Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Non-Triumphant Return

The new site,, is slowly coming back online. It's now safe to return.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Totally Fucked

Yup. In case you've wandered over here from the new site--or rather, the site formerly known as what happened is this: A Kurdish hacker hit the site and a combination of non-existent support from the host company (that's, without a doubt, the worst host company in the history of the internet) and my own paltry technical skills mean that the new site is gone. Maybe temporarily, maybe permanently. I don't know.

Anyway, in case you're curious, the hacker is SA3D HaCk3D and his email is

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

So that's the big announcement. After years of mild frustration with Blogger I've finally moved over to a better platform. You can continue to follow Galley Slaves at

See you there.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Galley Slaves is going to be closed for a couple days while I work out some changes. By next week there should be some site news. In the meantime, I've shut down comment threads to keep the spam out.

Friday, July 09, 2010

The Bron-Bron Train Derails?

Czabe has some thoughts on LeBron to Miami:

In a span of 27 eyeball glazing minutes on ESPN, LeBron James morphed himself from potentially "The Greatest Player of All Time" into a jezebel Scottie Pippen.

I don't follow the NBA closely enough to know, but the superficial answers would have been (1) Go to NYC for the money or (2) Go to Chicago for the long-term run at championships. I'm not sure what goal Miami satisfies.

The most interesting question is whether or not players are allowed to formally collude in the way in which it seems James, Wade, Bosh, and possibly Paul may have. (The operative word here is "formally," not "collude." Players informally collude all the time.) Owners almost certainly couldn't act this way without running afoul of anti-trust. Legally, I suspect the players are fine--although I'd love to hear a smart lawyer's thoughts on the matter.

From the league's perspective, however, this might not be fine. It will be interesting to see how the owners--and eventually the league office--deal with this affair.

Update: If you want to know the difference between LeBron and Jordan, here's Exhibit 1,422: LeBron says that in a game of one-on-one against Barack Obama, Obama would hold his own. Now obviously, James is just being polite. That's fine.

But the exchange calls to mind this story, from a long-ao profile of Dan Patrick:

After game three of last year's NBA finals, Dan Patrick interviews Michael Jordan. When they finish, Jordan says to Patrick, "Stand up."


"Stand up," Jordan demands, rising.

Patrick stands up.

"How would you guard me?" Jordan asks.

"I wouldn't guard you. I couldn't guard you."

"How would you guard me?"

Patrick plants a forearm on Jordan's back.

"Yeah," Jordan snarls. "There are twenty-eight motherfucking teams that think they can guard me that way."

Patrick says, "Michael, I can't guard you. But I don't think you can guard me." Jordan, gaping and speechless, walks away.

"You should've seen the look on his face," Patrick says now. Ahmad Rashad comes up to Patrick later to say that if Dan wants to go one-on-one with M. J., Jordan's willing. "Just understand," Rashad tells Patrick, "Michael will treat it like it's the seventh game of the finals--you won't even get your shot off."

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

But I want an iPhone 4 . . .

Paul Krugman: World's Worst Colleague?

He's giving Andrew Sullivan a run for his money with this blog entry today:

But there’s something else in David’s column, which I see a lot: the argument that because a lot of important people believe something, it must make sense:
Moreover, the Demand Siders write as if everybody who disagrees with them is immoral or a moron. But, in fact, many prize-festooned economists do not support another stimulus. Most European leaders and central bankers think it’s time to begin reducing debt, not increasing it — as do many economists at the international economic institutions. Are you sure your theorists are right and theirs are wrong?
Yes, I am. It’s called looking at the evidence.

Because, you see, no one else on the other side has ever even bothered to look at the evidence!

You could fill a small sand bucket with what I know about economics, so I'm not interested in the rightness or wrongness of Krugman's position vis-a-vis demand side economics in the present recessionary environment. What is truly amazing is that he argues not that he's probably right. Or that the evidence supports his case more so than the opposite. He has absolute, God-given certainty as to his total and complete correctness and equal certainty that anyone who differs is a fool or a liar.


Even he was talking about, I don't know, outlawing abortion or invading Iraq, you might think he was a blinkered ideologue.

Soccer and Diversity

Another reason to object to World Cup soccer: Its appalling lack of diversity!

Steve Sailer has a fantastic post about the SWPL-ness of the World Cup:

At the highest levels of global soccer, about 75 percent or more of the top players are white. Soccer in 2010 is like basketball in 1959. . . .
The World Cup is a paradox: it's pretty random but the results always come out about the same: traditional soccer powers get to the finals. . . .
Much of the glamor of the World Cup stems from it being a mostly white sport. Do you think up-and-comers like the South Koreans would be fascinated by the World Cup if it were traditionally dominated by, say, Indonesia, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Pakistan, and Bolivia? Would SWPLs in the U.S. love soccer if it were associated in their minds with "Kinshasa" rather than with "Barcelona"?

He also makes an interesting note about the paradox of World Cup soccer: "It's pretty random but the results always come out about the same: traditional soccer powers get to the finals. "

Mind you, at the end of the day, I'm pretty much with Czabe: For all its many, many faults, the World Cup makes for a pretty good time for a casual sports fan.

Monday, June 28, 2010

David Weigel, Journolist, and the Washington Post

There's so much to say, but let's start with this little dare from Weigel in his self-congratulatory, "I shall return" essay for Big Government:
No serious journalist has defended the leak of my private e-mails; no one who works in politics or journalism would accept a situation where the things they said off the record could immediately become public. (Side note: On a conservative listserv, there is, apparently, an internal debate going on about leaks, after I learned of its existence and content. These conservatives have not opted to publish their private e-mails, and they shouldn’t.) But no serious journalist — as I want to be, as I am — should be so rude about the people he covers.
I'll take that action. Not only is the leak of Weigel's rantings defensible, it was nearly a professional duty for any serious reporters who witnessed them on Journolist. Not doing so is like having been at the infamous Strom Thurmond birthday party and deciding not to mention what Trent Lott said. Weigel was revealing himself on a (semi?) frequent basis to be something opposite what he was advertising to readers and the public. He was making himself a story. Hiding behind some sort of Journolist Omerta policy wouldn't fly for a person of note who was overheard making bigoted remarks at a private club. It shouldn't shield Weigel. Whoever leaked his writings was a whistleblower performing a public service.

