Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Figure of Speech

Galley Friend M.G. takes a swipe at TNR's Chris Orr for this paragraph:

I am no military historian, but it's my understanding that many armed conflicts that we might consider pre-civilized concluded with just this kind of slaughter (and pillage, enslavement, etc.), and that the widespread recognition of civilized rules of war has saved literally countless lives. As bad as the Nazis were, I think it's unequivocally a good thing that we were not forced to depopulate Germany. The reason we weren't was that Germany surrendered, and the reason Germany surrendered was its well-placed faith that we wouldn't depopulate (or torture, enslave, etc.) the nation anyway.

Leave aside everything else: How do you use the phrase "literally countless" without giving yourself whiplash.

Brief Political Aside

Ross Douthat, the New York Times's new conservative columnist, has a piece up today doing a What If Dick Cheney had been the nominee in 2008. Douthat seems to think that if Cheney had run he would have lost in such a landslide that it might have jump-started conservatism on the road to intellectual recovery:

[T]he conservative movement might – might! – have been jolted into the kind of rethinking that’s necessary if it hopes to regain power.

One quick question: Why is it that everyone assumes political movements need intellectual renewal to be successful? After John Kerry's defeat, the general consensus was, If the Democrats can't beat a weak incumbent like Bush they're doomed as a political party! Remember how the end was nigh for Democrats in January of 2005? Yet two years later they scored big in the mid-terms and then two years after that expanded their congressional majorities while recapturing the White House.

Did liberalism undergo an intense intellectual renewal between 2004 and 2006? I don't think so. Instead--the other side presided over a series of intensely bad events.

Look, I don't mean to sound like a Marxist determinist here, but let's strip away, for a moment, the more complicated questions of blame and look at the bare facts. After George W. Bush took office:

* Lower Manhattan was devastated in the 9/11 attacks

* America launched two wars, which were conducted with varying levels of success and failure

* New Orleans was destroyed

* Gas prices rose by more than 200 percent

* Home prices fell by something like 40 percent (in some areas)

You don't need intellectual renewal to run against that! (Again, it isn't fair to blame President Bush for all of these events; and he did have some successes. But we're talking about crude political matters here.)

Yet even with that litany of failures, John McCain was still leading Barack Obama until Lehman Brothers collapsed in mid-September, triggering an enormous financial crisis which destroyed a goodly portion of voters' personal wealth. (Funny how McCain's campaign--which was highly imperfect!--went from being perceived as brilliantly obsessed with tactics before the Lehman collapse to "feckless" afterwards.)

In sum, it would be nice for conservatism to find some intellectual energy in the coming months. But that is hardly a precondition for electoral success.

If President Obama proves to be as callow, arrogant, and counter-productively impulsive as President Bush was--and there is much evidence to suggest he will--then there's a good chance that Republicans will regain their political potency irrespective of the state of conservative thought.

On the other hand, even if conservatism's Bright Young Things rescue the movement's hearts and minds from the Bad Old Guys, but the economy quickly recovers, Iraq and Afghanistan stabilize, and the international scene remains stable--then it won't make a bit of difference. Obama and the Democrats will remain politically dominant.

The Final Nail in The Watchmen

Batman & Robin out-grossed it. And that's not even counting inflation.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Decline of The Atlantic Monthly

Former Atlantic star Matt Yglesias writes:

"Definitely the whole time I was employed at The Atlantic I never once returned a voicemail. I figure that anyone who’s really eager to get in touch with me will email me."

The Blu-ray Advantage

A restored version of the BBC Pride & Prejudice is coming to blu-ray (sans zombies).

The screencaps on Amazon suggest that a very nice job has been done, not only remastering the print but even better--restoring the aspect ratio to the native film it was shot in, as opposed to the grotesque 4:3 which it was broadcast in. Take a look:

By the by, my local Fox affiliate is now broadcasting Seinfeld re-runs in similarly remastered, gorgeous hi-definition. Before they had simply stretched the old 4:3 versions, making Jerry, Elaine, and the gang look like fun-house versions of themselves.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

There Be Dragons

The Gormogons has a nifty map showing global connectedness--the measure being how long it takes to get from any given point on the globe to a major city. Interestingly enough, Greenland seems to be, far and away, the least connected place on earth.

I've flown over (actually, past) Greenland a bunch of times, but until last fall, it had always been at night. Anyway, last October I had a window seat as we passed the the island during the afternoon and it was wild. Giant, giant mountains, a sprawling coast, and no signs of life whatsoever. Could have been Middle Earth.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Alliance Isn't Going to Like This

Another fantastic issue of Wired is out. Lots of great stuff to read, include this fantastic piece about Penn and Teller and the neuroscience of magic.

I just wish Ricky Jay made an appearance.


If you were somehow caught on the bleeding edge with HD-DVD, Santino has amazing, awesome news for you: Warner Bros. is offering a program to swap out your HD-DVDs for Blu-ray discs for $5.

Just click here.

Best part: You don't even have to given them your old HD-DVDs!

It's win-win-win. WB deserves a ton of praise for this.

