Friday, June 30, 2006

Letting the Inmates Run the Asylum

I've been thinking about this post by Jill all day, in which she goes after the mainstream media, though not in the way Republicans usually do, naturally:

The mainstream media (I abhor that term enough, and certainly will not say “MSM,” sorry) prides itself on objectivity. I’m not sure that any credible journalist would claim that she is unbiased, but she will almost definitely assert that she tries to make her stories as fair as possible by preventing both sides of an issue. And while this sounds good in theory, it ignores the fact that often, “both sides” aren’t equally honest, equally credible, or equally supported.

One example: Abortion clinic bombings and murders of doctors. When these were especially popular among the “pro-life” crowd,there were several news shows which dedicated episodes to discussing them. So they’d bring, say, Gloria Feldt on to represent the pro-choice side, and pair her with some right-wing anti-choice wackjob who would often defend bombings and violent tactics, or at the very least derail the conversation while quietly standing up for the bombers, arsonists and murderers. Because, hey, that’s “both sides of the story.”

Right. And I don't think it's limited to the mainstream media, this obsession with being fair-n-balanced; I saw something of a similar sort in an intelligent design debate on a right-wing blog several months ago. The central point the anti-ID people were making--that, however enamored one might be of intelligent design, it shouldn't be taught in science classes because it literally isn't science--kept being rebutted by the pro-ID people with, essentially, chastisement to the anti-IDers to "be more open-minded." Look, I can be very open-minded. I can be so open-minded that I believe 1 = 0, but that doesn't make it any more so in fact. There's some truth to the stale old saw that it's possible to be so open-minded your brain falls out.

Likewise, it's possible for the news media to be so fair and balanced that they shift the perception of what constitutes "the middle" one direction or another. As someone who thinks she's kind of in the middle, yet is often told both that she's obviously a wingnut and clearly a deranged leftist, this phenomenon bothers me.

I have a couple of quibbles with Jill's post, but they're just that, quibbles. Minor stuff. Let me get them out of the way now so I can get back to the main point. It's a couple of things in this paragraph here:

Imagine what the outrage would be if, in discussing September 11th, network news brought out a supporter of Osama bin Laden argue with any reasonable American that the 9/11 attacks were necessary and justified. It would be outrageous, and unnecessary — the “other side” of that story doesn’t even merit acknowledgment. And when some wackjob does defend it (see Ward Churchill), his views are quickly taken to task by the media elite and conservatives alike. But when it comes to mainstream conservative issues — abortion, “treason,” etc — they demand to have the greatest wackjob possible represented.

Personally, I'd rather the network news HAD brought out a jihadist to argue with any reasonable American after September 11. That would have beat tar out of what they did instead: Running those vile Osama tapes over and over. Besides, any reasonable American confronted with an OBL fan on September 12 would have kicked that fan's ass six ways to Sunday, and that is a news hour I could get behind.

But okay, I know, that wasn't Jill's point. I just get easily sidetracked sometimes.

No, what I'm mainly not understanding is "they demand to have the greatest wackjob possible represented." When first I read that, I took "they" to mean "conservatives," though on re-reading it I'm wondering if "they" rather means "the media." If it's the latter, all I can do is acknowledge that Jill's identified the chief irritation right-wingers experience when watching the news.

The news almost never puts the kinda-sorta-wingnut on camera, not when it'd be so much more controversial, so much more must-see TV, to put on the totally-batshit-crazy wingnut. This sucks for the right-leaning news viewers because it only encourages their liberal friends to call them up afterwards shrieking, "How can you stand to be associated with people like this?!?"--as though every Republican has Jerry Falwell on speed dial and regularly lunches with Ann Coulter. Oh, and John Derbyshire is over every other weekend to tutor the kids in the hating of teh gay.

Getting back, though, to the part I agree with:

Now, we see right-wing pundits calling for the heads of a handful of brave journalits who risked quite a bit, personally and professionally, to give the American public a little taste of the truth. We see the New York Times being called “terrorist-tippers” (What about the Wall Street Journal, guys?), and one right-wing pundit called for the Times to stand in front of a “firing squad.” And we see these people being taken seriously, and presented as “one side” of the story.

Personally, I'm having a hard time reconciling notions like strict constructionism, the "dead Constitution," and, especially, limited government, with some of the venom being flung at the New York Times right now.