(Also, "private emails" is a deceptive term of art. What Weigel was doing was more akin to posting on a bulletin board that he believed could never be seen by outsiders. Writing something that is read by a circle of 400 people, at least some of whom you have never had any formal contact with, is not sending a "private email.)

The Weigel incident creates so many unhappy questions--about why 20-somethings are encouraged to pontificate instead of report; about why the Post never even bothered to call someone at Reason and ask about their prospective hire; about why any media employer would tolerate reporters being participants in a project like Journolist. One of the niggling questions that bothers me is why, in the wake of scandal, people feel the need to air-brush fallen bright young things. Remember all the chin-tugging about Jayson Blair? Oh sure, he was a plagiarist (fabulist?), but it was a double tragedy because he was such an immense talent! Ditto Stephen Glass. There's a lot of this going around with Weigel: Oh, sure, he was privately a jerk making terribly uncouth generalizations about people he was supposed to be covering fairly, but the real tragedy is that he was such a great reporter!

Really? Maybe by the standards of blogging. I can't claim intimacy with his entire oeuvre, but I can't think of a single, blockbuster piece of Weigel's. David Grann? Great reporter. Matt Labash? Great reporter. Mark Bowden? Great reporter. On the next level down you have guys like Ryan Lizza and Tom Edsall. Below that, guys like the Politico crew and the platoon that does NYT and WSJ work. (Go read Brooks Barnes some time to see what great, every-day reporting looks like.) Below that I'd put a class of writers who deal with numbers and theory, as opposed to personalities and palace intrigue--people like Michael Barone and Jay Cost. They don't pound the shoe leather, but they spend a lot of time researching what they write.

It seems safe to say that Weigel would be so far down the list that it's not even worth doing the math. What people mean, I suppose, is that compared to other 20-something bloggers, Weigel makes more than the average number of phone calls and goes on more than the average number of field trips. And hey, that's great. We'd rather have more of that in the blog world. But let's not re-touch this in post to make him into Bob Woodward. Or Jeff Toobin. Or even Adam Nagourney, for that matter.

Finally, there's Ezra Klein's explanation that he needed to keep Journolist a liberals-only group in order to make it a safe-space, trust-tree, etc. This seems exactly wrong.

Being free from the consequences of your writing is rarely a good thing. Take a look at message boards that allow anonymous comments. It allows discourse to devolve into, well, ratfucking and back-biting. The best way to have kept a group like Journolist civil and productive would have been to put people together who had reason to mistrust one another. It would have encouraged self-policing and, if the circle was well-chosen, might have gotten participants to engage with the best of each other's arguments, rather than the worst. By larding up with fellow-travelers and pretending that the dialogue would always-and-forever be off-the-record, Klein was creating a rant box, doomed to implode exactly as it now has.

For whatever it's worth, the idea of having smart people openly engaging one another on topics of great import and in good faith is worth pursuing. And there is a fantastic conservative version of it, too.

It's called the Claremont Review of Books.

Update: Say what you will about Ross Douthat, but he'll never be a traitor to his class. After defending Weigel initially, Douthat now calls Weigel's "I shall return" essay "a model mea culpa: Forthright and self-critical rather than defensive and self-justifying." Sure.
"I’m a reporter. I’ve been a reporter since high school."
"It was the hubris of someone who rose — objectively speaking — a bit too fast . . ."
"Anyone who wanted to force me out of this business will have to settle for the consolation prize of me having to tediously inform sources of a new e-mail address."
And that leaves aside Weigel's coloring of his firing from Reason to make himself a martyr--which does not square with Matt Welch's version of events.

Douthat then defends Weigel by saying that lots of other Journolist participants surely said worse and didn't lose their jobs, so Weigel shouldn't have lost his. Okay. Of course, there are people walking around today who committed murder and were never caught. Should the justice system not prosecute someone who is discovered committing robbery? 

Finally, Douthat can't help referring to Weigel as a "talented reporter." QED, this says more about Douthat's work, than it does about Weigel's.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ron Fournier Is Andrew Sullivan's New Boss--Updated

Galley Friend P.G. sends word that Fournier has been named "editor in chief" of the National Journal Group. Who knows what that title implies in terms of org chart authority.

What we do know is that two years ago Sullivan wrote this about Fournier in an item headlined "The AP Going Fox?"
Ron Fournier's dramatic use of opinion in the first paragraph of the Biden story going out on all the wires is an aggressive Republican spin. Fournier has already weakened the AP's rep for pretty straight-up reportage. It just got a lot weaker. Last spring, by the way, Fournier was lambasting Obama for arrogance. Now, apparently, it's a lack of confidence. Whatever works, I guess. But please, get a blog.
Update: Boy, Sullivan really doesn't like Fournier. Makes you wonder how he could possibly--in good conscience--work under him.

On Fournier's skills as a political analyst.

On a Fournier column about the possibility of criminal charges being filed against Dick Cheney.

Anatomy of a Soccer Scold

Pursuant to this post from last week, Santino sends along the following to posts from Nation writer Dave Zirin. I'll let Santino do the talking:
Zirin on June 14: Conservatives should love soccer but don't, because they're racist.
Zirin on June 23: It's a shame conservatives love soccer so much right now because it promotes ugly American cultural hegemony.
You can't make this up. What you also can't make up is this bit from Zirin's post yesterday:
I was watching the game in the offices at National Public Radio in Washington, DC, waiting to go on the air to discuss the outcome. Remember, this is NPR: the station that defines calm, even-tempered talk. Let's just say that almost every cubicle and office let out an extemporaneous yelp. Yes, NPR went wild.
They don't shout or cheer at NPR. They "yelp."

