Everybody wins!
Now (a) is quite true (I've attempted to do a bit of it with my cyber-busking and pre-release of demos-- with modest success.) (b) may well be the case, and seems plausible, though I don't know how you could check. (c) and (d) however, are extremely dubious. These are all non sequiturs with little bearing on the issue of where unauthorized downloading (in lieu of buying) records falls on the morality/immorality continuum. It's not an easy question to answer. (Somewhere between murder and giving blood-- not sure where.)
As a practical matter though, Ben is absolutely right about one thing: the Free Content model (by which I mean the idea that someone, somewhere, other than consumers ought to foot the bill for producing recordings), if carried to its logical conclusion, will lead to less, less interesting, music. Period. Particularly if you're interested in "alternative" or off-beat music; under the Totally Free Music model, most of your favorite albums would never have been recorded. Think about that next time you listen to your "free" downloaded song from Zen Arcade. And say goodbye to the Zen Arcades of the future.
It's astounding how many people don't seem to realize that making music, like everything else, costs money. As Ben points out, most musicians don't have a prayer of making a living at it; those that try usually end up living somewhere around or below the poverty line. (Me included-- that's right: I'm a Lucky Ducky. Hot dog!) But even aside from the standard of living issue, there's a more pertinent angle when it comes to recordings of songs (which are precisely the things which are supposed to be "free.") Producing them costs money, too. Even if you're the most selfless, ascetic, not-for-profit, doin'-it-for-the-kids, sacrificing-it-all-for-art music martyr who doesn't mind living like a dog among dogs, the fact remains: if you're going to make a record, the guy who runs the studio has to get paid. (You're wondering where all those free studios are? They all had to close down because they couldn't pay their rent.) Now this money has to come from somewhere. And the Free Music extremists don't really seem to care where it comes from, as long as it isn't them.
(From time to time, I'll even receive mail that goes something like: "hey, dude, I downloaded all your kewl punk rawk tunez for free! When are you guys coming to Iowa City?" Not realizing that, to some degree, there might be a connection between his decision not to purchase CDs and the band's disinclination or inability to buy enough gas to drive all the way to Iowa.)
On the other hand, I see lots of exciting possibilities in the technology and in the digital culture (despite the bloody-mindedness of some of its advocates). And I even kind of like the idea of fans sharing recordings with each other as part of an ongoing discussion about my greatness [hah! --ed.]-- though I wish it could happen in such a way that enough people still buy enough records that I can still have a prayer of convincing someone to let me make another one. When anyone asks for permission to post mp3s, I almost always say yes. As I've mentioned before, "democracy, whisky, sexy" entered the fan consciousness instantaneously-- something I've never experienced. That wouldn't have been possible before, and I think it's really cool. Sharing/hawking my works-in-progress over the net has been a tremendous, useful experience, and I really believe it will help draw attention to the "real" album when it comes out and perhaps help make it more successful than it might otherwise have been. I intend to do more of it in the future.
However, it seems to me that the decision of whether to make songs available for free really ought to rest with the writer, the artist, the copyright owner. And there is a general feeling on the part of Free Music advocates that this is an outrageous, unreasonable, scandalous expectation. I admit that it may be an unrealistic expectation, but that's hardly the same thing.
When I wrote the little, unassuming piece I mentioned above, I received tons of email, overwhelmingly negative. Ben's email to me about it, in fact, was only one of two positive ones. A lot of it was along the lines of "boo hoo, poor baby, why don't you stop whining and get a day job?" (Profanity and scatology omitted from this example for aesthetic reasons.) But the general thrust of the angry mail was that the very idea that writers ought to have a right to control their own work was illegitimate, beneath contempt. I was genuinely shocked by the hostility that arose with regard to this simple, to me unassailable, proposition.
I know, I know. You don't want to rip anyone off. You're just tired of having to buy a whole album of crap just to get the one good song. You know, the good one, the one that's on the radio all the time. And you get a lot of satisfaction out of sticking it to the record companies who want to make you suffer through so much crap when all you want to do is rock out to The Good One. That's all well and good. But don't kid yourself that downloading, in lieu of purchasing, a record is neutral (or even, God help us, helpful) when it comes to the artist.
And Ben's right: it's a formula for narrowing the amount of quality music even further. If you can't make enough money to pay the studio guy, you don't get to make another record. It's that simple. Only Good Songs from now on, right?
Now he's been phoning up the activist group's Management Committee, demanding that the record be set straight, publishing an open letter to the guy who signed the email, and generally making an inspired, deadpan nuisance of himself.
He recommends a new bulk email bearing the title "'Were we lied to?' Funny we should have phrased it like that..."
Eric blogcritics Olsen has a great, rather moving MSNBC piece on Warren Zevon and his new album "The Wind." I haven't heard it yet, and I can't wait. My friend Tristin had an advance copy and she said it's beautiful.
