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January 19, 2007 - January 12, 2007

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Worst Actress Ever

Marg Helgenberger

UNTOUCHABLE. I have a friend who calls a halt to movies with the commandment, "Stop! Send [blank] to acting school." It usually works; that is, we can forgive the awfulness that ensues because there is no acting school intervention.

Not in this case, though. Marg Helgenberger is the worst actress who ever lived. They could stop the filming of CSI for 10 years and all that would happen is the continued unattractive aging of Marg. She wouldn't, couldn't learn one thing about doing a scene.

I'm personally convinced that the writers of CSI know this and are exacting a hideous long-term revenge. Not only does every episode feature a different hairdo for the Breasted One, but also a completely different personality. Sometimes she's a strait-laced single mommy, sometimes she's a castrating, feministic avenger, sometimes she's a conniving, seductive slut, sometimes she's a graduate of the joint PhD program offered by Harvard's Law School and Medical School, sometimes she's the anguished bastard daughter of a mobbed-up casino boss, sometimes she's an over-the-hill-and-regretting-it stripper, sometimes she's a ruthless politico in the very small world of Las Vegas criminalists, sometimes she's an uptight midwestern school marm who can't stand the sight of raped, decapitated prostitutes, and sometimes she's a porn star who -- oh so ruefully -- missed her calling. What she never is is convincing. Which is absolutely miraculous. Marg Helgenberger is at least one of the characters her writers keep writing for her, but she comes across as a blatant fraud in every single permutation they pen for her.

I think that's their fun. The only way they can live with the most totally incompetent bimbo who ever made millions of dollars pretending to be an actress.

It's not my intention to be mean here. I just can't help it. She's that bad. I hate myself for having to put all this crap on the record, because I'm sure that underneath all the lack of talent she's probably a nice person. That's why I'll try to redeem myself by suggesting an acting direction that just might work. All you TV directors take note. It's in a separate file that's definitely NSFW, but it's the only advice I can offer.

I like William Peterson a lot, I think the new temporary guy is talented as hell, and I can overlook most of everything else -- including the chick who thinks she's Clint Eastwood but isn't, the blue-eyed black guy who's hotter than a freeze-dried geek, the gay guy who has more different hair-dos than Marg, and the midget cop who really should have been killed off last season. Scratch that. I can't overlook the midget cop. He's almost as bad as Marg. Why are we supposed to like him? He's as dumb as a loaf of bread. His own daughter hates him. He bullies every single suspect, innocent or guilty, as if he were, well, Clint Eastwood. Which he isn't either, And he constantly evinces the arrogance of a buffoon manager who knows that his brilliant underlings are always going to make him look good no matter what he does. He should have been killed off in the pilot. In a compromising situation with Marg. Involving full frontal nudity. But that's just my opinion.

Okay. It's off my chest now. I apologize. InstaPunk should be superior to all this. But we just aren't.

UPDATE. For those of you who don't check the comments, I'd hate for you to miss a hilarious tribute to another overrated CSI superstar. While Lake overlooked the fact that my citation was for Worst Actress, not Actor, his is still a point well taken. It's pretty hard to get worse than this:

How many minutes did you last?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The New Age of Tolerance

NOT SO TOLERANT TODAY: (clockwise from upper left) Dennis Kucinich,
Duke provost Peter Lange, Heidi Cullen of the Weather Channel, Senate
Majority Leader Harry Reid, and media megastar Keith Olbermann.

THE ULTRA-SECRET TRUTH. The Democrats have been in the majority for only a couple of weeks now, and yet we can already observe the liberal passion for tolerance at work on the national stage. Dennis Kucinich wants to silence conservative talk radio by resurrecting the "Fairness Doctrine." Duke University Provost Peter Lange is of two minds about free speech because bloggers and emailers  insulted the Duke faculty members who solicited campus lynching parties for the accused Lacrosse players. The Weather Channel's Heidi Cullen has proposed "decertifying" all TV weatherman who express public skepticism about Global Warming. Senator Harry Reid tried every low trick in the book to defeat an amendment to the Senate's ethics bill for the purpose of requiring disclosure of  the names of senators sponsoring earmarks. And Keith Olbermann thinks 24 should be taken off the air because it constitutes "naked brainwashing" by evil, fear-mongering neo-cons. (Assorted hat tips to Instapundit, Protein Wisdom, Ace of Spades, La Shawn Barber, Neal Boortz, and Drudge.)