Also precious, but not quite as fantastic is Zirin proclaiming:
The United States is not my favorite team by a long stretch. I'm an Argentina guy, myself. 
But of course.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

In-Game Alert: Isner vs. Mahut

If you're able, go find some Wimbledon coverage. Jon Isner is all knotted up at 43-43 against Nicolas Mahut in the fifth.

You read that right.

Match time approaching 8 hours. Isner has 85 aces and is 73 of 112 net points. Serving at 73 percent.


Update: The decision to suspend play was exactly right. You don't want a match--particularly a historical epic like this one--to be decided by low-light. (Which is a problem not just for the players, but for the linesmen.) Mahut shouldn't have had to ask for it, though. I would have hoped that the tournament referee would have been thinking through the decision since about 50-50.

The stats on the match are really impressive. Isner served at 74 percent for the affair so far. Both players are something like +170 on winners/unforced errors. Only 2 breaks of serve total (none since the second set) and only 16 total break chances. That's pretty clean tennis for a couple of guys who must be about to drop for exhaustion.

My default setting is to root for Isner. But after watching Mahut give up his body on those two ridiculous dives--who dives on the baseline?--his fighting spirit and reckless disregard for injury were mighty impressive. Isner was clearly trying to manage his service games and coast where he could. Mahut was fighting for every point. God bless the both of them.

It will be terrible to see someone lose tomorrow. I'm reminded of something the great Dikembe Mutombo said during Game 7 of the 1994 Finals. During half-time, Mutombo was asked about Ewing and Olajuwon and Deke said (I'm quoting from memory, so this may not be quite right), "It it like seeing two great men in the desert who come upon a glass of water and you wish so badly that they both could drink."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Contra Walter Russell Mead

WRM has a typically incisive post on Brazil's retreat from its Iranian indiscretion. However, he includes this strange note:

[t]he light and casual way in which the world’s pundits (many of them utterly ignorant about Brazil’s long history of diplomatic disappointment) concluded from a single, ill-advised diplomatic initiative that Brazil had decisively changed its place in the world is evidence of just how little reflection and experience goes into world politics today.
Second, we should think about why so much commentary (and, unfortunately, serious policy making) is so frequently seduced by quick and silly analysis. 
Says the writer with Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Reynolds placed prominently on his blog roll. (Go ahead and look. I'm serious.)
The answer to Mead's question--or at least a very large part of the answer--is the internet, which favors speed over deliberation and rewards people like Andrew Sullivan rather than people like, well, Walter Russell Mead.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Manute Bol, RIP

I note with sadness the passing of Manute Bol, one of the great characters of the NBA. More importantly, he was the sport's most courageous humanitarian. His life serves as something of an indictment to many current players.

I saw him play once as a kid. The Bullets were visiting the Sixers at the Spectrum and I was there way early. Before the pre-game shoot around, Bol came out to shoot on his. I watched as he bombed away from the 3-point line for several minutes. I don't think he made a single one. Sometimes his shots would miss everything. I think he clanged one off the top of the backboard.

Despite being 7'7", Bol wanted to be a 3-point threat. So much so that during the 1988-1989 season he took 91 attempts from behind the arc. Just think about that for a minute.

What's really amazing is that he finished his career shooting .210 from 3-point range. (In his final season he was a gaudy 3 for 5.) .210 doesn't sound like much, but I doubt I could ever get that accurate, while being defended, from the old NBA distance. Like everything else in his life, it was a testament to a man who believed--really and truly, not simply as a sentiment--that anything is possible.

Top Gun

Caught a large chunk of Top Gun in Glorious High-Definition over the weekend, and a few thoughts occur to me:

* You could argue that the movie would not have succeeded without the brilliant second-unit photography which opens the film. It's gorgeous, amazing stuff and it captures the world of naval aviators better than anything which follows it. In fact, without it I don't know that the rest of the movie really works. I wonder if Tony Scott did it himself or let one of the assistant DP's do it, as is usual.

* If Top Gun was made today, it would be heavily reliant on CGI effects and it would be lousy. Nothing reminds you of the limits of CGI like seeing real planes flying. Sure, you don't get the sexy camerawork, you don't get missile-eye POV shots, you don't get long, arial tracking shots that swing around one plane and then zoom to another.

What you do get, however, is infinitely more powerful.

* It is nearly inconceivable that the movie never got a sequel. A sequel would have been terrible, of course. But if Top Gun was released today, no studio head alive would be able to resist trying to turn it into a franchise.

* I've said it before and I'll say it again: We'll all be sad when we don't have Tom Cruise to kick around as a leading man anymore. He's not a great actor, but he's always better than he has to be. And unlike most of his contemporaries, he takes being a movie star seriously: He never, ever mails it in. And even when he's bad, he adds value.

* Also adding value: Michael Ironside. In every damn scene he's in. Nothing against Tom Skerritt, but I'll bet that Ironside also read for the Viper role. And if it had been up to me, I would have switched those parts.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Chris Nolan Speaks

AICN has the transcript. Some interesting stuff. Most tantalizing insight:

He doesn’t have email or cell phone. “It gives me a little more time to think.”

Makes you love him all the more. Also, he has reservations about 3D at the technical level:

“On a technical level I think it’s fascinating. On an experiential level I find the dimness of the image extremely alienating. The truth of it is, when you watch a film you’re looking at 16 foot-lamberts. When you watch it through any of the conventional 3-D processes you get about 3 foot-lamberts. It’s a massive difference.

You’re not that aware of it because once you’re in that world your eye compensates, but having struggled for years to get theaters to get up to the proper brightness you’re now sticking polarized filters into this thing and we’re going back worse than we were.”

