Speaking of long posts about movies, this one from Kung Fu Monkey is pretty delicious.
I don't often get involved in blog-spats. My first show-runner, Norman Steinberg, once killed a television in-joke with a grimace and a head-shake. "Television referencing television ... a bit too much like a dog eating its own vomit." Always what blogger -to-blogger sniping struck me as. We need to strike at the arguments, hone our ideas. THAT's how we arrive at truth.
However, I think I finally understand -- exactly --the tone of voice General Tommy Franks used when describing the REMF-platonic-ideal Doug Feith as the "fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth." It is not a snarl, nor a roar, but instead a sort of exhausted awe. Because I must say, I do think Jason Apuzzo of Libertas, the wee conservative film movement, possibly may be -- and I do not offer this lightly -- the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth.
Why so stupid? It begins with this quote: "[T]oday's Academy Awards have devolved into just another marketing tool for ‘indie' films nobody's seen." And it goes downhill from there, providing much mirth for all.
Okay, here it is, my Hustle and Flow post. I hope you did your homework. This post contains some fairly detailed plot discussion, no more than what's in the reviews, but if you want to avoid it, I'm putting it below the fold, and omg, now that I've finished it this post is so long. Feel free not to read it is pretty much what I'm saying.
After watching Hustle and Flow, I went to Rotten Tomatoes to look at what the critics had said, and I came across A.O. Scott activating one of my biggest peeves in criticism: critics confusing the depiction of Bad Thing with the endorsement of Bad Thing if the artwork doesn't essentially run subtitles that say "Bad Thing is bad!" So I thought to myself, hey, you're having an opinion. This could be a blog post. Hustle and Flow is the heartwearming story of a pimp who's trying to become a rapper, supported by his loving, yet exploited hos. Perhaps predictably, the movie gets accused of misogyny because it depicts misogyny. (There are some decent arguments that the movie is teh misogynist, but A.O. doesn't make them.)
"It's hard out here for a pimp," goes the chorus to one of his songs (sung by the honey-voiced Shug), updating a point first made by Big Daddy Kane and noting that one of the problems facing a man in this business is "a lot of bitches jumping ship." But hold on a minute. What really happens is that DJay throws one of his "bitches" out on the street, along with her toddler, when she dares to question his management skills. A pimp might be forgiven for failing to see his own misogyny - pimping is not a profession usually associated with feminism - but the movie can't just slide off the hook along with its hero. Indeed, the outlaw charisma - the lower-depths soulfulness - that Mr. Brewer lovingly bestows on DJay arises precisely from his ability to keep women in their place.
Happily, no. The scene in which Djay throws one of his "bitches" and her toddler out is easily the scene in which he is exposed as petty and cruel most starkly; he doesn't come out of it looking glamorous or in control; it's clear that his rage at Lexus, the "bitch" in question, arises because she challenges him more than any other woman in the movie does; he can't keep her in line so he has to get her out of sight. It's the movie's willingness to show us this that proves it doesn't glamorize pimping, or the sexism Djay's rap has in common with it. Djay's outlaw charisma comes from Terrence Howard, who is teh sullenly ferocious, and the glimpse the audience gets that in spite of DJay's cruelty, exploitation, and self-involvement, he's capable of humor and compassion, and you imagine that if he did get to sing and be heard, he would be a better man for it. That the women in his life are only going to get an opportunity for self-realization by promoting him and inserting themselves under his wing is the uncomfortable corollary to rooting for him.
A.O. Scott goes on to complain:
Shug, on the other hand, is a picture of weepy, simple-minded maternity.
This gets at a related response to art that bugs me. Once I was wiping some counters in my best friend's kitchen and entertaining myself by singing, "Fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly/I gotta love one man till I die…."
"I don't like that song," said Clementine.
"Why not?" I asked.
"Because they should be singing about how they don't need a man."
The scenes in Hustle and Flow where Shug expresses gratitude to DJay for letting her sing backup are totally squicky, but they're also moving: they're moving because they're squicky. There is no way that woman should be thanking him for the opportunity to sing backup after all he's taken from her, and her eagerness for such small crumbs moves the audience to pity primarily, but that attitude is unmistakably real, and there's gotta be a way to show what slavish devotion looks like; not every character in a movie can sound like they just came home from feminist reeducation camp at the end as Clementine seemed to want (not that feminist reeducation camp doesn't sound like fun! Maybe you could twist your lanyards into vaginas in addition to glorifying the lanyard phallus). At the same time, you get the sense that for all DJay's faults, he could be capable of loving her. It's disturbing that she's probably the only kind of woman he could love, but heartening that it may be possible at all.
(On the other hand, the movie gives us essentially nothing of the three prostitutes' relationships with each other outside of DJay's presence and Shug and Lexus both have an element of caricature. There's definitely a case to be made that the movie doesn't perfectly transcend its subjects; it's just bullshit to say that the point of the movie is to glamorize misogyny. Transparently not.)