UPDATE: Eric's MSNBC article has now been updated to include thirty second clips of the songs from the new album. Very cool. Check it out.
When I first read about the jolly "gas chamber hiss" heard from Chelsea supporters (and others-- one commenter says he heard it from Arsenal as well) I thought: you know, that sounds familiar. I've never actually been to an English football match, but I've heard the hissing on TV. I assumed it was "normal" hissing-- like they do at the movies in Berkeley every time a woman is depicted wearing a dress or cooking. And probably, it was. I hope so.
Yet in my brief exposure to this shocking phenomenon (basically, since yesterday), I've encountered several trustworthy writers who have no doubt that, in the context they're talking about, the hissing is indeed intended as an Auschwitz reference. And I can't say I'm surprised, when it comes from crowds who routinely chant this sort of thing. Anyway, I'm never going to hear hissing in quite the same way from now on.
There appears to be, amidst the Amsterdam and Rotterdam football clubs, a long-standing tradition of anti-Jewish, Holocaust-invoking taunts and chants that closely resembles the Chelsea/Tottenham tradition:
The main fixture of the Dutch football season is the match between Ajax, from Amsterdam, and Feyenoord, from Rotterdam. All the mutual prejudices between the two cities are aired on these occasions with particular venom. I had the misfortune once — through an error at the ticket office — to find myself sitting in the midst of the Feyenoord fans. It was a profoundly disturbing experience. Imagine thousands of football supporters screaming ‘Fucking Jews!’, or ‘To the gas chamber!’, or ‘Next stop Auschwitz!’ every time a player from the Amsterdam side touches the ball. Imagine, if you can bear it, thousands of people making hissing noises, mimicking the flow of gas.
Mostly, though, like Jackie, I'm just shaking my head in amazement that this sort of thing goes on in Europe, in Great Britain, A.D. 2003. In a way, it is even more disturbing and shocking to imagine such behavior among the Dutch (who, as the article points out, more or less willingly delivered 100,000 Jews to their doom in the '40s) than it is among English yobbos and aging "new lads." (If indeed we can allocate degrees of shock in such a situation.)
It is above all the consistency of the tradition, its apparent spread across national cultures, that is striking here. Unless it's restricted to England and Holland (which seems unlikely) it rather appears that we have stumbled on to a kind of essential, dark, and distinctly under-discussed feature of European football culture. (At least, I haven't heard any discussion of it, till now.) Do they shout about Auschwitz at French matches? German matches? How long has the Auschwitz angle been a feature of European football's crowd participation routine? And what did such crowds do before Auschwitz became a reference point? If it really is a trans-European phenomenon (and Kuper's book about its Dutch manifestation notwithstanding) this is a history waiting to be written, if someone hasn't already written it. Amazing.
Yikes! I knew I'd break this thing eventually.
I was trying to import my old archives (following this step-by-step) and things seemed to be going well. Then all of a sudden, all hell broke loose.
I'm not sure what I done wrong, but if there are any kind, mt-savvy folks out there who can help me put this thing back together, please let me know...
UPDATE: Our long blogospheric nightmare is over, thanks to web genius Stacy. Serves me right for dabbling in the dark arts without the right equipment and a properly consecrated magic circle.
At any rate, things seem to be working now. Some of the archived posts look a little wonky because of the title field (which the blogger blogsofwar didn't use) but that's no big thing. I may try to fix some as they come up, but if you can live with it, I can, too. Thanks to everyone who offered to help.
Herewith, some further chuckles from Amazon World's Amazon.com reviews digest:
Here's an article on those anti-Semitic Chelsea vs. Tottenham football chants mentioned below. Apparently the "kill the yids" chanting is sometimes augmented by "an elongated hiss, supposed to emulate the sound of the gas chambers." Swell...
Even though I have to admit I'd get a kick out of having my state governed by Arnold Schwarzeneggar, and while I'm as disgusted with Gray Davis as anyone, I'm with Deborah Saunders on this recall business. As Saunders points out, the Terminator is the best thing they've got going, but he's nowhere near "conservative" enough for the "recall crowd." And Davis is the governor now solely because of the California GOP's sheer bloody-mindedness. Once you take your hand off the piece, that's your move, even if you somehow manage to move into check when playing against a potted plant.
This state would be far better off in the long run if its Republicans would learn from their mistakes, grow up, take their self-inflicted lumps, and deign to nominate someone other than a doomed protest candidate next time around. And they'd fare better, too.
Harry Hatchet questions the contention that socialists, by definition, can never accurately describe themselves as libertarians. This essay and the ensuing exchange in the comments section between Harry, LibSam's David Carr, Peter Cuthbertson, and others is worth a look if you're interested in such things.