- Also from a shooting standpoint, Nolan has even more issues with 3-D: “It requires shooting on video, if you mask it to 2.40 you’re only getting 800 or 900 lines of resolution. You have to use a beam-splitter.”

- Nolan doesn’t use use zoom lenses, only primes, because the image quality isn’t sharp enough on the long end of a zoom, so the idea of shooting a whole film through a beam-splitter doesn’t appeal to him. “There are enormous compromises, in other words.”

"Nothing that a good set of leggings can't cover."

Arrested Development is back in the saddle, thanks to Orbit.

It's not selling out if it's funny.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Join me, and together we will . . .

And you think I take Star Wars too seriously? Galley Friend T.J. sends notice that a team of French psychiatrists have released a study concluding that Darth Vader was mentally ill.
their report, which was recently published in the medical journal Psychiatry Research, concludes that young Anakin Skywalker exhibited behavior that is consistent with borderline personality disorder, which may in turn explain his decision to embrace the dark side and become Emperor Palpatine's apprentice. 
American shrinks are pushing back, though:

"Anakin shows borderline traits, but these do not persist into his adulthood," UCLA psychiatrist Dr. H. Eric Bender said. "It's important to note that any person, when put in highly stressful situations, may display certain traits, such as impulsivity, which are associated with borderline personality disorder." The paper, he said, failed to prove that Skywalker had "enduring and maladaptive patterns" over the course of his entire lifetime, which would be necessary to adopt a formal diagnosis. 
Dr. Sue Varma, assistant professor of psychiatry at the NYU Langone School of Medicine, agrees.
"Teenagers are impulsive and can practice risky behavior," she said. "They are trying to find out who they are and in playing around with identities, they show characteristics similar to borderline. But this is not enough for a diagnosis. Most teens come out the other side by their 20s."

Geeks Gone Wild

Galley Reader M.C. sends along this fantastic story about how the Rube Goldberg contraption in the instant-classic OK Go video was built. Turns out, it was partly some NASA scientists geeking out in their spare time:
There were a few guiding principles behind the machine. No magic: Mechanisms should be understandable and built from found objects where possible. Small to big: The size of the modules and parts becomes bigger over the course of the video. One take: As in their other videos, the band wanted the entire piece shot in one piece by a single handheld camera. . . .
We learned something very important about physics in the process of making this video. It is much harder to make small things reliable. Temperature, friction, even dust all greatly effect the repeatability and timing of the small stuff. The first minute of the video failed at a rate that was tenfold of the rest of the machine. Remembering that rule about getting everything in one shot -- if your module is further down the line in the video, you're in big trouble if it doesn't work! The machine took half an hour and 20 people to reset. 

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Ritual Attack of the Soccer Scolds

It's happening again.

The most puzzling part of anti-American soccer obsession is that it's not like Americans don't like the game of soccer. We all play it at the youth level and--for the most part--have a good time. It's just that we graduate up to other sports and don't have much of an appetite for soccer played at the elite level.

And what's wrong with that? Our interest level in soccer is the mirror image of our interest level in football, which, comparatively few people play at the youth level, but which has great popularity at the professional level.

But the thing is, you never hear football--or baseball, or ultimate frisbee, or tennis, or cycling, or hockey, or curling--or any other kind of fans railing against people who don't share their passion as if there's something morally and politically wrong with them. Why is it that soccer fans care so much about what American's don't care about?

We'll never know.

I, for one, choose to be soccer agnostic in an attempt to facilitate world peace. Imagine, for a moment, if Americans really did care about high-level soccer and put real effort into producing professional-caliber players.

Now imagine what would have happened if, in 2006, the U.S. had won the World Cup with the dastardly George W. Bush as president!

Really, the rest of the world should be grateful that we don't care about their sport.

Update: The Czabe holds forth on why soccer doesn't blow his skirt up:

There are many stupid things about soccer, but the lack of scoring remains the stupidest.
A 1-0 deficit, and your side is playing with the burden of 11 elephants on their backs.
A 2-0 deficit and you are now just out there getting some exercise.
A 3-0 defeat and the newspapers back home will call you an “embarassment.”
This level of scoring just doesn't make sense. It is so hard to score in soccer, it would be like basketball played on 30 foot rims.
Soccer eliminates the most fundamentally exciting thing about sports: the comeback.

Tom Bissell

Elsewhere I have a review of Tom Bissell's very interesting new book Extra Lives. Extra Lives is something new, I think: a travel book about video games. If you're interested in games qua games, I highly recommend it.

The most interesting section is about Jonathan Blow's Braid and the problem of dynamical meaning in video-game narrative. It's worth the price of the book on its own.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

From the Vault

Was talking with someone about the (criminally underrated) Minority Report the other day and immediately thought of Peter Stormare's crazy, off-kilter performance in it, which is pleasantly unsettles the film and creates the kind of nearly-out-of-control atmosphere which you never see in Spielberg pictures.

And like Dennis Hopper, I'd argue that one of Stormare's finest performances is in a commercial. What time is it?

Time to un-pimp za auto . . .

Pure. Gold.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

For NYC Readers

I just got my copy of Galley Friend and Superstar Foodie Sherri Eisenberg's book about Brooklyn restaurants, The Food Lovers' Guide to Brooklyn.

If you live in (or visit) New York a lot, I highly recommend it.

Sherri has a blog about the book which is a fun read, too.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010


Galley Friend and Super Smark A.H. just passed along the most interesting article on steroids I've ever seen: A 2003 Stuart Stevens piece in Outside:
I'd read reams about cheating as an issue, but I'd never read anything describing what it felt like to do it. Obviously, the allure of victory was incredibly powerful—why else would the best athletes in the world risk their health and lives abusing these drugs? So I wondered, Do performance drugs make you just 1 percent faster and stronger? Or 10 percent? Are the enhancements so subtle that only elite athletes gain an edge, or are they powerful enough that an everyday wannabe like me would notice a dramatic change?
What follows is the author's story of spending a year taking roids, and describing the experience. Fantastic stuff.