And the hell of it for me is, guess what? I don't think they should have run the story. I think the Times' defense that the terrorists knew all about Swift anyway doesn't explain why one of the nation's leading papers ran a story all about Swift on the front page. Either it's news or it isn't, Timesters; make up your minds. I think defense of the Times' decision to publish further falls apart when you consider that (1) despite this information being available on the internet as early as 2002, the Bali bombers apparently weren't aware of the program, the use of which helped bring about their capture, and (2) the Times sang quite a different tune on September 14, when they urged the administration to shut down the financial networks used by terrorists. Basically what I get from Keller's letter is that this program was News in the sense that the people have a right to know, but Not News in the sense that the terrorists knew about it already; that it was of Questionable Legality now but Direly Important on September 14; that it was a Secret Program with great potential for abuse, but that revealing that secret is Totally Not Harmful to antiterror efforts. In other words, I get contradictions and incoherence, all served with a generous side of martyrdom.

That doesn't mean I'm going to give a hearty thumbs-up to the suggestion we prosecute the Times for fucking treason.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Meryl Saves the Day

Meryl alleviated my writer's block by sending me a link to this Slate piece. It's a survey of various famous and not-so-famous people, asking them which movies they've seen the most number of times.

I'm gonna fast-forward through most of the article (though, someone explain to me sometime why I should care which movie is a Farrelly brother's favorite; dude, you're a Farrelly brother! I could just ask my dad which Pauly Shore movie is his favorite* and be every bit as impressed with the answer) and get to the part Meryl mentioned, the part in which Slate's own movie critic, Dana Stevens, raves about the movie she's seen the most. Sit down and have an air sickness bag handy. Do not, I repeat, do NOT be eating lunch:

Leaving out the movies everyone's seen countless times (The Wizard of Oz, Citizen Kane, It's a Wonderful Life), my candidate would have to be Nagisa Oshima's erotic drama In the Realm of the Senses, which I've watched, in theaters and on home video, probably 10 times over a period of 15 years. In my early 20s I had an unfortunate habit of dragging prospective suitors to this movie, as some kind of litmus test of their cinematic stamina. Given that the film culminates (SPOILER ALERT) in a famously graphic scene of castration, it's no wonder so few of those guys called me back.

Don't you love people who put the [SPOILER ALERT] tag directly before the actual spoiler? I don't know about you, but I read pretty fast, and by the time I get to that tag I'm already previewing what follows it. I'd rather people put the spoiler alert a couple lines above the paragraph in which they divulge the spoiler.

I'd be more upset about this abuse of the spoiler tag, except--WOW. WHAT A SPOILER. Actually, come to think of it, Dana, you could have left that tag out entirely. I believe you had a civic duty to let us all know about that spoiler. And now that you have, I can safely assert that I will not be adding In the Realm of the Senses to the Netflix queue anytime soon.

Me: Oh, I meant to tell you, I've reordered the queue. Next up is In the Realm of the Senses.

Boyfriend: Which one's that?

Me: It's that Japanese film that culminates in a famously graphic scene of castration.

Boyfriend: That what?

Me: Seriously. It's art!

Boyfriend: Okay, FINE, you can put Fried Green Tomatoes back in the queue.

Me: What?

Boyfriend: That's what this is about, isn't it? You're still pissed at me for taking that out. So now you're making me choose between Fried Green Tomatoes and something much, much worse than Fried Green Tomatoes. I get it. You win. We'll watch Fried Green Tomatoes.

Me: No, no, to hell with Fried Green Tomatoes. In fact I'd forgot all about that. I just think we need--I mean we as a couple--for the good of the relationship, I think what we need is to watch an erotic Japanese film that culminates in a famously graphic scene of castration.

Boyfriend: I disagree. I think what we need as a couple is to break up.

File under "Purely Imaginary Conversations My Boyfriend and I Will Never Actually Have."

Anyway, this Slate piece is great. I couldn't be more pleased to have found it. Because now, the next time some antifeminist gets on me about my hateful man-hatred, and how my all-consuming hatred of masculinity obviously makes me want to do hateful things to men's horrible hateable man parts, I can politely remind my critic that, no, he or she wants Dana Stevens. "You know, Dana Stevens?" I'll ask. "Writes movie reviews for Slate, can use 'erotic' and 'castration' in the same paragraph, yet remains free to roam the aisles of Williams-Sonoma stores unsupervised? Yeah, her. Listen, go shopping for cutlery with Dana and then come back and tell me how much I hate men, pal."

Good grief.

The best part of Stevens' endorsement (and here I'm stealing from Meryl's email to me, because she was absolutely right about this) is that it only gets creepier the more you read of it:

I was not only floored by the film's formal perfection and beauty, but fascinated (and, let's face it, turned on) by the way it captures the centripetal logic of obsession, spiraling toward an ending that's both squalid and deeply romantic. My apologies to all the guys I freaked out (I can think of at least one who's probably still cowering in the men's room of a movie theater in Paris), but I don't think I could love anyone who didn't love this movie.



