Friday, April 30, 2010

NBA Playoffs Post

Galley Friend R.S. sends along a link to this cliched-yet-entertaining Bill Simmons column. Check out #62, in particular.

But what will really drive you insane is this:

I haven't watched more than 5 minutes of NBA basketball since Answer was traded in 2006. And I don't miss it. Stuff like this is why.

Another reason, however, is stories like this one: So the Caps lose Game 7, the victim of one of the greatest upsets in NHL history. A mother and daughter who had been at the game got a flat tire heading home and were stranded on the Roosevelt Bridge. They called AAA. While they were waiting, Caps forward Brooks Laich drove by. He pulled over to see if they needed help. And then changed their tire for them.

It's a great story, and one you can imagine happening with NHL or MLB players. Not so much the NBA.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

More on Europe, Greece

Felix Salmon is also very smart and his discussion of Greece and the future of the Eurozone is disturbing.
I covered emerging market sovereign bonds for many years, but I’ve never seen anything like this: a country trading at levels where the bear case is terrifying, the bull case is very hard to articulate, and everybody is talking about a possible default even when the country has an investment-grade credit rating from two agencies and is only one notch below investment grade at the third. Maybe the only thing which really explains what’s going on is that both yields and ratings are sticky. Which would imply that Greece has a long way to deteriorate from here.
It's also, in a way, kind of awesome. An astute commenter on WRM's blog yesterday noted that Americans should take no pleasure from the E.U.'s troubles right now, since what is bad for the E.U. will eventually be bad for America, too. True enough. And certainly, that's the mature response.

However, since we can't alter the outcome in any meaningful way, why not enjoy the spectacle? After all, these are the same twits who've been lecturing us about how the "era of American hegemony is over." Suck it, Europe!

I kid, of course. Europeans are our friends and allies. They're like like that kind of annoying guy you always hung out with in college. Pretentious and kind of an ass, but he'd been with your posse for so long that everyone just kind of went with it.

But the PIGS financial crisis does revive some structural questions about the European project--all of which were completely foreseen decades ago. Namely:

* European elites viewed the euro as the practical means to a political union, since no currency union has ever existed without a political union.

* It was always obvious that a currency alliance in Europe could prove impractical, given a perfect storm of economic circumstances. If the E.U. encountered such dangerous waters before the political union had been boot-strapped into place, then there would only be unpleasant options available: (1) Massive bailouts--meaning wealth transfers from one country to another. (2) Reduction or dissolution of the eurozone.

* Even the end-goal of a political union was foolish. European elites wanted a political union so that they would be able to project power onto the international stage--power which, separately, individual European countries lacked. 

By definition, though, the E.U. would only be able to project soft power. That's because modern Europe lacks the capability to project actual force in the world. This is both by design and necessity. First, few Europeans seem to have the stomach for force projection. Second, the cost of the European welfare state makes force projection difficult. Projecting force is expensive. And soft power without the capacity for hard power is no power at all.

Sooner or later, the Europeans were destined to figure this all out. Truth be told, the PIGS crisis is probably a cheap way of exposing the fallacies of the European project.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

David Bradley: The Quickening

Stuart Taylor and Clive Crook are out.

Andrew Sullivan and Ta-Nehisi-Coates stay on the dole.

Rock on.

Walter Russell Mead on Europe

Mead is very smart and this piece on Europe's current crisis is very interesting:
Internally, the Greek problem is showing signs of mutating into a full scale crisis of the European project.  Externally, the decisive shift of Ukraine into Russia’s orbit reveals the bankruptcy of European foreign policy and the inability of the 27 member European Union to formulate, much less carry out, a comprehensive foreign policy on matters affecting its vital interests.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Matt Yglesias calls Ydiot "witless" and "obtuse." Sounds good to me! Someone should get the Ydiot guy this Kaus for Senate shirt.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Batman vs. Superman

Logic proves what everyone knew must be truth.

Advantage: Blogosphere

Every so often someone in a comments section is so clever that they nearly justify the existence of the entire blogosphere. Galley Friend R.S. sends us a link to this Tom Maguire post where Maguire points to video of a kid from Fordham doing the leap and forward roll over the catcher. A commenter responds:

"That's nothing. Last night Alfonso Soriano went to right field on a 3-1 pitch. When you've seen that, you've seen everything."

Rock on.

Update: Unfortunately, reminders of the blogosphere's . . . limitations . . . abound.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Against Modern Family

A lot of people seem to like the ABC sitcom Modern Family. That's fine, of course. Modern Family is often clever and sometimes very funny. However it suffers by comparison to its obvious forbearer, Arrested Development. Again, that's fine--unlike fans of The Sopranos, fans of Arrested Development never talked themselves into believing that the tiny, elite audience their show captured meant anything to the culture at large.

But my complaint with Modern Family, isn't that it's not AD. It's that the show suffers from two structural problems born of lazyness.

The first is Modern Family's POV. About 80 percent of the show is standard one-camera perspective. The characters go about their business oblivious to the audience. There are occasional static-camera scenes, where we see the characters from the point of view of what could be a hidden camera, almost like ATM security video footage. That's fine, too.

But every so often the fourth wall comes down and the characters go into "confessional" mode. They sit and address the camera directly, as if they were being interviewed by a documentarian. Or they were on Survivor.

Why is this? The show has no reason why the characters would be talking to an interviewer. Instead, the writers default to the confessional mode to get to jokes that would be harder to arrive at without it. And I suppose they assume that, because The Office uses the confessional, every other sitcom in American can, too.