Update: Galley Reader J.O. says that this Sports Illustrated piece (mentioned only in passing in the Outside essay) is even better.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Belated Dennis Hopper

It says something--though I'm not sure what--that a large part of what people under a certain age remember most about Dennis Hopper is his Nike commercials.

That said, those commercials provided Galley Brother B.J. and I with hours of catch-phrase enjoyment: "I hear the footsteps." "Like a freight-train--with stick-um!" "Like cosmic twins."

Pure gold.


Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Just for the Record

I had the Clintons plus the points.

Also, I take it all back: Federer is clearly still an untouchable giant at the height of his powers.

PS: Hatred for The Swiss? Commenter A.K. doesn't quite know what he's talking about . . . 

Friday, May 28, 2010

Peggy Noonan Is Disappointed

"But Mr. Obama was supposed to be competent."

Let's wind the clock back to early 2008. You're taking the measure of Sen. Obama, trying to figure out what kind of president he might make. Try coming up with three accomplishments of his that would suggest he was a competent manager. No? Okay, try two? Still nothing?

Fine, let's shift the emphasis off managerial competence and just look for general, professional achievements. Aside from getting new jobs, had the young senator ever actually accomplished anything?

Well, there was that best-selling book, I suppose. Although the story of how it got written doesn't indicate an awesome amount of competence.

Shemale Scheiss Überrashung

While some conservative ninnies get all bent out of shape about pornography, I'm prepared to defend porn. Especially in the workplace.

Via cleft stick.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Billy Cerveny's Donnelly Carter Payne

Billy Cerveny is one of my favorite singer-songwriters--he's up there in the pantheon with Aimee Mann. After a long, long wait, he has finally released a new album (do the kids still call them albums?)--Donnelly Carter Payne. You can sample it on iTunes here.

I really can't recommend it highly enough.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Goodbye to Law & Order

I have a short piece over at In Character about "What Law & Order Taught Us." You may disagree with some of the lessons, or have better ones yourself.

True story: I met Dick Wolf at a party once and used the opportunity to lobby for more of the gray V-neck tops for Angie Harmon. You know the one I'm talking about.

I wasn't even drunk.


Finally caught up with the Fringe season-ender over the weekend and was very happy with it. Fringe has gone from being an X-Files clone to being a top-notch sci-fi genre piece with a great core idea. I don't know who deserve the credit for this transformation. I wouldn't be surprised if the show's direction firmed up once J.J. Abrams moved on--Abrams is great at building mythology (and lots of other things) but he's not at his best when it comes to thematic coherence and narrative drive.

In particular, I was kind of blown away by how elegant the writing was in the Thomas Yatsuko-penned "White Tulip" (ep. 2.18). I couldn't think of a genre-piece that slow-played its hand so well, had such a pained, beautiful antagonist--and simultaneously did serious heavy-lifting for character motivations in the larger series.

The season ending episode "Over There pt 2" (2.23) was written by the crazy over-rated Akiva Goldsman wasn't as sublime, but it did one thing exceptionally well. By positing that it was Walter Bishop himself who asked Bell to cut out parts of his brain, Goldsman (1) Explains a central riddle of the series; (2) Resolves the relationship between Bell and Bishop; (3) Backfills the motivation for pre-series Walter and explains how this daffy, but sweet, man could have done and created such horrible things; (4) Creates all sorts of space for Earth 2 Walter to be the heavy. All of that with about 8 lines of dialogue. Very nice stuff.

There was also a wonderful Easter egg in Peter's apartment on Earth 2: The framed Earth 2 comic book covers on the wall. There's a post about them here. Not only are they kind of delightful, but it's gratifying that they used DC books, since Fringe owes it's multiverse to DC. (And also gratifying that they included a Crisis on Infinite Earths cover.)

The only slight complaint is about the Justice League alt cover. Note that Jonah Hex has been substituted for Green Lantern. Why? Hex doesn't exist at all within the mythological (or chronological) confines of the JLA books. No, it's there as a self-serving hiccup from Goldsman, who wrote the up-coming Jonah Hex adaptation flop, which promises to be one of the worst (and most underperforming) comic book film adaptations yet.

Ukulele-Based Geek Rock and The French Open

A year or so ago The Pig put me on to Dent May's fantastic tune "God Loves You Michael Chang." It's Ukulele centered tennis-geek rock. In honor of the start of the French, here it is:

PS: Best geek-rock band ever: They Might Be Giants or Bare Naked Ladies?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

First Things, First

As a rule, all change is bad. This rule holds particularly fast when it comes to graphic design and print media. It's hard to think of many magazine or newspaper redesigns which do not substantially diminish their product. Which is why I was so nervous when I heard that First Things was working on a complete redesign of the magazine.

Regular readers know the esteem in which I hold First Things--it's one of my three desert island magazines, and has been for many years. Its old design was so austere as to achieve a certain elegance, a little like '80s era Volvos. I was immensely fond of it.

The redesigned First Things is out now. This link will show you a TOC, but give you no sense of what the physical magazine looks like. I haven't lived with the new book long enough to pass a final judgment, but my first and second impressions are both that the redesign is a near-total triumph, in both the aesthetic and the strategic sense.

The internet poses a different challenge to magazines than it does to newspapers. Newspapers are largely utilitarian tools. A good magazine is more of a sensual pleasure. As they confront the internet, magazines must find ways to leverage the physical virtues. I wasn't in the room as First Things thought through their redesign, but I'd bet that this goal was their lodestar.