Though the happy family scenes with his whores cum assistants singing along to "Whoop that Trick" are absurd at first blush, at second blush, they form sort of a parable for real families. When I think of my grandparents, I know that my grandmother got cheated in a lot of real senses; they both went to Stanford, but he became an engineer, and she a housewife (later she was a librarian). She didn't get to spend a lot of time with her husband, and neither did her children. It was a complicated and fractious relationship. But it's still clear to me that there is a hard knot of love at the center of it; it was exposed when their son, my mother's brother, died of a brain tumor a few years ago, and their marriage became much closer and more peaceful. I don't think the notion that a pimp could rise above himself, just a little, and care for his whores is that much crazier. You can take it out of the 1950's and into the present; every family has its using, its cruelty, its self-justifying patter, its several needs to see a flattering portrait reflected back from the eyes of the others, but all that hopefully interweaves with warmth and humor and generosity and courage; what I mean to say is: not just pimps and tricks, but every family has its hustle and flow.
P.S. You can proceed to mock my white girly self for using "pimps" and "tricks" o-earnestly in a sentence that was already damn o-earnest to begin with.
P.P.S. By inviting you to mock me, I've preemptively deflated your attack dirigible.
P.P.S. You can make fun of me. Really. I don't want you to miss Ogged. Whack away with your limp dirigible. I can take it.
P.P.P.S. All you hataz should at least acknowledge that the mime in The Aristocrats was pretty goddamned funny.
Tia's boyfriend, who shall henceforth be known as Graham.
Graham: Tia, put some clothes on now, they just called and the cable guy is going to be here in five minutes.
Tia puts clothes on and sits back on the futon to read. Three minutes later:
Graham: Tia, the cable guy is on his way up!
Tia: What? I put clothes on.
Graham (laughing): I know sweetheart, but maybe you want to take the cuffs off, too?
Tia (looking down): Oh yeah!
I'll see you all there. Apostropher is the hero.
Work warning: one bare butt and a bazillion (audible) f-bombs. Via AdRants.
Today's lunchtime conversation at work was shaving. The conclusions?
1. All of the women present thought watching a man shave was totally hott.
2. None of the men present had any clue that this turned women on.
3. The more old-fashioned the shaving setup, the sexier it is. Electric shaver? Not at all hot. A razor and shaving cream from a can? Hot. A straight razor, one of those brush things, and mixing your own cream? Ohmygod.
So I've got a deposition coming up on Tuesday that I'm supposed to be helping a partner prep for. I email him, asking, among other things, "Do you want ten copies each of all the reliance documents for exhibits, or some subset of them?" His response: "A subset."
C'mon, everybody, and let's help the mysterious alameida solve an ethical dilemma. But first, you'll have to hear a sad story.
On my first day of 8th grade, I wore some zebra-striped pajama bottoms as pants. They had elasticized cuffs at the bottom and were made of T-shirt jersey. Pretty par for the course, really. I don't remember the shirt or anything. There is someone out there who would, though, because he fell deeply in love with me at first sight that fateful day (as he related on another occasion). That someone was my hapless photography teacher, then 27 years old. (I remember because he was 30 when I was 15).
Do I actually need to tell you this story? OK, fine, use your imaginations. He waited until I was 17 before we had sex, let's all give him that. Strange but true facts: 1) it is very satisfactory as a young woman to have an adult so much in your power, when everything else in your life is shitty. 2) My mom and step-dad encouraged this relationship. 3) That just makes him more of an asshole; it was like kicking me when I was down. 4) Duelling tendencies of perspective tug in different directions in my mind; as time passes I am less affected my my memories, but as my daughters get older I start to burn with white-hot rage. 5) He wrote a novel about me. God, what a fucking putz. 6) I don't really have any pictures of myself from those years because my family was flaking out. He, on the other hand, has got thousands of beautiful black-and-white pictures. I want them, see below.
What happened in the end? I turned him in. I was so outraged when it actually came to the thing of it, so angry. I thought, so this is what you were after all that time with the bullshit about being my friend? I had been doing art all the time before that, getting my portfolio ready to apply to RISD and then I just didn't want to see him at all, I never went up to the studios. I was suicidal, really (but, in fairness, I tried to kill myself before, too, so maybe I'm just crazy.) Whenever I went to the bathroom to pee I opened up the cabinets and thought about drinking Drano. Jesus that would be a shitty way to die. I remember his face so well, empurpled. He has a port wine birthmark on the back of his neck. My mom finally broke me down on the subject after my teachers contacted her with concern (but I thought you said...? Yes. Just go with the flow) and told the principal. When the school fired him I became the object of ridicule and hatred for all my peers. Some of my best friends shunned me, and I know of at least one who regrets it now, but she has never had the balls to call me, and I'm not going to call her first. He was the most popular teacher in the school, the only young male teacher at an all-girls school, so you figure. In fact, in a lecture on his moral virtue he once explained that another student had come to his apartment at night with the intent to seduce him, and he had gently turned her away, because "I knew what was right." He knew.
In the end it didn't turn out too badly for him. (He told me at one point that his best friend had said, when learning of his new job, "you're going to fall in love with one of the students and get fired.") The next year he became an editor of a photo magazine and now runs a sucessful monthly newsletter about certain film-camera technologies. I suppose I can console myself with a damp hope that digital photography will put him out of a job, but it's not likely. He has children, but I don't know if they are boys or girls. I hope they are girls.
The thing is, I really want those pictures. Did he destroy them? Does he have some copy of his shitty-ass novel in the attic too, or did his wife make him get rid of it, or what did he tell her about that scheming little bitch? I could ask him for them back, bare request, nothing else. I could email him. But I don't want him to be able to say no to me. I can't exactly go to his house and steal them; should I just kiss these notional pictures goodbye and get on with life? Oh, but for a while he took one every day, every crazy silly thing I ever wore in high school, like the shoes with painted skulls and the dresses I would stay up late sewing out of cut-up thrift-store bathrobes. Why should he have that and I don't? Why?