Oliver Kamm savors the irony: a political email circular from Our World Our Say: Action Against Conflict bearing the title "Were we lied to?" prominently features the bogus Wolfowitz quote that the Guardian had to withdraw.
If you haven't started reading Kamm's blog regularly yet, you really should. I want to be able to write like him when I grow up.
The comments to this post give you the basic idea. "Species awareness" indeed.
Die Zeit: Juergen Habermas is of the opinion that the "normative authority of the USA" lies "in ruins". In the end wasn't this war really illegitimate, if no weapons of mass destruction are to be found?
Michnik: A counter-question: Don't you believe that a regime which rips its opponents' tongues out must be removed at any cost? Should we have waited until Saddam had these weapons in his hands for all to see? By the way, the same people who responded to our approval for the war by saying that there were other ways to deal with such dictatorships now have a great opportunity to try out their methods. In the case of North Korea, Paris and Berlin can now please show us how to remove totalitarian regimes in a more gentle way. Welcome to Pyongyang!
UPDATE: More excerpts from the interview are here.
Michele has my favorite take so far on the Bill O'Reilly vs. The Internet brouhaha. It's de-linking writ large. Heh.
UPDATE: This is pretty great as well.
According to Pejman Yousefzadeh, the Farsi equivalent of d.w.s. is Azadi, Arak, Eshgh!
Ladies and gentlemen: I am no longer the most famous punk rock affiliated blogger. That would be the illustrious Ben Weasel, whose new, just-started blog, Weasel Manor, is here. He originally told me his idea was to "share his musings on baseball and Steven Seagal movies," but he also indicates that he's considering a post on the issue of stealing music over the internet, which should rile a few people up. He also has an update on the status of the book-length interview on songwriting that he did with me, that should be coming out at some point in the near future, which I get a lot of questions about.
Anyway, for those who don't know, Ben is a great, provocative writer and an idol to hordes of fans (of his bands Screeching Weasel and the Riverdales among other things-- see details here.) Let's hope he sticks with it-- it ought to be fun.
OK, so sometimes anti-Semitism is hard to pin down, and even when it's pretty clear that there is some sort of anti-Semitic phenomenon at work, it's complex and subtle, difficult to characterize and understand how it functions and to what extent it is significant. And it's possible to "read it into" situations that may not warrant it. I'm the first to admit, I may do that on occasion.
Then again, sometimes there's no subtlety or room for doubt whatsoever.
Like this: anti-Semitic football chants. A commenter to one of my previous posts on the subject brought up the topic, and quoted some shockingly over-the-top examples. I thought he was pulling my leg, but no, it's real.
Apparently the Tottenham Hotspur club and supporters are unofficially and by common custom referred to as The Yids or the "Yid Army". This is apparently derived from the fact that many Tottenham supporters came from an area of North London that "encompassed the orthodox Jewish enclave of the city."
Here's a compendium of Tottenham-related chants from the club's arch-rival Chelsea, many of which are far, far worse even than the ones quoted in the comments. The webmaster's claim that Chelsea's non-orthodox Jews adopted such customs as a sort of protest against the intolerance of Tottenham's orthodox Jews isn't particularly persuasive.
It is beyond my powers to imagine what it would be like to sit in an arena while thousands of people chant "gas the Jew, Jew, Jew." I still can't quite bring myself to believe it's real.
And we worry about the Tomohawk Chop.
Deliberately mispronouncing someone's name, or pretending you don't remember it, is a time-honored method of casting aspersions or belittling someone.
Every girlfriend I've ever had has had snide little nicknames for all of the previous girlfriends she's known about, often involving pointed or creative punning mispronunciation, e.g. "Swillian" instead of Jillian, "Scary-ann" for Mary-ann, "Flat-chest-a" for Francesca, "La Sleeze" instead of Louise, etc. (The girlfriend of this one guy I used to know would always pronounce the name of his ex-wife Sharon so that it sounded like the name of a prominent Israeli politician-- which was actually pretty funny, as such things go.)
It doesn't have to be a pun. Sometimes it can be a simple, consistent mispronunciation. Example: "Schmelanie" was one girlfriend's habitual way of referring to ex-girlfriend Melanie-- I believe it was a shortened form of an original *"Melanie Schmelanie" (the asterisk indicating that this form is unattested, but rather a reasonable inference about an ur-slur lost in antiquity.) Another common variant is simply pretending to forget the name: "what was her name again? Beryl? Meryl? Darrell? Clairol?" "Carol, honey, it was Carol." "Yeah, whatever..."