I thought it was Democrats who were the great champions of free speech and full disclosure and the wisdom of ordinary Americans in making up their own minds. No, I didn't really think that, but a lot of you out there do think it, or have convinced yourselves of it, or are lying through your teeth about it. What I'd really like to see is the argument that reconciles all these positions with the repeated claim that liberals have a monopoly on tolerance.

Granted, not all these infractions of the liberal faith are created equal. Harry Reid is not so much intolerant as corrupt. He really thinks freedom of action begins and ends with the majority, no matter how slender.  Keith Olbermann is merely a roman candle of rage, a set of hysterical positions unalloyed to principle. The others are somewhat more interesting and various in their sins against the original (and long lost) liberal tradition.

Heidi Cullen's desire to silence scientific opponents is frankly Stalinist, the more egregiously because she is supposedly a scientist herself, committed to data, reason, and analysis rather than power politics. Compared to such flagrant abuse of professional standards, Kucinich's quest to stamp out the Rush Limbaughs and Sean Hannitys of the world is probably as muddle-headed as it is hypocritical, because liberals have always had tremendous difficulty differentiating the concepts of fairness and freedom. They tend to believe that freedom is inherently unfair and can only flourish when fairness is imposed from above, a priori, by the right sort of people, whereas conservatives tend to believe that freedom promotes fairness as long as no one has the power to rig the rules of competition. In the Kucinich view, the fact that conservatives dominate the AM dial is ipso facto proof that the radio business is unfair. He wants to redress the balance. That his preferred means of doing so constitute censorship is invisible to him. He's so right that there's simply no way he can be wrong.

This is a poor relation to the more grandiloquent posturing we encounter in Peter Lange's epistle on behalf of the Group of 88. He goes out of his way to defend freedom of speech. He says, at various points:

Free speech must continue to be vigorously defended... Regulatory measures—other than individual, self-regulatory ones—are to be excluded.

But he's also genuinely bewildered that so much anger would be freely expressed against faculty members who chose to participate in the suppression of constitutional rights for criminal defendants purely on the basis of race.

When the events of the spring unfolded we witnessed an unimagined intensity of vituperative language and distasteful and deeply hurtful caricatures of Duke students, our campus and its culture, our Durham community and our relationship to our neighbors in the city. The wave of attacks lasted for weeks in the media, on the emails and in the blogs. It was deeply disturbing, in many ways for our students, faculty and whole community. It inflamed and polarized rhetoric on our campus as well. Over the months and with the unfolding of events, these types of attacks have subsided.

Meanwhile some of our faculty, primarily African-American but not only so, have been under repeated attacks in personal emails and in blogs.

When he attempts to apply his massive intellect to the source of his bewilderment, the blogs, his rhetoric becomes as laughable as an ad for Miller Light ("tastes great. No; less filling.") or Certs ("It's a candy mint. No; it's a breath mint."). His own moral universe is so rigid and self-satisfied that he is unable to comprehend duality. He says, for example (and I have elided his argument here somewhat, so by all means read the original to ensure I haven't distorted it):

As we all are aware blogs and email have “democratized” communication; anyone with access to a computer can get in the game as writer or spectator. In many ways this is a very good thing, for it reduces the elitism of “publication” and the control of opinion by opinion “sellers”...

This is a condition of our era...

And here my first concern. I do not believe the extreme of this condition is productive of the best virtues of free speech. It can come to inhibit speaking freely or leave free speech on controversial issues too much to the thick-skinned or insensitive. The virtues of free speech are that it...  improves the quality of our private and public life and, at times, the quality of public policy.

Yet if the entry barriers to speaking freely are raised too high by the fear of public retribution and vilification, are we not in danger that some of the virtues of freedom of speech will be diminished without commensurate gain?...

Any reading of the rhetoric, and of the blogger and email traffic, on all sides of the lacrosse case, however, makes clear that at many times such self-awareness, not to speak of self-restraint, has given way to a speech intended not to clarify but to embarrass, punish, demean or humiliate...

My second concern is the way public discussion in the blogs and emails often moved from characterizations of what faculty have said or are alleged to have said to attacks on their persons, on their motives and even to hateful personal, threatening or racist rants....

Worthy of special mention – because they are so distasteful and beyond any form of acceptable speech - are the emails that I have seen in recent months which are nothing more, or less, than the anonymous racist – personally vilifying - rants sent primarily but not only to African American faculty members. Faculty members, like all of us, are responsible for what they say and must be prepared for the consequences of speaking freely. However, the rhetoric of these emails...are profoundly disturbing and sometimes debilitating to those who receive them.