Hey lurkers! Tired of sitting on the sidelines? Wish you could join in the fun but you don't know how since Unfogged is absolutely nothing like Usenet, mailing lists, other blogs, or LiveJournal? Do I have the article for you: No Opinions? No Problem, or how to comment in threads even if you don't know what the hell you're talking about. It worked for me!
Ever since I ended up in management, the developers on my team won't let me near their code. I've gone over to the dark side. I couldn't possibly understand what they're doing. I'd just break it. It's like they think I was issued a lobotomy with my business cards.
You don't want to let me play with your code? Fine. I just replaced your entire program with a 5 line shell script.
Rangel was interviewed on New York Public Television WLIW21 last Monday night and asked for his quick reaction to various people. The first was Bush.
"Well," Rangel said. "I really think that he shatters the myth of white supremacy once and for all; it shows that, in this great country, anybody can become president."
A large black man on the back of a truck's cargo bed, lowering the ledge that bridges the gap between the truck and a cargo dock, and singing, in a voice pitched so high it was almost falsetto, "London Bridge is falling down/Falling down, falling down/London Bridge is falling down/My fair lady." He saw me smiling at him and asked if I wanted to sing along.
You rabble need a new post, I can tell. Someone's got to step up to the plate. I haven't finished any of the new substantive posts I've been working on (remember to watch Hustle and Flow), but I remembered this post I wrote on a blog I kept up for a week about three years ago, and I think it's worth recycling; it will kick off a themed series: Tia defends artworks from charges of sexism:
The plot of Beauty and the Beast is irredeemably sexist. I have affectionate memories of the movie, and I happened to catch it at the age of ten, when I was a bookworm living in a provincial town, and Belle's plight really spoke to me. Even though it didn't have the same effect on me when I saw it as a (sort of) grownup, I still love a lot of the music. "Something There" and the title song are two of the most authentically romantic [I'm not quite sure what I meant by this—present-day Tia] Disney songs ever written. In fact, the reason it's so sexist is not just that the Beast's plot for Belle is identical to Gaston's, but that her desire is eventually conforms itself perfectly to the Beast's desire to keep her a prisoner--she willingly imprisons herself. What little ten year old doesn't thrill to see Belle running up the outcrop, the melody surging behind her, singing, "I want adventure in the great wide somewhere! I want it more than I can tell..." only to watch her circumscribe her great wide somewhere to the walls of the castle.
There's even a complete musical trilogy of bookish heroines whose intellectual and/or emotional adventurousness makes them outcasts from society, but whose complicated desires, which include sexual desire but also the desire to break through to a less constricting landscape, eventually collapses into desire for a man, which in all three cases, is rewarded (if you want little enough, you're allowed to have it...): Belle in Beauty and the Beast, Marion in The Music Man, and Fosca in Passion.
But I would submit that one Disney movie which frequently gets knocked as sexist actually isn't--The Little Mermaid. The Hans Christian Andersen story, though I adore it, is sexist. The movie, not so much. Yeah, Ariel gives up her voice to get her legs splayed for a man. But there's more to the story than that. First of all, Ariel is a much more transgressive character than Belle ever was. Ariel defies her father who tries to make her an adornment in the castle and to restrict her sphere of knowledge. She doesn't show up to be a showgirl; she's off exploring with her friends. Her kind of curiosity isn't merely dreamy like Belle's; she moves around, she crosses boundaries, she collects stuff not just for adornment, but with an archaeologist's thirst for knowledge. When she meets Eric, HE'S asleep and passive; she saves him from drowning. And even more important, her love for him doesn't create a conflict with her previous desire to explore; it's an extension of it. So when she gives up her voice (the voice that was used to make her an adornment in the castle, the voice that was what her father valued about her, the voice that kept her from doing the exploring that she wanted to do), she's not just giving it up for a man (and besides, she's gambling on getting it back anyway). She's giving it up to get what she always wanted even before she met Eric, to fulfill the desire that her love for Eric is merely an extension of: to see what the other half of the world is like. The Little Mermaid, unusally among Disneyesque narratives, doesn't create a conflict between sexual and intellectual fulfillment or between a woman's transgressive nature and a happy romantic future; Ariel gets to have it both ways. She never gave up a bit of what she wanted, but disobeyed, disobeyed, disobeyed until she got it. Ultimately, Triton has to watch from the water as Ariel gets married--she defied the order that said she should stick to a prescribed sphere and be an adornment in her father's castle and got to redefine her relationship with men--not rejecting sex, but working it into a totality of equality and fulfillment.
The treatment of Ursula's body, however, is problematic.
This reminded me of a conversation with a partner at my old firm:
Partner: Can you put this information on the computer somehow?
Me: Sure, you want it in a database?
Partner (very excited): Yeah, that's right -- but not just a regular database. Can you put it in, whaddaya call it, one of those searchable databases? What's the right word for a searchable database?
Me: A… database?
Partner: No, no, the searchable kind of database. Can you do that?
Me: I can put it in a database you can search.
Partner: Well, do that. But find out the right word for a searchable database.