This phenomenon crops up in pop-culture all time. Aunt Dahlia refers to Bertie's friend Gussie Fink-Nottle as "Spink-bottle"; Carol Brady's old boyfriend keeps calling Mike "Mac"; Endora can't remember that Darren's name isn't "Derwood." And so on. The message is: "this person is so insignificant or objectionable that I can't even be bothered to remember the name or pronounce it correctly." It happens in your life. It happens on TV. And it happens in politics.
There's another angle to this pronunciation game. Mispronunciation of foreign words appears to be a more or less significant part of British linguistic culture. Words borrowed from foreign languages are often pronounced any which way except the way they are pronounced in their land of origin. "Macho" is "match-o." Nicaragua is "Knicker-RAG-you-a." I believe this is along the lines of the girlfriend mispronunciation gambit outlined above: it's a subtle way of underscoring the importance of your own language and culture by demonstrating that you don't give a monkey's (as they say) for how you pronounce any other language's words.
(Of course, in the US, and especially in my native California, we go out of our way to try to pronounce words of foreign derivation not only in what we think the foreign pronunciation might be, but also in what we imagine the foreign accent might sound like. This is similarly revealing, I'm sure, and often just as inadvertently amusing. In certain circles, it is a social requirement that you show your respect and deference for La Raza by pronouncing all words of Spanish derivation in a kind of Chico and the Man accent. Speaking of "Nicaragua," I don't move in those circles, and I've never quite been able to master it. It's something like "Ni-hah-rrr-OW-oo-wah." Oops, there I'm doing it...)
Anyway, I'm sure that's at least part of what's going on with Christopher Hitchens's BBC buddies, the ones who can't seem to figure out how to pronounce Wolfowitz. They disapprove of him, and failing to pronounce his name correctly is a perfectly commonplace and acceptable, if immature, way of expressing it.
Except, course, that there is a long, ignominious European tradition of ridiculing and denigrating Jews by exaggerating and caricaturing ethnic/linguistic traits and habits; and that this tradition not so long ago culminated in, and was exemplified in the propaganda of, the most notorious, the most evil political culture and ideology ever seen; and that such propaganda accompanied and helped to facilitate mass murder on such a scale that a new word had to be coined with which to refer to it. Perhaps the journalists in question are unaware: people are still pretty upset about this.
So here's some advice for harried, benefit of the doubt-wielding anti-Wolfowitzian journalists whose criticism of Wolfowitz isn't necessarily anti-Semitic: if you're going to play the mispronunciation card when trying to indicate your disapproval of a Jew whilst you wonder aloud whether or not he and his cabal might be pulling the strings behind the scenes, it's not a good idea to do so in a faux-Yiddish accent. It's just not. Comedians can, perhaps, get away with it; journalists can't. Even if you don't mean it that way, it doesn't make you look too good; it tends to put you in pretty disagreeable company. People will wonder why you seem to be going out of your way to make an issue of the man's Jewishness, and in such a well-worn classically anti-Semitic manner, even if that's not what you believe you're trying to do.
This is the question that comes up so often when reading anecdotes like Hitchens's or this or that article in the New Statesman, etc.: do they not realize how bad it sounds, or do they realize and not care?
Mohammed al-Douri, Iraq's colorful U.N. ambassador during Saddam's last days, has given an interview with BBC World.
The gist: Saddam deserved to be toppled, but that he "would have preferred" that the Iraqi people rather than US and British military had done the toppling. (Yeah, right...) There's also this:
Mr Douri also told the BBC that right up until the last moment, Saddam Hussein's government did not believe the US-led forces would invade Iraq.The answer to that is, of course, the instructive experience of a decade's worth of, quite literally, getting away with murder.
He said he advised Baghdad the threat of war was serious and still cannot explain why they refused to accept it.
Isn't this guy a prime candidate for some kind of de-Baathification procedure, a trial, an investigation, something like that? Instead of being given the star treatment and a soapbox for his "anti-colonialist" spin on the new Iraq by the BBC, I mean.
Amazon World is a cool new blog dedicated to "highlighting some of the more interesting user reviews found on amazon.com."
basically she is a player haterand advises her to:
drink a 40 and cheer up and stop being so dark and spooky.
Howbsbawm has some priceless quotable lines, like "theoretically the Americans do not aim to occupy the whole world," and "Iraq was a country that had been defeated by the Americans and refused to lie down." But Kamm wins, not least on the basis of this pointed and entirely fair observation:
The only acknowledgement I can find in the whole article that the US is not the root of all evil is the feeble and grudging assertion that:
There is a genuine case to be made that there are governments so bad that their disappearance will be a net gain for the world.
Quite so, Professor. And those of us who have read your recent memoir, Interesting Times, which depicts you political tergiversations over more than 50 years as a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, will be aware that you have supported most of them.
Ben left a note in the comments to my last posted "found" letter alerting me to this excellent e-zine devoted to found items. (Open Letters was another great one its day, but sadly the online site where you could download the past issues as pdf files seems to have disappeared.)