For starters, the new First Things is beautiful. The new paper stock is soft and easy on the eyes. The fonts are absolutely gorgeous. (Font whores--you know who you are--will really enjoy the work put in on the design end here.) Everything about the foundation of the layout--the columns, the breaks, the drop caps--is elegant and inviting. The book now has art, which is done tastefully. You never think you're reading Time. (Though for whatever it's worth, my own personal preference would be for fewer photographs and more drawings, in the mode of the old WSJ.) The only real quirk is the decision to switch paper stock in the middle of the book, where you briefly have essays on the old FT paper. Some people will like this; some won't. I haven't lived with it long enough to know what I think.

Aside from the artistic virtues, First Things is now doing more of what can't--or at least, isn't--readily available on internet platforms: poetry and very long-form essays. For a variety of reasons, beginning with how we interact with our computer screens, people don't read 15,000 word essays on the internet. Ditto short poems, I think. These forms are by turns too long and too short to be good fits for the web browser.

Finally--and this is a small, but important addition--First Things has added a crossword. I'm not a crossword lover. Actually, I detest them almost as much as I do Scrabble. But lots of people like them. And while technically you can do crosswords on the internet, I can't think of any crossword lovers who do. The crossword adds an element of interaction with the physical book. It asks you to read with a pen in hand, to mark it up and work with it.

When she launched the short-lived Talk magazine, Tina Brown said that her goal for the book was to create an artifact--something to be picked up, folded, shoved into a computer bag, carried around, and lived with for a couple weeks as it was consumed. Talk didn't live up to that ideal. But while Tina Brown may be many things, stupid about magazines she isn't. Her idea for Talk has always struck me as the most viable model for magazines going forward.

The new First Things is, I think, the first magazine to accomplish what The Tina set out to do. You don't simply thumb through, read two essays, and toss it. You want to carry it around, to enjoy and savor it. It's a great success and if you're not already a subscriber, now is a good time to come aboard.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I Like Ike

Most memorable speeches are eventually abstracted to the point where what is remembered has little relation to the speech. The best-known example of this problem is Jimmy Carter's "malaise" speech, in which he never used the word "malaise."

Eisenhower's farewell address is another case. We remember it for his warning about the "military industrial complex." But listening to it the other day I was struck how poorly this tag fits on what is a seriously impressive speech.

Eisenhower chose to address two large historical and philosophical--not political--subjects in his farewell. The first was the "military industrial complex." He was not, however, simply "warning" his fellow citizens about it. He was, instead, making a large and complicated observation: That prior to the World Wars, America did not have a permanent arms industry. That America's pre-eminent position in the world now necessitated a large-scale arms industry. That such an industry would have transformative effects on a country which was now, for the first time, seeing itself as an important actor on the world stage. Some of these effects would be good, others would not. Eisenhower's point, was that we should enter this new era with our eyes open. Here's Ike:

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense. We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security alone more than the net income of all United States cooperations -- corporations.
Now this conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet, we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources, and livelihood are all involved. So is the very structure of our society.
History has shown him to be quite correct. But following his warning about the MIC was another warning, which has been altogether forgotten: the consequences of how invention and research were evolving in the new technical age.
Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers. The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present -- and is gravely to be regarded.
Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.
It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system -- ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.

Again, Eisenhower proved quite prescient. But more amazing than his wisdom is the fact that these were the topics he chose for his farewell. They were philosophical and historical. They had nothing to do with politics or Eisenhower himself or his presidency. It is impossible to imagine a president today speaking with such deep wisdom. It's a stark reminder of how very small the men who govern us have become.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A is for Awesome

Courtesy of Galley Friend AK-47, the nerd's illustrated alphabet. Don't miss it. Sample letter:

Monday, May 17, 2010

Miss USA Is Not Miss America (And how to win Your Miss America pool.)

A lot of people are up in arms about the crowning of the "gaffetastic" Miss Michigan Rima Fakih as Miss USA. I suspect many of those in a state of concern may be conflating the Miss USA pageant with Miss America. Miss America is the preeminent "scholarship program" and as such holds itself out as having some objective standards. Miss USA is a Donald Trump production. It's an entertainment vehicle. Its "standards" are the standards of reality television. So you can only really get worked up about the injustice of Ms. Fakih's victory if you're the kind of person who'd also be willing to be outraged by the results on Dancing with the Stars.

None of that, however, is particularly important. The questions about the "judging" at Miss USA are just an excuse for me to point out a wonderful and often overlooked book: William Goldman's Hype and Glory. (Don't be the sucker to pay $132 for the paperback version on Amazon.)

Goldman wrote Hype and Glory after a year in which he sat as a judge for both Miss America and Cannes. He had plenty of good stories to tell.

What always interested me most, however, was his deciphering of the Miss America voting. Goldman claimed that the judges were instructed on what to look for in a Miss America, and that with those guidelines, it was instantly clear to the entire judging panel who the winner was. He reports that from the first moment, there was never any question among the judges who the winner would be. What were they looking for? I'll paraphrase, because I don't have my copy near at hand: The Miss America judges were told to look for the woman who would best represent the Miss America organization at public and private appearances throughout the year. That meant a woman who was calm, unflappable, articulate, and politic. In other words, they wanted the young woman who most represented a polished, TV news head.

Nothing else, Goldman wrote, mattered. Not the swimsuit, not the talent. And once you know that that's the quality the Miss America pageant is looking for, most of the time the winner is obvious.

Thanks, James Cameron

Just what the world needs: a 3D remastered Battle Royale.

In Praise of Walter Russell Mead, Again

A fantastic post about the IPCC and the climate change movement that incorporates this show-stopper line:

Movement toward conservation, renewable and alternative fuels, and a decreasing reliance on hydrocarbon fuels per unit of GDP will continue and, I think, accelerate in most of the world’s most important advanced and developing economies.  This will happen whether or not the IPCC issues another report, because it is in the interests of the major economies to cut fuel use to be economically competitive and to increase their national security.  Efforts to establish comprehensive monitoring of CO2 emissions around the world will also continue — if for no other reason than that agencies like the CIA, organizations like the IMF and corporations like hedge funds and investment banks would like to have faster access to reliable data on shifts in global economic activity.  The sheer blind bureaucratic lust for power that drives the culture of the United Nations and the world’s governments will also ensure continuing efforts to give politicians and their appointees the last word on regulating as much economic activity as possible.
In other words, the review panel in Amsterdam, like the IPCC itself, is something of a sideshow.  To use the kind of simile that might appeal to an author of Dr. Pachauri’s ambitions, the IPCC and the review panel are like the piano in a house of ill repute: useful for establishing atmosphere, but playing no substantive role in the core operations of the firm.
I'm already planning to steal that. 