Me: (Muttering to another associate as I leave office) What do you call a non-searchable database?
Other associate: I dunno. A big hole?
I feel it would be remiss of me not to use the expanded audience unfogged offers to pimp my radio show, so…that's what I'm going to do! Every Thursday, including tomorrow, from 6 to 9 am PST. You can listen online, IM me (or any other dj in the studio, actually) over AIM (screenname: kzsudj), peruse past playlists, and generally defer to my superior taste.
Tomorrow: Paul Rutherford! Forever Einstein! PopCanon! All this and more!
I'd like to turn away briefly from our oh-so-earnest discussions of politics, gender identity, and hiccup cures to toss out one of my favorite bar questions: what was your first concert? I ask because, in my experience, the answers are all over the map and tend to contain a high level of teh funny. I was a 13-year-old redneck with a wispy, half-assed attempt at a moustache, a face full of acne, and a pack of Marlboros that I dutifully smoked despite the waves of vertigo they produced, when I went to the Greensboro Coliseum to see The Outlaws and Blackfoot. Yee-haw, hoss! Ghost riders in the sky!
The clearest memory of the night was walking around the concourse between bands when the most intoxicated person I'd ever seen at that point in my young life stumbled about twenty feet in front of me, bouncing his head hard off the concrete floor. He struggled back to his feet, blood trickling down his forehead, threw a fist in the air and screamed at the top of his lungs, "ROCK AND ROLL! WOOOOO!" Then he collapsed again. The awesome power of southern-fried rock and roll didn't get him back to his feet that time. I was more than a little freaked out and felt the safest course of action was just to return to my seat and avoid eye contact with anybody. Which I did.
"Unless, that is, the unprofessional behavior is with one of your women producers on the phone."
Yes, yes, it's petty. But it's one funny skewering, nonetheless, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a more deserving skewee.
I'm reminded of the time when, at 15, I had occasion to be in line with my mother at the DMV to get my learner's permit (which sadly never managed to evolve into a license). Because I am foreign born, our documents to prove my identity and citizenship did not include a birth certificate, but another kind of State Department form that listed your parents' previous marriages. My mom idly asked me to hold our forms, and I started rifling through them. "Who the hell is Sandeep Punjabar?" I suddenly squealed in the middle of the DMV of our small, conservative Valley town (that's California's San Joaquin valley). Several people turned around to look. His name was listed in my mother's previous marriages box. She hushed me violently and told me she'd explain later. Even my mom has gotten married to get someone a Green Card.
Factesque is asking that people call or fax their Representatives seeking support for Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick's (R-PA) proposed amendment to extend the deadlines in the Help America Vote Act. The point is that the current deadlines are going to be impossible to meet thoughtfully, and localities all over will end up with untested, unreliable voting machines unless the deadline is extended. Like anything else that's likely to help us get more localities using voter verifiable paper ballots, this looks like a good idea. (Via Lawyers, Guns and Money.)
One of my friends' roommates recently got married. Assuming his roommate would be moving out to join his new spouse, I asked how the hunt was going for a replacement. He said that his roommate wasn't moving – the couple didn't plan on living together. Now, that just strikes me as odd. I've known married couples who lived apart because of work commitments but the situations were always temporary and the couple at least wanted to live together.
It got me thinking – in this age where governments are trying to define the institution, what really is the minimum requirement for marriage? As I look at the married couples I know, I can't think of something that absolutely all of them share. Love? Many of my coworkers are in arranged marriages. Children? I know couples who are childless by choice. Monogamy? Not necessarily. Now even the most basic (wanting to live together) is out the window.
So what makes a marriage?
This one really works, people. Really works. But you need a real-life friend to help you. You hold your nose and slowly drink an entire big glass of water as slowly as possible for as long as possible, while your friend cups his hands over your ears tightly. I consider myself to have special expertise in this department, because the abuse of narcotics makes people have the hiccups really bad! Yes, you've heard all about the itching, but what about the hiccups? You know that after a very long time (male) junkies can't get it up anymore, but did you know that for a looong time before that it's more like it just takes him 90 minutes to get off? And that the big problem for guys is that they can't pee? That engenders a lot of laffs, I'll tell you. They want to pee--but they can't! Luckily (?) as always, they don't care.
Blixa Bargeld is a dapper gent who wears three-piece suits, frequents the San Francisco farmer's market, and likes to read about the latest scientific developments in Der Spiegel.
Alone on the Internet? Hardly.
The cyberworld expands people's social networks and even encourages people to talk by phone or meet others in person, a new study finds.
The Pew Internet and American Life Project also finds that U.S. Internet users are more apt to get help on health care, financial and other decisions because they have a larger set of people to whom they can turn.
Further rebuking early studies suggesting that the Internet promotes isolation, Pew found that it ``was actually helping people maintain their communities,'' said Barry Wellman, a University of Toronto sociology professor and co-author of the Pew report.
The study found that e-mail is supplementing, not replacing, other means of contact. For example, people who e-mail most of their closest friends and relatives at least once a week are about 25 percent more likely to have weekly landline phone contact as well. The increase is even greater for cell phones.
``There's a certain seamlessness of how people maintain their social networks,'' said John Horrigan, Pew's associate director. ``They shift between face-to-face, phone and Internet quite easily.''
Meanwhile, Internet users tend to have a larger network of close and significant contacts -- a median of 37 compared with 30 for non-users -- and they are more likely to receive help from someone within that social network.