Foundmagazine.com contains many great found notes, including this one:
Are you off punishment yet. If not when are getting off. When are you going to come over? When are we going to the movies? Can I have my C D player back? When you come over you will get your CD. And I love you.
So would this one:
I have a couple of questions
1) Would it be to early to start holding hands?
2) Am I at the "Honey point" yet?
3) let me know if I'm rushing you! OK?*
Thank you for saying yes. The usual answers I get are no way; are you stupid?; NO I already have a boyfriend. Or sometimes I'm to damn shy to ask a girl out.
*I haven't had a lot of girlfriends yet but just teach me what to do and what not to do! Please!
Hitchens notes yet another possible angle to the strangely persistent, (barely) sub rosa current of crude anti-Semitism among hifalutin British journalists:
"Yes that's all very well," said the chap from the BBC World Service, "but what about this man Vulfervitz who seems to run the whole show from behind the scenes?" For the fifth time in as many days, and for the umpteenth time this year, I corrected a British interviewer's pronunciation. You see the name in print, you hear it uttered quite a lot in American discussions, you then give a highly inflected rendition of your own. ... What is this? In my young day, the BBC had a special department for the pronunciation of foreign names for the guidance of those commenting on Thailand, say, or Mongolia. But this particular name is pronounced as it is spelled. "Very well," said the BBC chap, with a hint of bad grace. "This man Wolfervitz ..."
It takes a lot, I hope, to make me feel queasy. (I had, during my appointment at the BBC offices in London, already had to pass a door with a sign reading "Male Prayer Room," which means that the British taxpayer is already funding not just religious observance on public property but the sexual segregation of same.) And this is not quite like old-line reactionaries going out of their way to say "Franklin Delano Rosenfeld." Still, I don't think I am quite wrong in suspecting that a sharpened innuendo is in play here. Why else, when the very name of Paul Wolfowitz is mentioned, do so many people bid adieu to the very notion of objectivity?
I've spent a fair amount of time in England, and I've noted a consistent paradox (about which I've written several times over the last couple of years on this blog, here and elsewhere.) Sentiments which to an American observer seem obviously to reflect a kind of passive, low-level anti-Semitism, a vague yet detectable distaste for Jews and Jewishness often expressed with a ferocity that seems all out of proportion to the content of the allegedly innocent complaints about this or that Israeli policy or person-- such sentiments are very much in the air. You notice it everywhere. And yet none of those who drop the pointed innuendoes, or curl their lips slightly or grimace when speaking of certain matters or individuals, appear to be aware that that's what they're doing. They react with the genuine outrage of the wrongly accused if the subject is even hinted at. And at some point in the exchange one inevitably hears, often intoned with a degree of bitterness, the stock phrase which to me now seems as characteristically British as "have a nice day" is American: "criticism of Israel isn't necessarily anti-Semitism." That "necessarily" being the putative "get out of anti-Semitism free" card, the benefit of the doubt that British "anti-Zionists" claim preemptively as their inalienable right.
In many cases, I'm sure this impression results from hyper-awareness or -sensitivity, from "reading something into" innocuous or merely carelessly-worded statements. I'll cop to that. In some, it may be a case of their being in denial, or merely of living in a cultural world where the remnants of Europe's long-standing tradition of anti-Semitism are so dyed in the wool that only outsiders are able to notice them as such when they reveal themselves. In certain rare cases, it may result from a deliberate attempt to speak "in code" a la Pat Buchanan, but in my experience actual instances of this are scarce indeed.
The causes are disparate, the signs varying in subtlety, and the conclusions about them occasionally or even often unfair or mistaken, but the impression of a slow-simmering, subliminal anti-Semitism is pronounced and I don't think it's based on nothing. At any rate, it's safe to say that the threshold for wondering about or taking note of possible indications of anti-Semitism, the point on the scale at which one starts to say "hey, that sounds a little odd...", is far higher in Britain than it is in the U.S. (Many might attribute this, perhaps with justification, to American political correctness; yet those in the run of the mill left-leaning British circles I'm familiar with are just as politically correct and "progressive" as their American counterparts-- in theory, anyway-- saving when it comes to this single ethnic-religious category.)
Dave Bug of Geek Life, a frequent correspondent, once noted in an email of his experience in Eastern Europe:
I was shocked by the anti-Gypsy/Romani sentiment offered up by otherwise lefties in Eastern Europe. I guess it’s about as close as I’ll get to knowing what pre-civil rights US was like.