But, what does it do to our community when a subset of its members is singled out by their race, or any other quality other than the quality of their thinking, for speaking up?

Let's stop there. With all his hemming and hawing, Lange has completely forgotten that all the bile he objects to was precipitated by Duke University's own despicable role in allowing "a subset of its members [to be] singled out by their race." Because the rhetoric employed by the Group of 88 was packed with loaded euphemisms rather than four-letter words, it's somehow more defensible even if its consequence is life in prison for four innocents rather than hurt feelings for 88 ideologues?

While he dances frantically back and forth from less filling to great taste, breath mint to candy mint, Lange can't stop his skirt from blowing up to reveal the gigantic snobbery that perverts the entire liberal concept of equality. Forced to accept the basic principle of freedom of speech, elitist liberals nevertheless share a profound esthetic revulsion -- amounting to a moral position -- against the use of this principle by unfashionable people espousing unfashionable ideas. And they, of course, are the arbiters of fashion, which they confuse with truth.

It's unspeakable that foul-mouthed rednecks should have the temerity, and the access, to level personal attacks against members of the Duke faculty (fah'-kool-tih). Yes, we have to allow it, but it's so absolutely uncouth and unbearable that it simply must be wrong in some deep incontrovertible way. And yet our only recourse is to respond to our tormentors with what is, in essence, a long-winded and circumlocutory squeal of pain. There, there, Peter. Have a glass of sauterne or someting.

Oddly enough, the superficiality of Lange's discussion illuminates the other examples of liberal repressiveness mentioned above. They're mostly tantrums by offended fashionistas. Not to believe in Global Warming, irrespective of the facts, is just gauche, and the offenders should be sent to stand in the corner until they know how to behave. Ditto with conservative talk radio hosts. It's so rude of them to keep saying such awful things about their betters, because everybody who is anybody knows that they're flat wrong about everything, which is one more sign of how ill-bred they are and why they don't belong in polite company.

When fashion enters the discussion, there's no more room for principle, as poets from antiquity through the Age of Enlightenment have always known. Degustibus non disputandum est, don't you know? Chaque a son gout, n'est-ce pas?

That's why the libs are powerless to detect their own hypocrisy on such matters. Can they do any real damage? Perhaps. But I'm not as worried as Boortz is. If Kucinich (and Pelosi and Reid) manage to kill AM radio, AM radio will be reborn on the internet, and the blogs and bloggers will continue to proliferate and develop even more potent weapons of free self expression. Eventually, even university faculties will lose their power to dictate fashion, because they are already last year's Paris runway flop, and sooner or later, the racks at Sears will reflect that fact.

UPDATE. Dave Hardy at Arms and the Law has just posted an item about Harry Reid (h/t InstaPundit). Apparently he's proposing a bill requiring the registration of all bloggers who comment on politics and have more than 500 readers. Failure to register would be a crime. There's freedom of speech for you. Won't Peter Lange be happy?

Au Revoir, M. Buchwald.

A Richard Avedon photograph of Art Buchwald (center) with Audrey
Hepburn, Simone, and other luminaries at Maxim's in Paris, circa 1959.

VIVE LA FRANCE. Art Buchwald has died. I'll leave it to others to eulogize him, because I never much cottoned to the political satire that earned him most of his American fans. But I do want to thank him for what I believe may have been his greater, though less explored, talent as a humorist. Back in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he was stationed in Paris with the International Herald Tribune, and while there he wrote an incredibly warm and funny series of columns about living in Paris as an American. These were collected into a book called How Much is That in Dollars?

My father was transferred to Paris for a year on a business assignment in 1963, and our small family of four had only a few months in which to prepare for the transition -- constant French lessons, a host of shots, Michelin guides, maps, packing, etc. But the best orientation I received for the world I would be encountering was Art Buchwald's book, purchased at the American Drugstore on the Champs Elysee by my dad and then passed hand to hand in our household. It was simultaneously funny, engaging, educational, and glamorous, and it conveyed a precise sense of how one should go about being an American in Paris in those years of post-war American ascendance and French ambivalence.