I don't know that I've ever succeeded in making a platonic friend that stuck through the internet, but it's definitely been good for my love life. It also makes it a lot easier to keep in touch with people. I'm sure some people I still keep track of would have drifted off my radar without the internet.
When I first contemplated posting, I was scared. I felt like the new girlfriend who takes up with Dad a year after Mom died and wears noxious perfume, talks really slowly to you, and says, "I could never replace your mother," as if that makes her sensitive, when the bare fact that she uttered the statement is unbearable condescension, because of course she couldn't and it didn't need to be said. But now, with LB, Apo, B-Wo, and Becks so warmly received, I feel like the salt-of-the-earth foster mother with a gold tooth and a warm heart who doesn't take none of your backtalk or bullshit but shows you for the first time that a house can be nothing fancy and still be the place you've been waiting to come home to all your life.
I'm reminded of that Ray Bradbury story (anyone remember its name or the collection it's from? Shoot, maybe it's Kurt Vonnegut) about the two space travelers who land on a planet Jesus has recently visited; it turns out Jesus spends a brief spell on every planet in the universe. One of the space travelers becomes obsessed with finding Jesus, so he embarks on an interplanetary quest to try to catch up with him. And the other is content to stay on the planet Jesus recently visited, basking in the warmth of reverence and harmony he left behind. (Which is just how it was on Earth!) Friends, I think we should be like that second space traveler.
Anyway, I have a substantive post I'm working on, but it's reaching near-Holbovian proportions and I don't want you thinking, "Son of a Kenyan goatherder, Tia, you're betraying his memory already?" (Hey! If you're looking for a movie to watch and you haven't seen Hustle and Flow, rent it so you will be better able to comment on my upcoming post!) For now I'd just like to prove that I can post something relatively brief, and note a follow-up to a news item from my now defunct personal blog.
You may remember that back in October I wrote:
Last night I learned how to cure my own hiccups, so I'm going to share the discovery in the hope that you will find my method useful. I was wracked with nerves when they came upon me, since it was during the first act of Falstaff at the Metropolitan Opera, which is just about the worst place you can get the hiccups (well, the worst case would be if you were on stage). Traumatic memories of the time in the first grade that I got hiccups during communion came flooding back to me. I went to Episcopal School, though I was a wee atheist who crossed her arms at communion; the hiccups were then another sign that I was an outsider, or that the devil was punishing me--take your pick. Mrs. Schmidt, the only other person at the school who didn't take communion, had to drag me out of the chapel. Even if I had no personal hiccups trauma, it would still really suck to have the hiccups at the Met. I really wanted to stop them, so I held my breath, and concentrated really hard on my diaphragm. I visualized it, felt it, and told it to stay still. And it worked! My hiccups went away. Just holding my breath alone has never worked for me. Later in the evening, I coughed and they came back, and I tried it again, and it still worked! So I guess it wasn't just a one-off, though I'd have to have a completely fresh case of hiccups to be sure. This has been your valuable public service for the day.
Today, I'd like to report that on four subsequent occasions in the intervening months, I've gotten the hiccups, and I've always been a little bit nervous to try the technique at first, for fear it would be exposed as a fluke, but it has worked every time. Occasionally the hiccups come back after a spell, but then I use the technique to quiet them again. I wish I knew how to describe it better than saying "hold your breath while concentrating on your diaphragm and keeping it still," but that's all I'm doing. When I visualize my diaphragm, I feel it not quite below my ribs—more at the level of the second rib up. I don't know if that's anatomically correct, but that's where I feel it. If you too have a recurring hiccup problem, maybe some yogic breathing to increase diaphragm awareness is the ticket; that's probably what taught me to control mine. I think I've demonstrated such mastery over my physical self that I ought to be made an honorary Buddhist monk; whom does one speak to about that?
P.S. How do you do block quotes?
Noel Hillman, the prosecutor in charge of the Abramoff investigation, has just stepped down: President Bush has just nominated him for a better job as a federal district judge. Now, nominations take a while to work through the system and this has probably been in process since before the Abramoff thing broke; I haven't heard anyone say that Hillman isn't a perfectly sensible choice for a federal judgeship – I have no reason, other than the obvious look of the thing, to say that anything wrong happened here. You know what, though? The obvious look of the thing is, and should be, enough to object, and it should be enough to object even if nothing wrong did happen.
Judicial rules of ethics mandate that judges avoid conduct not only that is unethical, but that gives rise to any appearance of impropriety, and that's a good thing: the actual machinations that go on when someone is behaving unethically (literal bribe-taking, for example) are easy to hide, but it's much more likely that something about the circumstances will come out in the open enough to look fishy. Given the importance of unbiased judging, and the fact that we aren't talking about criminal prosecutions where the defendant must be given the benefit of every doubt, it makes sense to prohibit judges from doing anything that looks improper regardless of whether any underlying bad acts can be proven, or even whether any exist. Litigants shouldn't have to worry about whether they can prove their judge is biased against them.
Surely the Administration should apply the same standard to its own conduct in interfering with an ongoing investigation of powerful Republicans. I simply don't care what the underlying motivations or processes by which the nomination was decided on and announced were: whether or not they were unexceptionable, the look of the thing is enough to make it wrong. I can only hope Mr. Hillman behaves differently in his career on the bench.