Like Hitchens, I don't think the BBC journalists' mispronunciation of Wolfowitz is on the order of the "Franklin Delano Rosenfeld" of Hitchens's "old-line reactionaries." That is, I don't think it's deliberately delivered with a knowing nudge-nudge wink-wink and with the explicit motive of furthering, in a small, personal way, the anti-Semitic cause. This is the BBC, not the New Statesman, after all; that institution hasn't yet abandoned the pretense of decency.
But you'd think that after all the anti-Semitic smoke (at least some of which indicates some measure of anti-Semitic fire) from the British media of late when it comes to Wolfowitz, the journalists in question would see the wisdom of considering their words more carefully. Whatever their feelings about Jews, latent or explicit, and even if they're completely innocent of anti-Semitism of any kind, they ought at least to realize how bad it makes them sound (especially when talking to Hitchens, an attack-column waiting to go off in a market particularly sensitive and unforgiving about such things.) They don't. I really think they don't. And, as I always end up lamely saying as I throw up my hands and confess my failure to make heads or tails of the recurrent British Left/anti-Semitism puzzle: that's pretty weird.
This interesting, amusing and fairly innocuous article by Jeet Heer about the Trostkyist past of many advocates of the war in Iraq sparked this histrionic tirade from Arnold Beichman. Granted, the headline of the original article was provocative ("Trotsky's Ghost Wandering the White House"). Yet Beichman's response constitutes a mystifyingly thorough (and willful, I'd wager) failure to get the point. He's obviously hot under the collar about something, but Heer's article, which only distantly resembles the caricature savaged by Beichman, seems to be a mere pretext.
Beichman can relax. Even if Jeet Heer and the National Post were indeed engaged, as he charges, in a sinister plot "to rob the Coalition, which destroyed a terrorist haven and an inhuman dictatorship, of the moral victory it represents" (which seems highly dubious) it's doubtful that they'll get away with it. The National Post is not by any measure the all-powerful shaper of consciousness and arbiter of moral meaning that Beichman apparently imagines it to be. And I doubt that one NP reader in thousands, if even that, would notice, recognize, or understand in Heer's piece the underlying intent "decoded" by Beichman: to discredit the architects and advocates of the Iraq policy by planting an association with Trotsky at Kronstadt. In fact, I'm pretty sure he's the only one. For better or worse, Kronstadt does not "live" in public consciousness. As for the ex-Trotskyists: what part of "ex" doesn't Beichman understand?
The redoubtable Steven Schwartz provides an elegant, well-argued rebuttal and has a theory about what it is that really has Beichman so steamed:
I consider Beichman's intent more sinister: to exclude Hitchens and myself from consideration as reliable allies in the struggle against Islamist extremism, because we have yet to apologize for something I, for one, will never consider worthy of apology. There is clearly a group of heresy-hunters among the original neoconservatives who resent having to give way to certain newer faces, with our own history and culture. These older neoconservatives cannot take yes for an answer, and they especially loathe Hitchens.
isn't it odd and slightly amusing to read, in one of America's leading conservative journals, people brandishing accusations of Kronstadt guilt and Stalinism around like student union lefties?
Strange times, strange times.
I found this letter many years ago near the Andronicos on Telegraph and Carlton in Berkeley. It's written in black ballpoint on what was once heavy off-white paper, but it had been folded and re-folded over and over.
I appreciate the thought that you called me on X-mas. I was at work at the time though. I don't want to go into any indepth explanation of my Feelings and a theory for my thoughts.
I only want to tell you that it is best for now that we aren't in contact with each other. It's not a sad thing, it's good. For me I guess, no, I know for me. So then it is good for you too, in the long run it will be deffinently for both of us.
Like I had told you, I don't know when I'll see you again or talk to you all I do know is that I've stopped the head games with myself because of my feelings for you, and I feel I can grow to love another without the thoughts and feelings interrupting.
All this with you has been unforgettable, I cherish the selective past and memories inside my soul always and, yes, Forever [underlined].
It appears to have been originally signed "Khryssie" with no closing.
Afterwards, the word "LOVE" in tiny block capitals has been squeezed unconvincingly above the "K".
It's just like living in space. In fact, it's so space-age and futuristic and feature-laden that it's a bit intimidating for a retro, back-woods kind of blogger like me.
I'm really excited to have it. But I'm still kind of shy around it.
The same thing happened when I finally replaced the old Tascam cassette porta-studio with an ADAT. I knew the ADAT was way better, but it stayed in the box for a few weeks before I worked up the nerve to prod it gingerly to see if it would bite or blow up or something. When it didn't blow up, I was finally able to summon the gumption to unpack it. The first page of the manual scared me enough to send me scurrying for shelter. I didn't actually try to turn it on for quite a stretch.
Gradually, and bit by bit, the two of us came to a kind of Little Prince/Fox sort of arrangement. Day by day we grew a little closer, and closer and closer and closer. Eventually, I started loving it a bit too much, fondling its knobs even when there was no reason to.