After everyone else had read it, I latched onto it and took it with me to France, where I never stopped reading and rereading it. I loved its wry wit, which managed to appreciate all things French without ever losing the uniquely American understanding that we don't have to stand on dignity to preserve our dignity. Our unfailing shield is our ability to laugh at ourselves, even in places where no one else can. It wasn't until years later that I stumbled upon Mark Twain's Innocents Abroad, and when I did, my first reaction to it was, "My goodness. Twain was a 19th century Buchwald."

I'm sure the exaggerated impact the book had on me because of its intimate relation to my own experience impaired my ability to appreciate Buchwald as a topical political satirist. When I returned home, I sought out his columns and was routinely disappointed. They seemed formulaic, contrived, and only occasionally imbued with the rich humor he had shown in France.

I know that I'm wrong about all these detractions, because every personal comment I've ever read about him attests to exactly the same fine human qualities I saw in the Paris book. And I insist that it's a shame this small gem has fallen out of print. (Here's the best I can do in finding it for you.) I'll stop right there, though, because I've said all I'm qualified to say. Except this:

Merci bien, et bon voyage, M. L'Americain.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Guerilla TV

Who needs this kind of crap? Did you see Jack Nicholson's trick? Cool.

MECCA. Anyone see the Golden Globes last night? I loved the segment where they gave some kind of lifetime achievement award to the horniest old coot in Hollywood, Warren Beatty. The tribute included extended clips from his celebration of communism called Reds, and then he accepted the honor in his usual rambling, incoherent style. An aged pretty boy is not a pretty thing to watch, especially when he thinks he's being humble on national TV for t-w-e-n-t-y endless minutes. The best part,  though, was the way the director kept intercutting between Warren on stage and Jack Nicholson in the audience, who was laughing and laughing and laughing inside a costume that consisted of a tuxedo, sunglasses, and a nineteen year-old girl. We all just loved it. It's so cool that pedophilia is socially acceptable when it's committed by a bloated old movie star. But here's the kicker. Not once did Warren Beatty actually lunge into the audience to rape Jack Nicholson's baby hooker. He's grown up, you see. And besides, Annette Bening was there. She's rendered Warren harmless. He told her how faithful he is. On national TV, anyway. When he's getting a lifetime achievement award. For banging every single actor in Hollywood who has a vagina. How cute can an antique lothario be? Every one of his hundred thousand wrinkles was smiling. Color us charmed.

Where were we? And what does any of this have to do with the provocative title of this post? Well, Drudge reports that the Golden Globes kicked 24's ass in the ratings. Color us unsurprised.

But here's the thing. Some of you were watching 24. And some of you are watching NCIS when it's on. And some of you are watching Jericho, which the TV Guide reviewer thought was headed straight for the dumpster until a bunch of you turned it into a hit. Color us amazed.

The Hollywood movie set doesn't want to have anything to do with the war on terror. They much prefer ancient communists and pint-sized movie directors who look like Groucho Marx and assail us with film epics about how violent incredibly rich movie stars can be when they're pretending to be American mobsters. If terrorism figures in their plots, they insist that the most dangerous villains are neo-nazis who go postal when good Democrats are defeated by evil Republicans at the polls. That's the way movies should be.

So what's happening with TV? Only five years after 9/11 there are signs that some television producers have decided Islamic fanatics want to kill us, and they have the nerve to start imagining an America in which muslims are so dastardly as to try planting, and exploding, nukes in our most populated cities. Who are these producers? Who are these screenwriters? Aren't they aware of the calamitous consequences of suggesting to Americans that 9/11 was just a shot across the bow? How dare they?

In Jericho, to be sure, we don't yet know who nuked most of the cities in the U.S. (We have our suspicions, though.) Still, the prospect of a devastated nation is put before us in grim detail. In NCIS, we are continually presented with Islamic terrorists -- yes, Islamic -- who don't ever quite succeed because Mark Harmon is smart enough to employ a ruthless Israeli assassin who just can't wait to torture and kill every suspect she interrogates. Sheesh. And in 24, we get the full monte: an America subjected to nuclear attacks by muslim terrorists who live just next door.

Shame on everybody who watches such vile propaganda. Here's what one of 24's spokesmen admitted:

"Time to wake the country up!" a top FOX source told the DRUDGE REPORT over the weekend.

Is it possible that Hollywood is harboring clandestine rightwingers who are more focused on possible threats to our way of life than they are on the mammaries and shaved pudenda of L.A. prostitutes and their fabulously wealthy old johns?  This is a bitter pill indeed.