Update: Apostropher, the man with the internet in his back pocket, blogged this a couple of days ago.
Further update: Yuri Guri, in comments, notes that this is the second time Bush has removed a prosecutor investigating Abramoff. The last time, it killed the investigation.
Still further update: Upon being reminded in the comments, I did, of course, first see this story at Gary's place. Mea culpa, and I'll start keeping better track of where I saw things before I blog on them.
The list grows so long.
Bolstered by an appellate court ruling, Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline on Saturday said he would demand anew that all health professionals report cases of underage sexual activity. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday overturned a federal district judge's order that had blocked the state from enforcing a law requiring reports of consensual sexual activity among children under 16.
The legal dispute over reporting requirements stems from an opinion that Kline issued in 2003 about a 1982 state law. Kline said that doctors, nurses, social workers and other licensed professionals are required to report cases of sexual activity involving an adolescent under 16, even if it was consensual activity between two persons of about the same age. [...] Many young people are unlikely to seek contraception, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases or other health care if they fear being reported for sexual activity as a result of Kline's interpretation of the law, Jones said.
This is so ass backwards, I don't even know where to begin. One more indication that the Republican obsession with sex isn't just about stopping teh hott man-on-man action and enfranchising womb-babies, but is all about controlling how everybody's naughty bits are used. Remember when conservatives used to get upset about the government prying into people's private lives?
Nah, me either.
Well, brothers and sisters, as some of you have suspected, I'm hanging up my keyboard. It's been a remarkable, unforeseeable three years, but the oggedian register is exhausted, and it's time to move on. My email will still work, but there'll be no more posts or comments from me. (It's not even worth trying to convince you that this has nothing to do with resetting the TiVo, is it?)
If you'll allow me a moment of earnestness, then truly, even if most bloggers say that their lame butt commenters are the best, we all know that Unfogged has the only wizard cocksucker commenters in all of blogdom. These are dark days in the world, but somehow, thanks to all of you, this place is fun. Well done.
And thanks to Unf, who suggested that we do this, and promptly abandoned me; to Bob, for his brief but glorious career; to Magik Johnson, the commentfather; and, of course, to Fontana Labs, to whom this blog owes so much of its success and sensibility.
Then there's Alameida, to whom it owes its continued existence. She's been on a recruiting drive this past week, and because no one can say no to Alameida, please welcome the new Unfogged bloggers: Becks, Tia, the Apostropher, LizardBreath, and Ben W-lfs-n.
I think it'll be just fine.
Remember when, before ogged (whose like will never be there again) upgraded to the latest MT, if you tried to comment on a thread that was more than two weeks old, it would get held for moderation? And if it were approved, that thread would then be open again for a certain period of time, so that people could comment on it again without needing moderation? 'Member that?
Well, those days are here again. Hopefully this will cut down on the spam.
By grace of -gg-d, whom I believe to have been laid low by unwonted exertions, no matter what he claims, my station has been changed. Now, instead of posting comments to correct grammar, I'll just go in and edit comments without warning—I think it'll be better all around.
In this time of change, I think we would all do well to reflect on this cover of "Big Bottom" played by a bass clarinet quartet. Even though the melody is melancholy and reedy, it is supported by a strong, firm foundation. I think the lessons here are clear.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has surprised followers with an unusual pledge - to give up sex until after April's general election. Mr Berlusconi, 69, reportedly made the vow at a campaign rally in Sardinia with a popular local TV preacher. Father Massimiliano Pusceddu had praised him for opposing gay marriage and defending family values. In remarks quoted by Il Giornale newspaper, Fr Pusceddu promised his support, prompting the PM's comments.
"I will try to meet your expectations, and I promise from now on, two-and-a-half months of absolute sexual abstinence, until 9 April," he said.
I'm left to wonder: what demographic is impressed by a 69-year-old married guy not having sex? Still, I'll be interested to see how much his speeches suffer as the election approaches.
Also, for added contrast with LB's thoughtful post below, this. (sorta NSFW)
Testing, testing. Is this thing on? (taps mike)
This article from the Washington Post raises a subject that's bothered me for a while: the place of residence of prisoners for purposes of the Census, and therefore for legislative districting.
Since the first U.S. census in 1790, there has been a rule for keeping track of the convicts sitting in prisons: They are counted in the state and region where they are serving their time, not necessarily the place they did their crime or will call home once they are out of the joint….
In New York state, activists find what they consider the most glaring example of the distortions created by the census policy. More than 40,000 convicts from New York City, in the southern part of the state, are housed in prisons upstate. Seven state Senate districts would not qualify as districts without their prison population, according to the Prison Policy Initiative, an activist group. More worrisome, the group says, is that two politicians from those areas, Republican state Sens. Dale Volker and Michael Nozzolio, lead the committees on the legal code and crime and have been enthusiastic backers of long-standing, controversial laws that require long prison sentences for drug crimes.
I'm not sure how great the effect of this is nationwide, but in principle, it's pernicious: urban prisoners are transported to rural areas, and by their non-voting presence disproportionately inflate the electoral influence of the rural locals. Who, living in areas where prisons are a driver for the depressed local economies, have an interest in state laws that will incarcerate more people. While the original practice of counting prisoners at the location of their prisons goes back to 1790, and so doesn't reflect any intent to minimize urban political power, can anyone come up with a persuasive reason why prisoners should not now be counted, for Census purposes, at their last address before incarceration? At least it would preserve funding and political influence in the communities they're returning to.