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Steve Jobs vs. the New Yorker

Fake Steve Jobs, that is. Seems that he decided to alter the developer agreement for the iPad to ban the dieresis. And David Remnick's people are pissed. The confrontation begins here and then continues here and finally concludes here:

"Who am I? I’m Steve fucking Jobs, bitch. I invented the friggin iPod. And the iPhone. And the iPad. And I’m not changing the language. I’m making it better."

PS: Also from Fake Steve is a link to this fantastic anti-Facebook rant. Do not miss it.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Notes from the Great Recession

Two interesting pieces today. First, John Judis:
Brenner’s analysis of the current downturn can be boiled down to a fairly simple point: that the underlying cause of the current downturn lies in the “real” economy of private goods and service production rather than in the financial sector, and that the current remedies—from government spending and tax cuts to financial regulation—will not lead to the kind of robust growth and employment that the United States enjoyed after World War II and fleetingly in the late 1990s. These remedies won’t succeed because they won’t get at what has caused the slowdown in the real economy: global overcapacity in tradeable goods production. . . .
Paul Volcker summed up the situation thusly: “The fate of the world economy is now totally dependent on the growth of the U.S. economy, which is dependent on the stock market, whose growth is dependent upon about 50 stocks, half of which have never reported any earnings.”
And then, Robert Samuelson:

The normal mechanics of the business cycle signal recovery, while deeper economic weaknesses threaten it. In late 2008 and early 2009, fear and hysteria were almost palpable, especially in the United States. Consumers and companies cut spending anywhere they could. From September 2008 to June 2009, the U.S. economy lost 6 million payroll jobs. In 2009, American car sales were almost 40 percent lower than in 2007. Governments' frenetic interventions stabilized confidence. People and firms are opening their wallets again, here and abroad. The world economy will grow almost 4.3 percent in 2010 and 2011, with the United States expanding at an average of nearly 3 percent, reckons the International Monetary Fund.
But the deep-seated problems remain. Three stand out: first, the weight of the welfare state and aging populations; second, the burden of huge private debts (mortgages and consumer loans in America and elsewhere); and finally, huge imbalances in global trade, with some countries -- notably China -- running massive surpluses and others -- notably the United States -- having large deficits. Each threatens a vigorous recovery that could conceivably plunge the world back into a protracted slump.

"Homophobic" Is the New "Neocon"

Which is to say, it simply means "something I do not like."

Ryan Murphy, the Glee showrunner, is angry at Newsweek for running a piece about gay actors playing straight characters. Murphy doesn't just disagree with the essay--he says it's "homophobic."

The only problem is that the piece's author is gay. So he may be wrong or stupid or loathsome or evil, but he probably isn't "homophobic." If he was, he wouldn't be very good at being gay.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

David Bradley: Out-Thinking the Market!

The NY Observer has a big story on David Bradley's audacious plan to merge the forces of Hotline, National Journal, and Congress Daily to fight Politico.

Will someone remind me how Bradley got rich in the first place?

Nothing against Politico--it's a great product and I generally admire it. But unless I'm completely mistaken, Politico is not a money-making machine. In fact, it's rumored to be quite the opposite. Bradley's three crown properties, on the other hand, have always been spectacularly profitable. Unless their business model has gone completely upside down in the last 36 months, I can't imagine that they lose less money than Politico. They probably out-earn it by quite a lot.

So how is it that Bradley wants to "compete" with Politico? For what, page views? There was a wonderful moment in 1999 where for just a few minutes people remembered that actual dollars are worth more than digital pennies; that was not the future; that business was predicated on profitability and not press clippings and Technorati scores. Even in the midst of a Great Recession, that moment has clearly passed.

Imagine if Comcast had decided to re-order its business to compete with NetZero. That's the closest parallel I can think of to what Bradley is doing with his DC-based mint. For some people, making money consistently over a prolonged period isn't enough. They want to be trendy, too.

It could have been "anything"?

Michael Bloomberg has come in for deserved criticism from the right for this idiotic comment:

"If I had to guess, twenty five cents, this would be exactly that," Bloomberg said. "Homegrown maybe a mentally deranged person or someone with a political agenda that doesn't like the health care bill or something. It could be anything."

People tend to focus on the "health care bill" part--which is ridiculous enough. But the really offensive portion is Bloomberg saying that the attempted bombing "could be anything." Because of course, there are plenty of groups it absolutely could not have been.

For instance, how many terrorist incidents have there been in the last 20 years from Unitarian groups? Episcopalians? Tibetans? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

If Mayor Mike doesn't want to be candid about the obvious--that the overwhelmingly likelihood of the involvement of Islam with this terror incident, that's fine. You could cobble together a rationale for such a demurral. But to affirmatively construct the idea that it could have been lots of groups who absolutely could not have been behind the incident is worse than dishonest.