Stephen A. Smith Is Using Twitter!

Of course he is.

I suppose a medium can't be responsible for its users. I get that as an intellectual proposition. Tens of thousands of incredibly stupid--or even morally repugnant--people have written books, but we don't hold the book responsible as a format.

But for some reason, I think Twitter might be different. It seems to attract more--much, much more--than its share of users who combine vapidity and vanity in ways that are embarrassing even by the standards of the internet.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Kausfiles Enemies List

As part of my restitution to Mickey Kaus I'm trying to keep tabs on some of the long-lost members of his Enemies ListTM, thus this fantastically puerile and revealing quote from Sasha Frere-Jones's semi-profile of Lady Gaga:

Lady Gaga and I share preferences, especially as far as well-written pop music goes, and I am thrilled to see Communism and Rilke getting ink.

There's more.

Harry Knowles, Wolverine, and Emma Frost

There's a minor epic Harry Knowles rant about the new Wolverine movie over at AICN in which Knowles goes ape over the new Emma Frost character spot for the flick (you can see it here).

It's such a perfect confluence: Knowles getting his geek flame going on a subject of relatively minor importance. And even better, Knowles is simply wrong on the geek facts. It's pretty clear he actually doesn't know what he's talking about.

And yet . . .

The new Wolverine looks dreadful--maybe a half-step up from the Catwoman spin-off. Which is fine, except that it looks like they are going to screw up Emma Frost.

Frost is, for my money, the most interesting character in the Marvel universe. Probably the second most interesting character in all of comics. (This is going way, way into nerd territory.) For the un-initiated, her story goes something like this:

Raised in an upper-upper class home, Frost is a Choate kind of girl who develops mutant abilities as a teenager. She becomes a mid-level telepath, kind of a JV version of Charles Xavier. As she grows up circumstance and her own inner narcissism lead her to disdain normal humans and she becomes a villain known as the White Queen.

Like Magneto, the White Queen is more about staking a claim for species and class superiority than she is about taking over the world. But after many years as a bad-guy, she falls in love with one of the good-guy X-Men, Cyclops.

And here's where her character gets really interesting: Frost is honestly in love with Cyclops; but for Cyclops, she's basically the rebound girl (after the death of Jean Grey). Yet Frost is a smart cookie and very self aware. She knows that she's not his first choice--and that she'll have to give up her super-villain lifestyle to be with Cyclops. And she decides to do it anyway.

So in the later comics, we have Frost as part of the good-guy X-Men, even though she not-so-secretly disdains them. Because, as Woody Allen once said, the heart wants what it wants. Her conflict concerning all of the above comes closer to approaching middle-brow art than just about anything else in comics these days. (See Whedon's Astonishing X-Men run for a good bit of it.)

And then there's the movie. In which Frost story seems to have been, well, re-imagined. It's like turning Bain into a mindless goon with 15 seconds of sreentime in the final Schumaker Batman.

Big News

Stephen A. Smith, who really might be the least-talented sports journalist/commentator/head in America (even including Peter King) has finally run out of teets. Last year the Philadelphia Inquirer pushed him out after years of undistinguished service. And now ESPN has finally cut him loose.

This comes as a pretty big surprise, at least to me. Smith appeared to be one of those guys who failed relentlessly upward. It didn't matter how bad he was at his job, or how small his audience was--there was always an exec somewhere who wanted to push him ahead. Now he's just about run out of moves. Couldn't happen to a better guy.

Or wait--maybe this is just the first phase of the mainstreaming of Smith. Here's what he says his future holds: "[m]y desire to venture beyond sports into the world of news, politics and entertainment has grown."

He's already done it on MSNBC. Wouldn't it be racist not to give Stephen A. another show?

Update: Galley Friend B.W. writes in:


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Geek News

Don't ask me how I heard about it, but another original copy of Action Comics #1 has been discovered.

It's being auctioned off by the original owner, a gent who bought it with his brother in 1938. Awesome.

And if that wasn't enough: You can now pre-order the blu-ray Lord of the Rings for the bargain price of $70.

And . . . scene.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

And while we're at it . . .

That's bringing the funny. Jon Stewart and his precious Daily Show can suck it.

Is It okay to laugh at this?

The Onion breaks the embargo:

The New York Times newsroom is reportedly still undecided on whether or not to print a recent letter received from Obama, in which the president threatens to kill another helpless citizen every Tuesday and "fill [his] heavenly palace with slaves for the afterlife" unless the police "stop the darkness from screaming."

Monday, April 13, 2009

Grand Cayman

This past week I was in Grand Cayman on vacation. It was a wonderful time that went all too fast. Seven Mile Beach was idyllic. Stingray City is a must. And the locals are very helpful and friendly. Eric Ripert's Blue at the Ritz-Carlton was exquisite, but Casa Havana at the Westin Casuarina was even better. There are many things I will remember fondly about Cayman, like the warm breeze, the fresh fish, and those exotic cocktails.