The warm, comfortable Tascam was transferred to the custody of Kepi from the Groovie Ghoulies.
As for the ADAT, I take it for granted and abuse it all the time now, of course. I still brace myself every time I touch it, though. I've been known to break extremely simple machines by just glancing in their direction. There was that time I tried to wash a cup and almost burnt down the house... I'd hate to do that to this sleek, squeaky-clean superblog that has been granted unto me from on high. Burn it down, I mean. Or even just smudge it a little bit.
So welcome to the future. We'll have to see how it goes.
Test, test... [guitar strum]... is this thing on? [strum strum]
Okay, rock and roll!
Remarkably wide-ranging, thoughtful, lucid, elegantly composed, full of common sense and dry, ironic wit where appropriate. A joy to read. I just "read the whole thing" (there are only two weeks of archives) and you should, too.
The Palestinian prime minister said Monday he will not use force against militant groups under any circumstances, despite their stated determination to derail a U.S.-backed peace plan with attacks on Israelis, including two weekend shootings that killed five soldiers...
Abbas said he has coordinated every move with Yasser Arafat-- a barb at the veteran leader who said in public last week that the summit yielded no achievements.
When your whole journalistic game is Serious & Sober & Working for the Good of Society, you can't survive becoming a national joke. I got a telemarketing call to renew my NYT home delivery the other day, and I said, "Nah, that paper just makes shit up." The guy chuckled wearily and said, "Yeah, that's what people tell me all day."
Jesus! All day long this guy is calling people who used to pay for the paper and now they're telling him, "No thanks, we don't want your lies." That's the legacy of Howell Raines.
The blogosphere is a big tent, and there's room for multiple Dr. Franks, I guess, even if one of them has a tendency to write posts with titles like "Krugman Nails It... as Usual." (For real.)
I get a lot of email from punk rock kids who have chosen names like this for their email addresses, as a kind of "tribute"-- e.g., firstname.lastname@example.org. Perhaps it is an indication of just how overweening is my own vanity that that was my first, mistaken, assumption when I was directed to the blog by a concerned reader.
But according to DrFrankLives (who apparently got his start as a regular Atrios commenter) the pseudonym is a reference to an unspecified figure from North Carolina political history. I wonder if this North Carolinian Dr. Frank was so-called because (a) Young Frankenstein was a popular movie at the time, and easily lent itself to being recycled as a schoolyard taunt, later shortened for convenience? And (b) because of an unfortunate tendency to lecture others in a pedantic, hectoring manner no matter what the topic? And (c) because he used it as his air name at his college radio station, and as a "stage name" in his punk rock band? Fancy that...
(Plus, there's some classic Layne-ishness in the comments-- check 'em out.)
Matt also sent several emails of extemporaneous critical commentary to my squawk about songs address last night, which he refers to as "the deluge." Of course, I was angling for exactly that kind of deluge. This is as good an occasion as any to repeat that I'm still working through all the email I got in response to the cyber-busking and the CD. I really am going to answer them all eventually.
A lot of people have asked for a lyric sheet, and I've been emailing them to those I could get to, but I know there are those I haven't got to yet. If you're interested, a plain text file of the lyrics to the eight songs can be found here, on Marisa's cool "Rock the Roll" page.
Also: if you're reading this, that means you have had the patience to wait for an eternity for the page to load, so I'd like to thank you for your indulgence. If all goes according to plan, I should be moving in with Michele next week, and I hear it's much nicer over there.
Lord knows, I don't have the room for it. And Lord only (if even) knows why, but for some inexplicable reason, I want one of these. (Maybe the reason is that I would like to have the room for it?)
Apparently the Florida woman who insisted upon her right to remain veiled in her drivers' license photo might have had good reasons other than modesty, religious fervor, and civil libertarian concern for wishing to remain in disguise:
Following her 1997 conversion to Islam, Sultaana Freeman (formerly Sandra Keller) was arrested in Decatur, Illinois for battering a foster child. Freeman, 35, pleaded guilty in 1999 to felony aggravated battery and was sentenced to 18 months probation. As a result of the conviction, state officials removed two foster children from Freeman's care. The mug shot of the felonious Freeman (below left) was taken after her arrest in the Illinois case. Freeman returned to the dock this week--that's her testifying in the below right photo--to challenge Florida rules requiring prospective drivers to submit to unveiled photos for their licenses. Last year, Freeman sued the state after her license was revoked when she failed to allow officials to photograph her sans headdress. State officials contend that, in light of the September 11 attacks, it is crucial that all motorists now be photographed in an unadorned state.
I don't know if you've been following the whole Tucker Max/Miss Vermont shebang (so to speak.) I followed the links when I first saw them on InstaPundit, was amused-charmed-aghast-bewildered-nauseated-and-giggling like everyone else, but also at a loss for words.