I just--

I mean, hell, what do you add to this, really? I don't get this. I mean, not even a little bit. See, because I would be extremely apprehensive about dating a guy who did love this movie. I would suspect he had a little unresolved self-loathing to work through, and I would recall that people who are that down on themselves are seldom able to be "up" for anyone else, including me, and, okay, he really loves this movie that pairs sharp objects with genitalia and HOW IS THAT A GOOD THING? How? "Deeply romantic?" What? Huh?

I just don't get it.

Anyway, thanks, Meryl! I suddenly feel a lot less stupid for loving Urban Cowboy. The castration count in that one, at least, is a healthy, respectable zero.

UPDATE: I propose a carrot-based rating system:

*I'm kidding. I already know it's Son-in-Law.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Tribute (I Have No Taste in Music)

"Tribute (Right On)" is a little song from the late 1980s by a group called The Pasadenas that I suddenly half-recalled from my younger years at the so-convenient hour of 3:00 this morning. Unfortunately, when I say "half-recalled" I really mean more like "could sing a couple lines from the chorus." I did not remember the band's name, nor even the full name of the song--I knew "right on" was in there somewhere, maybe even in parentheses, but what was the first part?

Search engines are very handy things that I could no longer live without for long, but I'll know technology has really come a long way when I can just sing a couple lines of the song at the monitor and have it turn up what I want. There is currently no way to do this on Google. I know. I tried. But wouldn't it be nice if there were?

Me, possibly inebriated: Hey! Hey, Google?

Google: Yes?

Me: You remember that one song?

Google: Please narrow your search terms.

Me: That one song, it was like, about Motown . . . and Philly soul . . . and it was all, "Right on, right on"--

Google: Please narrow your search terms.

Me: It went something like, "Ike and Tina (right on, right on) - Aretha Franklin (right on, right on)"

Google: Searching . . . .

Me: "And the Jackson Five--"


Me: Sorry. Anyway, you remember that song? Came out about . . . oh, let's see . . . I remember the video and I'm pretty sure I was still living at home at the time, but I think I was out of high school already--or, wait, no, maybe I was still--


Me: Yeah, that's it! Thanks, Google!

Anyway, they don't have this song on iTunes. And according to at least one reviewer, it's not even that great a song. It is

a decent if rather generic uptempo cut that paid homage to soul luminaries such as Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye.

"Rather generic?" I was all set to get angry about that when I remembered that former Mormon girls who still listen to Andy Gibb necessarily abandon all claim to knowing anything about music, number one, and number two, what's lower than a music critic?--The outraged fan who criticizes the music critic. I believe the hierarchy goes something like this:
  • Pond scum
  • Music critics
  • Outraged fans who pile on music critics
  • Poseur Mormon girls who think they are very punk rock for stealing their mothers' wedding skirts and spending their free time writing several-page letters to the editors of Creem magazine, demanding they personally apologize to Joe Strummer for pissing him off.

Anyway, scroll down here for the video to the song "Tribute (Right On)" by the Pasadenas. I know none of you asked for this, but I'm a giver. I should warn you, the video contains toxic levels of 80s-ness. I mean it really didn't age well. I mean there were times during my attempt to watch it that I actually had to look away. And I did it all dramatically, too, with one hand over my eyes and a faint moan of distress.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Hazy Shade of Summer

(But yes! We continue the Bangles theme!)

In, I don't quite remember--the summer of 2002? 2003?--the boyfriend and I took a trip to Phoenix for the hell of it, driving from Dallas. In case you're all "why on earth would you visit Phoenix in the summer?" let me explain that there were two reasons: (1) I can stand the heat and (2) Phoenix has unbelievably cheap summer resort prices. But that is not the point of this reminiscence.

We stopped on the way there in the town of Pecos, Texas, for all the usual things you need when driving, gas and ice and restrooms. As we were approaching the gas station, I looked out at all the dust swirling around and thought, "Hey, neat! A dust storm," because Phoenix has dust storms and really, I kind of like them.

Or so I thought.

It turned out what Phoenix has is mild, brief, gentle flurries of dust on occasion. What Pecos was undergoing could more accurately be termed a blizzard of dust. Dust slammed into my eyes the moment we exited the car. You know what the difference between being blasted in the face with snow and being blasted in the face with dust is? Snow MELTS.

It also turned out not to matter that I spent my first five minutes in Pecos doubled over, wincing with pain, and squeezing my eyes shut, because once I got them open again I realized vision was optional here--you couldn't see a damned thing anyhow. What fog is to London, dust was to Pecos.

We didn't stay long.