Speaking of which, at a duty free shop in the airport holding pen, I couldn't help notice a brand of rum that may be the most politically incorrect and offensive I have ever seen in my life. I report this with all seriousness and concern, with the aim to inform, and not for laughs.

Named in honor of the legendary pirate Richard Le Noir, the rum is called Big Black Dick. Yes, it has its own website--just don't forget to type the word "rum." Here's a partial description of the rum from said site:

Some have described it as stiff, yet tasty.

So, next time you travel to Grand Cayman, get yourself some Big Black Dick. It's an experience you'll always remember.

And to think I was just going to write about Pickapeppa sauce.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

In Praise of Kal Penn

The news that Kal Penn left House to take a job at the White House saddens me a bit, because Penn's Dr. Kutner was, for my money, the most realistic TV doctor I've ever seen.

In college I spent a ghastly amount of time with pre-med students and in hospitals shadowing and gophering for doctors and I'm here to tell you there are no George Clooneys or Eriq Lasalles or Lisa Edelsteins in the medical profession. Maybe there were once upon a time, but there was an explosion in med school applications in the mid-1980s and by the time I was taking the MCAT in the mid-1990s there were only three kinds of people getting into med school: (1) very smart, socially awkward grinders (the majority); (2) semi-smart people who managed to game the application system (a very small minority); and (3) super-smart, kind-of out-there-odd-balls--like Penn's Kutner character. (It probably helps that Penn is an Indian guy from New Jersey--a group which seemed to make up a sizable number of the successful med-school applicants I knew.)

My point is, there were no Olivia Wildes or Jenny Morrisons or Jesse Spencers--beautiful, smart, emotionally conflicted, passionate, blah-blah-blah.

So three cheers for Penn's Kutner--I'll miss him. And good luck to him in the administration. I'd like to think that during his first week in town he'll hook up with Charlie Korso for a beer.

Easter and Ultimate Fighting

One of the greatest T-shirts ever: "Jesus Didn't Tap Out."

Friday, April 03, 2009

For all of this past season on NBC, in 30-second slo-mo tender moments, with a piano playing somber chords to allow for reflection, we saw the faces of new friends going and old friends returning, for one last encounter, sharing in a final moment, bidding farewell, facing an uncertain future, together for the last time, saying goodbye to old friends and new, lives that have changed, but so have we, we laughed with them, cried with them, and died with them, while we witnessed new life, and old friends, and for one last time, we say goodbye, a fond farewell.

Yes, ER is at long... last... over.

Barry, Silvy, Dmitry: BFFs Forever!

I love seeing camaraderie among our elites, so I was heartened by this picture from the G-20 summit.

After all, our president wouldn't be giving us the thumbs up unless everything really was okay. He was a community organizer, so he's never going to forget--even for a minute--about the tough economic times ordinary working Americans are facing.

Yet at the same time, that picture reminded me of another one from the recent past.

Alas, even that enlightened moment of bliss ended in tears. But then, these kinds of things usually do.

Emergency News!

Didn't Battlestar Galactica teach us anything?!?!

From Director Ang Lee

Comes a movie about the brave hippies who made a small concert in upstate New York into an event that would define a generation. And put the world on notice.

Also, the protagonist is gay, but closeted.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Greatest Story Ever Told?

So WWTDD is passing on a rumor about a certain legit actress may agree to do porn. Too many Galley Friends to mention would be thrilled by this. But what interests me is the cloak-and-dagger way in which the porn shoot would be handled: Namely that it would be released as if it were a stolen sex tape with the payment made in the form of a lawsuit settlement:

The plan I heard says the tape will be released in two parts, a total of six hardcore scenes, claiming it was made during her trip to Mexico with Sam last September (here). The guy will remain anonymous. . . . she is being offered millions, upfront, locked away for now but paid later while calling it a lawsuit settlement.

This is all speculation from a blog--I doubt it will come to pass. This time. But surely someone will do this eventually, won't they? The money could be very good and the stigma of porn and sex tapes seems sufficiently diminished that surely some legit actress (or general, all-purpose celebrity) will do a back-door (so to speak) porn gig in this manner at some point, no?

That is, unless it's already been done.

The Hottest Threesome Evah

KSK is there when Giselle and Bridget and Tom make up. And so is Tommy from Quincy:

You think Jetah would have a fackin’ threesome this hawt? He’d prawbably just head to Jersey and go fack Mariah Carey and Jordana Brewstah! THIS IS WHAT I IMAGINED THE SUPER BOWL FARTY TWO AFTAH PAHHHTY WOULD HAVE BEEN LIKE IF THAT DAHHHHKIE HAD CAWLED A FAY-UH GAME!

They also have the latest Howie Long Chevy ad:

Seriously? The fucking Honda Pilot? Why don’t you just buy a station wagon, for Christ’s sake? And then go suck some anonymous truck stop cock, because that’s clearly what you really want to do.

Frankly, I was shocked to learn you got the Pilot. A pussy little V-6 truck with shitty gas mileage, man-step, and heated steering wheel? Sure. That’s you. But a family vehicle? No way. I never figured you for the family type.