Ken Layne has it covered at excruciatingly amusing length.
And Brian Linse provides the best concise summary of the affair, quite properly saying of Johnson's site "it is unlikely that there exists a human being funny enough to have thought it up as a joke."
Angelo Codevilla's critiques of the Bush administration's conduct of the war on terror have been the clearest and (to me) most interesting and persuasive of all the post-911 commentary. Here's his latest, "When the Cheering Stops":
In a nutshell: President Bush ended up making war on Iraq more or less correctly only after having courted political and diplomatic disaster. Immediately after winning the battle, he resumed the policies that had forestalled military success. He reassured the terror regime of Syria, rewarded the terror regime of Palestine, did not scrub the remnants of Ba'ath rule in Iraq, and sought to relieve pressure on the Saudi royal family. Most important, any "regime change" abroad remained less certain than the permanence of the post-September 11 changes wrought by security measures in the American regime. Victory or defeat may well depend on George W. Bush's threshold of embarrassment.
Codevilla includes a concise summary of the course of the war, and an account of the "diplomatic malpractice" that followed, including this section about the Saudis:
It is no exaggeration to say that the problem of international terrorism is an extension of the internal problems of Saudi Arabia's royal family. These are threefold: dependence on the dangerous, radical Wahabi sect, divisions within the family based on different harem lines, and generalized corrupt, moneyed, impotence. For nearly a half-century, U.S. policy has moved heaven and earth, and overlooked much, to keep the Saudi regime from collapsing. But since September 11, many AmericansÑthough next to none in the State DepartmentÑhave asked the hard question of whether America would be better off were the Saudi regime allowed to succumb to its congenital ills. Its value had sunk so low that it would be worthwhile to use the leverage of military success in Iraq in order to make upon the Saudi regime demands essential to America's war on terror, regardless of how they might destabilize that regime. But State (and oil interests) easily persuaded Bush to continue betting on Saudi stability.
(via Bill Quick.)
From the GOPunk FAQ:
Let's make one thing clear: today's Democratic Party is a vile socialist organization, thriving on hate, fear, and class-warfare. The upper echelons of the DNC are the ultimate social parasites; they can only thrive at your expense. If you're not suffering, they can't benefit. Welfare, universal health care, unions, and many other Democrat favorites are all fine sounding ideas that actually do nothing except increase the government's control of you and your family.
(via Richard Bennett.)
Stirring debate at the House of Lords:
Fears that government may not have a finger on the pulse of modern technology were exposed in the House of Lords yesterday, as some Lords debated unsolicited spam email, while others discussed the tinned meat of the same name.
Lord Sainsbury headed the debate into draft regulations for the limitation of spam and may have muddied the waters somewhat, given his past as a supermarket baron.
However, confusion with the tinned meat appeared to be a genuine obstacle to serious discussion for some Lords in attendance. Lord Renton asked: "Will the Minister explain how it is that an inedible tinned food can become an unsolicited email, bearing in mind that some of us wish to be protected from having an email?"
I still prefer Alistair
Matthew Engel is leaving America, aiming one last trademark, supercilious kick at the "cybermorons" who have criticized him for cluelessness about his ostensible area of expertise.
As he has discovered, Americans are a funny, inscrutable bunch: no matter how much well-earned disdain you heap upon them, and even as you dedicate your life to documenting how stupid and ludicrous they are, you still run into a friendly one every now and then.
Engel's final anecdote about his final encounter with his final ordinary American woman stands as a kind of encapsulation or epitome of his view of America, following the same pattern as countless other anecdotes that have appeared in his column over the past two years: he believes she is too stupid to realize that he is making fun of her.
I may be a cybermoron, but I doubt it. When your culture dominates most of the world, it's no big deal to smile at a pugnacious, condescending journalist who is in a constant state of sputtering rage over your unfathomably poor taste in art, condiments, and wine. Take a pill, Matt. Enjoy Pyongyang.
David Aaronovitch comments on the latest survey on What Women Want (ostensible result: ersatz soft-focus romancin' with an assortment of film and tv characters.)
Quite properly pronouncing it to be "nonsense," he produces his own list, based on "several decades of mostly observational experience," of what women "really go for." (It's at the bottom of this column on British attitudes towards sex and the Anglican position on gay marriage.)
I've never noticed #10, nor #6 (which seems particularly off the wall-- unless there's some euphemism at work here that I'm not aware of.) Perhaps #8 (and almost certainly #9) should be moved up the list a bit, and #7 moved down. Otherwise, it seems about right.
Of the top five, #1 presupposes #2, yet virtually rules out #4 and #5. #3 is the least restrictive with regard to the others, the least numerous, and the least feasible. It's a funny old world.