At some point America is going to get over its multi-culti sensitivities regarding Islam's alarming rate of coincidence with violence. And it won't be a happy day.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Joe Sarno, RIP

Joe Sarno--who may or may not have been the real-life Jack Horner--died last week. The NYT, funnily enough, carried a lengthy obit. A particularly dedicated Times watcher might be able to pinpoint the exact moment with the New York Times became the kind of paper that would run a 900-word obit on a semi-obscure soft-core porn director. My non-educated guess would be some time around July 1975. Whatever the case, here's a taste:

His early films were straightforwardly, even single-mindedly erotic, although flashes of nudity came only intermittently and the sex act took place outside the frame. Shot in a self-consciously artistic style, films like “Red Roses of Passion” (1966) and “Odd Triangle” (1968) explored the anxiety-haunted, tentative steps toward sexual liberation of middle-class suburbanites born too early to experience the uninhibited self-expression of the baby-boom generation.
“He was one of the pioneers of the American sexploitation film and a driving force in the sexual revolution of the 1960s,” Mr. Bowen said. “The films were gritty, down to earth, with a very distinctive style. At their best they were very dirty — they just did not have explicit sex.”
Mind you, I'm not judging. Sarno had one of those only-in-America lives:
Joseph William Sarno was born on March 15, 1921, in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, and grew up on Long Island in Amityville. His father was a bootlegger, and his mother was a socialist labor organizer. He enrolled in New York University but dropped out immediately after Pearl Harbor to enlist in the Navy. As an airman, he saw action in the South Pacific. . . .
After the war Mr. Sarno found work as an advertising copywriter and sold ripping-yarn feature stories to digest magazines like Coronet. His film career began when the Navy, mistakenly believing that he had filmed bombing runs during the war, asked him to direct training films. He accepted the offer and then headed off to buy a book on cinematography.
Over the next several years he made dozens of training films for the Navy and industrial films for military contractors. His first venture into feature films came when an independent producer approached him to write the screenplay for an erotic film, “Nude in Charcoal,” which was released in 1961 and shown, like all of Mr. Sarno’s films, in grind-house theaters.
Mr. Sarno wrote the screenplays for all 75 of the 35-millimeter films he made over the next 15 years, and for his subsequent hard-core films. The first film for which he received sole directing credit, “Lash of Lust” (1962), was never released. Atypically, it was an erotic costume drama about Gaul in the time of the Romans, shot in the forests of upstate New York.
Despite what the obit says, I'd like to think that he never shot on videotape.

Update: While we're talking porn, AICN has this trailer up for Vivid's Batman XXX. (Totally SFW, btw.) How excellent does it look? Very! 

Among the many questions it raises, however, is whether or not Vivid can hide behind the "parody" label and its legal protections against copyright infringement. 

More Greek Tragedy

Walter Russell Mead has another long, interesting essay. The key take-away:

The three countries who did the most to build the modern global, liberal, capitalist and democratic world order (the Netherlands, Britain and the United States) were blessed by both the geography fairy and the culture fairy.  Geographically they were placed where they were relatively free to develop on their own without being the playthings of foreign interests.  Culturally they were the products of a history which gave them a set of attitudes and values that promoted their success as capitalist countries. The combination of favorably geography and success in capitalism helped to propel each of these countries to global power in their day, and further gave them the power to reshape the world to their liking.
Other countries and cultures like capitalism less and for a variety of reasons are not as good at it.  Some, like China and India, gradually get the hang of it and start to gain power and influence in the world system.  Others, like Egypt, have a harder time.
For many Greeks, capitalism still feels wrong.  The substitution of market forces for traditional social relations undermines aspects of Greek life that are very dear to many people; the inequality that so often results from capitalism offends deeply held social ideas about fairness.  More, since the rising powers whose policies and interventions have done so much to shape Greek history have been capitalist, Greeks associate institutions like the IMF and the ECB (European Central Bank) with foreign meddling and unjust usurpation.  And the successful capitalist countries (and the foreign multinational corporations who come with it) have never scrupled to press their advantages in less developed or weaker countries like Greece.
In many parts of the world it is easy to spot a vicious cycle at work.  Because a country or a culture missed the visit of either or both of the two modernization good fairies (geography and culture) it starts out handicapped in the race to master capitalism and control their own destiny.  As a result, they fall behind, and lose power and control to other, faster rivals.  Capitalism becomes ever less popular, ever more associated in the public mind with a world system felt to be wrong and unfair.  Those feelings of alienation make it steadily harder for the country to adopt and follow the policies that could reverse the cycle and bring it success.  And so it goes.
On a global scale, the Greeks are not doing so badly.  They belong to three of the rich world’s most exclusive clubs: the OECD, the European Union, and NATO.  Their per capita GDP, while low by west European standards, puts them ahead of places like Hong Kong, Israel and South Korea.  Yet the feeling of being victims, manipulated by powerful interests who do not have their best interests at heart, and locked into an economic system that violates some of their most deeply felt values is very real.
Greece has a history of muddling through, if not always very happily.  It is likely though not certain that this crisis too will pass, leaving Greece still in the eurozone, still linked to a prosperous EU and still relatively well placed in the global order.  This is certainly what I hope, and given the debt of gratitude the whole world owes Greece for its extraordinary and unparalleled contributions to global culture it is the outcome that we all ought to seek.
But whatever happens in Greece, we need to remember that its problems are not unique, and the clash between those who like the world that capitalism has made and those who hate it is not going away.  The global capitalist revolution offers the best and indeed the only hope that I see for the relief of poverty, the advance of human rights and the protection of the environment worldwide.  Like all great revolutionary movements, however, it creates divisions, inequalities and resistance.  Revolts against the liberal capitalist world system — fascism and communism above all — shaped the history of the twentieth century and inflicted unprecedented misery and harm until they were defeated.  The radical terrorist movement led by Islamic renegades has more recently inflicted grave harm in many places and its violent course has not yet come to an end; we are likely to see more crises and conflict in the twenty first century as the anti-capitalist counter-revolution finds new forms and new allies.
The Greek tragedy now taking place offers us an opportunity to study the forces at work in our world, reflect on the human dilemmas and difficulties that lead to social and economic strife, and perhaps think more wisely about how we can advance the capitalist revolution in ways that make this global transformation a little easier to bear for those who are caught up in it and who feel that their lives are being overturned by hostile and immoral hidden hands.

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.