Reality TV is all well and good, but there are limits. It's time that we put an end to the kinds of fantasies which suggest, implicitly or explicitly, that there's anything more important in this country than whether or not our most prized brainless twits are wearing panties as they exit their hybrid limousines. There is such a thing as sedition, you know. And I, for one, am opposed to it. I mean, just how crazy is it that certain people want us to wax patriotic when we hear the word "pussy"? It's not the waxing part that bothers me. It's that I hate feeling like a pussy myself when the first word that occurs to me in that context is "Brazilian," not "Nine-eleven."

Somebody please tell the TV guerillas to stop. Make Jericho, NCIS, and 24 go away. I'd rather watch Warren Beatty lie to his wife on national TV than think about Islamic terrorists. Isn't that my constitutional right as an American?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Chickenhawks & Peacemoms

Chickenhawk -- pretty good looking for such a libelled bird, eh?

UPDATE. Last week, I jumped into a discussion started by Dean Barnett at, which generated interesting comments here at this site and over at Townhall. Commenters were generally reasonable and civil, which tends to happen a lot more at right-leaning sites than lefty sites. One commenter, though, adopted a reasonable tone but kept returning to an apparently deep-seated impulse to fling the "chickenhawk" term in the general direction of those who disagree with him without boasting commensurate military service. I discovered that Jeffrey Carr has been using this term not only here and at Dean Barnett's site, but also at his own, where I was moved to respond in a comment that may or may not be posted eventually.

I was going to let it drop there, but late last week we also had the now famous exchange between Barbara Boxer and Condi Rice, in which we heard another threadbare claim -- that somehow mothers carry more moral weight than childless women.

Rice appeared before the Senate in defense of President Bush's tactical change in Iraq, and quickly encountered Boxer.

"Who pays the price? I'm not going to pay a personal price," Boxer said. "My kids are too old, and my grandchild is too young."

Then, to Rice: "You're not going to pay a particular price, as I understand it, with an immediate family."


Hence this post. As it happens, I've performed an exercise that no one else has: imagining the government structure that would be needed to accord veterans and moms the official authority liberals imply belongs to them by moral right. Read what that structure looks like here.

No, I'm serious. Read it. Before you continue with this post.

You see, it's an obviously ridiculous model. But it's really the only way of illustrating just how fatuous, absurd, illogical, and downright stupid such posturings are. There do exist points which are too completely idiotic to be refutable. The arguments which can be amassed against such points are too numerous and too comprehensive to formulate logically because there is absolutely no logical content in the position being addressed. One could spend months compiling a thousand-page directory disproving the assertion that there are no phones in New York, but a dumb enough advocate will merely point at the evidence and say, "That's not a phone; it's a directory." And then he will refuse to go to New York to see for himself because he can't possibly visit a place that has no phone service.

But that's the beauty of empty statements and the reason liberals are so fond of them. Reiterating them is always a provocative act that appeals to the gullible and corrupt among their supporters, and the sensible people who understand the fallacies involved don't even know where to begin in organizing their potential legions of rebuttal. So they simply turn away in disgust, and the empty statement echoes in the vacuum, resonating long and loud in the hollow heads of the thoughtless. In the current context, here are some more fun positions the morally astute liberal should be happy to articulate:

1. The residents of New Orleans have no right to an opinion about the Army Corps of Engineers because they've never had to build a dam.

2. Barbara Boxer has no right to an opinion about Condi Rice because she's never been the first black female Secretary of State.

3. PETA has no right to an opinion about cockfighting because they've never been a combat chicken.

4. NBA fans have no right to an opinion about Michael Jordan because they've never played professional basketball.

5. 99.9 percent of Americans have no right to an opinion about firefighters or police, pro or con, because they've never served in a police or fire department.

6. No one should be elected mayor of an American city unless he has been a cop, a firefighter, a sanitation worker, a meter maid, an ambulance driver, a paramedic, a social worker, a prosecutor, AND a school crossing guard.

Anyone care to refute these positions? Be logical now...

My advice: resist the temptation to get mad at them or to respond to their assertions via direct argument. It only confirms their false view of the legitimacy of their positions. The most appropriate response is laughter -- immediate, raucous, and without exception.

Take a moment today to laugh at Barbara Boxer. And if you can spare a moment more, send a chuckle in Jeffrey's direction as well. He's a veteran. He's tough enough to take it.

I can't wait for him to ask us all his one dread question. Then we can make a list of all the areas in which he is entitled to no opinion. I bet it's a pretty long list.

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