(I should say that I was directed to this story by someone, but I don't remember who -- I wasn't expecting to blog it when I read it. My apologies to whoever I should have linked to, and I'll do better in future.) Update: While I'm still not sure where I saw it, it might easily have been Yglesias posting at TAPPED.
Oh look-- a chance for me to try my sadness-not-anger routine. It honestly surprises me that Glenn Reynolds seems to support legislation asking a state university to report on its efforts to promote "intellectual diversity."
Saying that they want to ensure that a wide range of views is heard and tolerated on college campuses, a group of state lawmakers is proposing legislation that would ask South Dakota's six state universities to report periodically on their efforts to promote "intellectual diversity."
Rep. Phyllis Heineman, R-Sioux Falls, chairwoman of the House Education Committee and the chief sponsor of HB1222, said Wednesday that the goal is to prevent situations already seen in other states where students, speakers and faculty members have been harassed because of their views.
"This is not an indictment at all," Heineman said. "For us, it is good governance."
She said there have been no such incidents on South Dakota campuses that she is aware of and that she has heard only "anecdotal" reports.
"We are just trying to be proactive and not wait for any incidents, such as the Iraq war veteran who was harassed at Columbia University," Heineman said.
Fill in the usual ridicule: "we heard about this one case once" is great, I know. But this is more a nuts-and-bolts-of-academe point. Reynolds is an academic. He knows that these efforts would be a huge pain in the ass; he knows they're easily evaded or manipulated; he knows they lead to lots of bad faith. (In other words, he can just search & replace on popular criticisms of affirmative action.) Yet he thinks it would be a great idea for a state legislature (read: the people holding the checkbook) to mess around with university hiring decisions. Oi.
Honestly, I'm willing to take the ideological-bias worries seriously. But it's hard for me to imagine that someone who's actually gone through the hiring process thinks this idea is any good at all. Maybe it's all right as long Reynolds gets his piece of the diversity action.
Sure, Dolan is a macho asshole. But guys, just introspect into whatever dark corner of your soul wants to shout "catfight" when two strong but femme-y chicks are fighting, and now just invert it such that all concave surfaces become convex, and vice versa (Oh, fine, fine, not all the surfaces.) Now you can imagine the remote, empyrean pleasure I take as these 10-th generation xerox Hemingways disembowel one another over perceived failures of authenticity. All for my enjoyment! Ten quatloos on the newcomer! Finally, all these guys are like the palest feather on your grandmother's canary's ass compared to Iceberg Slim. "Entasis". If you've read the books, you know what I'm talking about.
Sure, I could post this as a comment on the Dolan thread, but why not indulge myself a bit?
Inspired by the link, I read Dolan's follow-up to his Frey review, in which he enjoys some well-earned gloating. Good fun, this, and I'm now tempted to read Frey's book to see if it is, in fact, as completely toolish as it sounds-- which would be an astouding literary accomplishment. Check this out:
This is the most striking pattern of excision in his theft from [alleged source author Eddie] Little: Little focuses on racial hatred as the central fact of prison life; Frey invents a happy bonding lie with a black prisoner. Little insists on the truth: "[In prison] you stay with your own. Color lines are as solid as the penitentiary steel that surrounds us. You eat with, get loaded with, exercise, gamble, live and die with your own. Cross those lines and you're out of the car, roadkill."
Now guess what Frey does with Little's honest treatment of race. And remember, the key to understanding Frey is that he realized you can't lay it on too thick for an audience addicted to silly fantasies.
Well, no matter what you guessed, you probably underestimated the sheer schmaltz, the stinking cheese, of Frey's narrative. On his first day in prison, he's clobbered by a 300-pound black inmate. Yet by page 2, Frey and the hulking thug are best buds.
Every single detail of their courtship is wrong, in a very adaptive way. First, that name, "Porterhouse." The guy tells Frey he calls himself that because "he's big and juicy like a fine-ass steak." That's such utter, patronizing, Jeffersons-style blaxploitation crap that the fact not one reviewer objected to it tells you Frey was right: to be a bestseller, play it for total morons.
Frey swaggers further into patronizing fantasy when he learns that Porterhouse is illiterate. Frey spends the rest of his time in stir reading to his "big and juicy" friend, introducing the poor black man to what he considers great literature. I can't resist quoting Frey's account of the process in full: [Brace yourselves! - Ed.]
"I read slowly and clearly, taking an occasional break to drink a glass of water or smoke a cigarette. In the past twelve weeks we have worked our way through Don Quixote, Leaves of Grass, and East of Eden. We are currently reading War and Peace, which is Porterhouse's favorite. He smiled at the engagement of Andrei and Natasha. He cried when Anatole betrayed her. He cheered at the battle of Borodino, and though he admired the Russian tactics, he cursed while Moscow burned. When we're not reading, he carries War and Peace around with him. He cradles it as if it were his child. He says that if he could, he would read it again and again."
Amazing, isn't it? Just try to list the lies, treacle, and condescending bullshit in that paragraph-Porterhouse comes across as Frey's own Koko the talking gorilla. Just typing it out forces me to confront them in detail, and I realize it's impossible to blame Frey very much.