This is laziness, pure and simple. The perspective of a show should fit within a logical, coherent framework. It's difficult--but not impossible--to get to some jokes using nothing by traditional one-camera, 3rd party mode (see 30 Rock). And if you want more options, you can be creative, the way Arrested Development used an actual narrator to grease the rails for the show. Modern Family's use of the confessional camera is both derivative and nonsensical.

The other problem with Modern Family is that, despite its often subversive trappings, it really is a pure-blood sit-com. Seinfeld remade the situation comedy by tossing out all the hugging and learning. (Something other shows--like The Bonnie Hunt Show--had been unsuccessfully trying to do for years.) The traditional situation comedy always has a "moment of shit," where the characters come together to learn some lesson and be momentarily serious about their lives. Good sitcoms managed this architectural feature well; bad sitcoms handled it clunkily. But Sienfeld showed that you didn't have to have it at all. It was hard to do sitcoms in the Seinfeld mode, but post-Seinfeld, that's what lots of writers tried to do.

Arrested Development innovated the form further by establishing a central moral theme--the importance of family--and allowing the show to have the occasional moment of shit, but not in every episode and only when it pertained to show's guiding moral mission. AD wasn't, by any stretch a morality play--it was a very, very funny saga. But the writers did allow themselves to have one area about which it was safe to be half-serious, whenever they wandered into that territory.

There's one more thing: Seinfeld, 30 Rock, and Arrested Development--what I consider the three best sitcoms of the last 20 years, also found ways to create mini story-arcs. The traditional sitcom was always a stand-alone construct, meant to be viewable out of sequence in syndication. More than any other sitcom, Arrested Development found ways to create episodes viewable as standalone pieces while also telling stories on two different levels: most episodes are part of a six-episode mini-arc (George Sr. in Mexico, Mr. F, etc.) and also part of a season-long story arc, where the larger narrative is being driven from Point A to Point Q.

Modern Family is much more traditional. Every episode has a lesson, which is usually hinted at in the first few moments and concluded just before the final commercial break. And the individual episodes serve no larger narrative ambition.

Modern Family is a step backward. An entertaining one much of the time, to be sure. But it is, nonetheless, a retreat to toward the bad old days of conventional television.

The Downfall of Downfall

Galley Friend T.R. sends along this final, fantastic Downfall parody. The category is now closed.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Kaus For Senate!

Frequent G.S. commenter TubbyLover69 sent an email over the weekend alerting me to his very excellent store peddling Kaus for Senate gear. I can't recommend it highly enough. He's put an ad over there to the right with one of the styles of t-shirt, but I prefer this bit of awesomeness:

No matter who your least favorite blogger is, TubbyLover69 has you covered: there are styles taking shots at Sullivan, Yglesias, Bob Wright, Ezra Klein. He's got it all! (That Shep Fairey-stizz [--ed.] really is an instant classic.) You might as well buy two. 

PS: One quibble for Tubby--Why nothing for people who hate on the JournoList? Or a "Secrets of Cafe Milano"?

Thor Is Pissed

Galley Sis K.P. send along this amazing shot of a lightning strike near the Iceland volcano eruption.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Buckley Gold

Galley Friend A.W. sends in this bit of greatness from WFB:

"I think it's wrong theologically to assume that the world is doomed before God decides to doom it."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Red Letter Media: Attack of the Clones

Red Letter Media came out with his epic Attack of the Clones review last week. It's not to be missed.

It's full of great stuff. For instance, did you know that Joe Klein was one of the sculptors working for Lucas? Check it out at the 2:31 mark.

The Ever-Lovin' Hulk

For reasons that will remain obscured I've spent a lot of time over the last two weeks watching short YouTube videos of superhero theme songs from days past. Some of them I remember vividly from my childhood (the amazing '60s Spider-Man song, all big-band and swing--"Is he strong? Listen, Bud: He's got radioactive blood!"). And some of which I was totally ignorant of. Such as this Iron-Man opening:

It's pretty wild. But not nearly as crazy as this perversion of the Incredible Hulk. Listen to the lyrics carefully: the song imagines the Hulk as a cuddly innocent, the "ever-lovin' Hulk":

There are lots more if you dig around. But what surprised me the most was the them from the Lynda Carter [ed: it's "Lynda"!] Wonder Woman, a show I revered as a kid, largely because of Lynda Carter. As a 4-year-old I didn't really know what a babe was, but I knew that Carter was one. What I didn't realize was that this was a hippy feminist version of the character:

Listen to those lyrics. Wonder Woman is "fighting for her rights" and "changing hawks into doves" (not to mention "changing minds") by using the power of "love." What, the gods of Olympus sent the Amazonian princess to America to lobby for the ERA? It's crazy. Rightly understood, Wonder Woman is the least empathetic, least liberalized of the major DC heroes. She's royalty from a culture which barely understands, let alone celebrates, the mores of the West.

That's the prime (though not the only) reason she's such a hard character to write. I've only seen three interesting depictions of Wonder Woman through the years and each of them is based in her apartness from the world she's serving. The most interesting Wonder Woman is probably Darwyn Cooke's New Frontier where she basically goes native in Vietnam and starts massacring Vietcong soldiers after deciding that she is no longer willing to serve as an agent of the U.S. government. There's this great scene where she mocks Superman for his Boy Scout sensibilities as she's basking in the blood of her vanquished foes. It's Wonder Woman as Greek mythological figure and it's pretty great.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Five Guys

The Pig sends along this fascinating piece about the Five Guys CEO. Don't miss it.

Sorry for the extended absence--lots of travel and work stuff going on--but don't forget you can follow me on Twitter.