If you're an aspiring filmmaker looking to shoot a post-apocalyptic sci-fi action adventure somewhere in the United States, may I recommend Pecos, Texas? Although I think you should know beforehand, it's a little fucking dusty there.

When I began making plans to move here, I had to hear about dust all over again. "It's really windy there in the spring," my boyfriend warned me. "Real windy. And you know, there's a lot of dust there, so--"

"Right," I said, unfazed, "Dust storms."

"The wind gets up to 30, 40 miles an hour some days in the spring. I remember, I'd be trying to walk to class, and--" And I'd tune out yet another story from my boyfriend's undergraduate years, because I'm a rude listener and I bore easily and also, he'd told me all this about the dust and the wind 4,000 times already.

I survived the spring with few complaints. Sure, you could probably fill a sandbag or two with all the particles I inhaled, but I'm still here, I'm still breathing, and the house is almost clean again. I mean, it was almost clean again. Today we've got unusually high winds stirring up the usual astonishing allotment of dust and, on top of that, smoke's blowing in from the Gila National Forest fire. I was going to take a picture of it for you, but then I realized you probably already know what light-brown looks like.

You can't even see the Organs today, and the Organs are over 11,000 feet high. You don't just lose peaks like that without first swirling around multiple, entire stadiums worth of dust and smoke.

I'm not complaining. I'm just saying maybe, maybe I owe the citizens of Pecos, Texas an apology.


Meryl writes about her father:

We did right by him, my brothers and me. That’s the ghost that hung in the air between us from February, when Dad called to tell me he was dying, until June, when the ALS reached his lungs and stopped his breathing. I knew it, Dave knew it, Eric knew it, and Dad knew it: We did right by him as his children, even though he didn’t do right by us as our father. He kept asking, “I did all right, didn’t I? I wasn’t perfect, but I was okay.” Sure, we’d tell him. You were a good father. It was only when we weren’t around him that we shook our heads in disbelief at the way a man can lie to himself.

Read the whole incredible thing--particularly if you've ever had to put on a brave face and tell a parent who needed to hear it that they "did all right," even if maybe they didn't.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Everything's Better with Bangles

My goodness, I wish I had a single thing to add to this, but I don't. Every nail's been thoroughly pounded, every joint seamlessly aligned, every surface smoothly sanded--and just look at that finish:

If Darwin and Henry Higgins were thrown in a cage pit and ordered to fight to the death, Darwin would win easily. This is because Henry Higgins was never actually alive. In fact, he’s a character in a musical, a genre generally unconcerned with the deeper philosophical issues. One could even say he’s a right bastard character in a musical, a pouty, self-obsessed elitist who should rankle the audience right up until he learns his lesson. Which he does.
But I admit I am a fraud and a liar: It isn't the evisceration of Hoff Sommers that prompts me to link this post. No! No, it's the gleeful abandon with which jokes pretending to confuse Christina with the former Bangles lead singer are thrown around within it that make my linking to this post mandatory. Because in my world, as you probably already know, these jokes never, ever get old. They are lit with An Eternal Flame.

Deaf and Dumb (I'm the Dumb Part)

I've just got to ask:

You ever have someone all but hand you an engraved invitation to tell him something, something you've been subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, trying to get across to him for years? Something you've commiserated with mutual friends about, something that is, in fact, the single most alienating attribute of the fella, bar none, by overwhelming agreement?

And you think maybe you should, in light of recent remarks, seize the opportunity to mention it, maybe a little less subtly this time; but you don't because, fact is, the dude doesn't want to hear it? Is, in fact so obstinately determined not to hear it that if you try to tell him, he's only going to whip it right back around on you? With a vengeance?

But you're kind of depressed about it all the same, because you also know something potentially good is getting lost by you keeping your mouth shut? Plus, why should you shield him from what you really think? Isn't that low, dishonest, and despicable? But then again to hell with it, because why should you waste the time on someone who has so consistently and determinedly displayed this shitty an attitude towards people? Isn't this really a "says more about him than you" thing anyway?

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes.

(Note: Assume nothing based on the gender of the pronouns used in this post. The man and I are just fine, thank you.)

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

What the HELL Dallas

You know, if all I'd seen of that game was the fourth quarter, I'd have sworn to you I was watching a team that did not actually know how to play basketball.

Do not even start me on that bullshit foul on Nowitzki. I'm not whining about that because ultimately, that wasn't what did it. They went from a team that makes shots to a team that doesn't make shots and the fourth quarter is not the fucking time to do that. Where've I seen this kind of thing before?

Never mind. Don't answer that.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Well, Here We Are

Gack, this TEMPLATE.

But let's look on the bright side: It surely is a whole lot less pink, huh?