Now that strikes me as good clean fun at Frey's expense. What so annoys me about Dolan, though-- and here I agree with Weiner though it pains me to do so-- is that he falls into the very same trap of thinking that there's a special kind of authenticity or credibility available only to those who have done some very bad or dumb things, who have had a checkered past, or who are black. Remember that stomach-churning passage in On the Road where JK goes on about how awesome it would be to be black, because being white isn't enough? At one point Sal Paradise (quoted here) ends up
wishing I were a Negro, feeling that the best the white world had offered was not enough. . . . I wished I were . . . anything but what I was so drearily, a 'white man' disillusioned.
When Little describes sniffing glue in youth prison, Frey, too naive and stupid to realize Little and friends resorted to this horrible poison because nothing else but Pruno was available, simply steals the noun, and includes glue in his fake list of drugs abused-a sure sign for middleclass druggie readers like me that he was a lying fool, because nobody with access to decent drugs would touch that stuff.
Do you get the feeling that Frey's sin, in Dolan's eyes, is not being bad-assed enough? As if it would have been much better if only he'd done more drugs, actually endured more horrible experiences, been tough-for-real instead of tough-for-play? And this is just to buy into the most colossal bullshit of all, viz. that doing these things earns you some kind of magisterial karmic authority. After all, Little, the real tough guy of our story, had the good sense to go out all gansta-n-shit:
....Eddie Little, who died the authentic way, OD'd in a cheap hotel.
Many of us-- me included, no doubt-- buy into this at some level. (An evangelical friend once told me she was a little bit envious of those people who had converted after a misspent youth because they had more dramatic stories of pre-Christian sin. I'm like that, only with black.) But we shouldn't.
Fontana Labs: bland and proud.
Hey, you guys? You want to know something really funny?
I used to be a heroin addict! Ha, ha. No, really. For a long time! Six years! Yep, and if you want to know what's really fun, it damn sure ain't glue, which I first tried in the 4th grade. Nope, see, right before I quit doing H my big thing was to a) take 2 hits of x, b) have 2 sapphire martinis with extra olives, and c) shoot up a fat speedball in the bathroom of some SF club. (Jeez, wouldn't you puke your guts up right away, ask some educated readers? Yes.) Sometimes people who know about my past ask if it really feels good to do heroin. Jesus Christ, people, what the fuck do you think? It's a lot better than great sex, obviously. This September I will have been clean for 10 years. Except for the drinking and prescription drugs, of course. Ha ha. You know what else? I am totally fucking serious about this. I also promise never to write a lame memoir, ever. You guys can call me on that anytime.
Just browse through these book reviews by John Dolan for eXile. You have never read such a venomous mass of sustained, cutting, hideously accurate bitchery in your whole life. It's just beautiful. I was led to it from this CT comments thread on plagiarist James Frey; how did Dolan originally review the book, you wonder? Did he say "fuck the bullshit"? Take it away:
Frey makes his bones on the mean corridors of his clinic by going through painful reconstructive dentistry without anaesthetic. Because he's an addict, he can't even have local anaesthetic (or so he claims). He goes through about 30 pages of what he calls, in his inimitable style, "Pain pain pain pain pain" in the dentist's chair. He then totters back to his room unaided. After that, he is the baddest dude in the whole private clinic. He wins the respect of the very baddest of his fellow inmates, who become his best friends.
Guess who his new friends are. Go ahead, guess! I'll give you a hint: just pick the most ludicrous cliches in American TV aimed at pubescent male audiences. Forget about subtlety. Imagine this novel was a screenplay by the dumb brother in Adaptation. Who would he pick for the hero's friends?
Well, here are the guys who became Frey's pals: Leonard, a highly-placed Mafia killer from Vegas; Matty, a black former world champion boxer; Miles, a black Federal judge from New Orleans who plays the clarinet.
There they are, the most childish dreams of every little rich white boy: being down with the brothers and the Mafia. The tough guys. The Jazzmen. Having friends with connections in those two equally artificial cities, Vegas and New Orleans.
Was James Frey ever a junkie? The more I look into this fraud, the more cunning fakery I find. Thanks to a book loaned to me by a friend, I now think Frey stole all the drug details he put in his hit novel, A Million Little Pieces. If he went to rehab, I'm betting it was for good ol' booze, with maybe a cocaine chaser.
As for the absurd cornucopia of drugs he lists on his bad-boy CV in AMLP-well, I suspect that is simply a lie. Frey doesn't even know any better than to include "glue" in his list. A rich boy like him using glue?
That's just a lie. Nobody but the very dregs of the dregs uses that poison, except perhaps masochists with a yen for violent nausea and headaches. If Frey's faking his past, then his role in reinforcing drug-user stereotypes, providing the rubes with new proof that drugs equal addiction equal death, is even sleazier than if he was just a junkie peddling streety anecdotes.
Frey got those anecdotes the no-risk way: he stole them from a real druggie/criminal author. A much better and more honest one, a guy named Eddie Little-specifically, Frey looted Little's great debut novel, Another Day in Paradise.
Just browse through the other reviews to see unrepentant Tories ass-raped, would-be noble anti-Communists blasted with the white heat of moral clarity, and an awesome two-fer of both stupid Mormons and Jon Krakauer being violated with an icicle. Damn. I would invite this guy to post on unfogged, but I'm totally scared of him. Let's all admire from afar.