Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
July 2, 2008 - June 25, 2008

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Passing the Hat:

Brizoni's PC Woes

Something about the blue wire this time.

UPDATE. We couldn't be fonder of the guy, really, but if you've noticed (as we have) that he's not posting as regularly as might be expected of the only blogger on this site with joints and a circulatory system that actually work, it's not completely his fault. He has computer problems, he says. The volume of his email on technical issues would be sufficient to overflow the server storage capacity of most blogs, although the typical content of his excuses is even less interesting than what you find at geek blogs devoted exclusively to error messages.

I'm way too old to keep up with all the latest technology myself, but it's mortifying to read the catalogue of ills suffered by Brizoni's various computers. It probably doesn't help that the boy lives his life at a dead run -- from angry girlfriends named Cha Cha, Social Security agents insisting that everyone absolutely has to have a number, IRS goons convinced against all the laws of probability that a boy Brizoni's age should have generated some reportable income by now, and from alternative rock roadies still pissed at the last concert prank he pulled that forced the band to play a full set facing the audience. We understand all that. But these days, most girlfriends come equipped with fully functioning laptops; so why do Brizoni's missives always contain vaguely terrifying references to exploding transistors, blown steam gaskets, rusty valves, fried engine seals, catastrophic oil loss, and modems crippled by hamster failure? There's nothing specific we can point a finger at as demonstrably fraudulent, but we're getting suspicious. Very suspicious.

Today he sent us another email pleading for $32 he claims will procure a state-of-the-art system he's had his eye on for months. What he wants to do is trade in this perfectly serviceable looking Russian computer for "something newer."

It looks to us like he could get a few bucks for that rug.
Does he think we're made of money? And why is he so
obsessed with that YouTube girl? She's way beyond him.

The last time we gave him money for a "new" computer, he bought this:

He said it would improve his powers of concentration. But after we handed over the two sawbucks he demanded, he didn't post a damn thing. Then the ISP reported that his only internet activity was 12,246 hits on this one YouTube video.

I ask you. What are we supposed to do? We've been nothing but generous to date, though none of our largesse has resulted in anything you'd call an increase in his posting rate. Overall, I feel obliged to point out, we're in the hole for $68.37, with nothing to show for it. Which is why I'm tossing the whole dilemma out to our readership. If you're willing to take the risk, make a PayPal donation to InstaPunk in Brizoni's name. The boy says he needs an exterminator and a computer. In that order. I believe him. Why shouldn't you? I promise we'll pass along any money you send, less the usual handling and processing fees.

The high-tech keyboard he claims comes standard with the "Millennial System."

I mean, I'd advance him more of my own money, I really would, but there's only so much extravagant overspending a Scot can tolerate. You know how it is.

Please be generous. He's like a son to us.

UPDATE.  In a piteously pleading  follow-up, Brizoni has forwarded pictures of the "Millennial System" processor and display unit.

It's a six gig processing unit. Or something along those lines.

The cabinetry looks a bit pricey, doesn't it?

He claims he is absolutely on the "up and up" and that the $32 will be an excellent investment in "future bootylicious blogging."

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Trouble with Allegories

Dolores Umbridge of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Thatcher.

MAYBE, MAYBE NOT. Mrs. CP is very fond of the Harry Potter saga, so while I have not read the books I have seen all the movies, most of them several times. I confess I don't see the anti-Christian threat or the lure of evil expressed by some fundamentalist Christians. Not having read her, I can't judge the quality of Rowling's writing except to observe that if she can captivate so many youngsters who might not otherwise read books, she must be talented indeed. (A lot of the critical carping I have heard about her prose strikes me as exactly that -- carping. And envious.) As a storyteller, which quality is ably rendered by movies, she clearly possesses an epic imagination that seems superior in its details to that of J.R.R. Tolkien if not as vast in the heights and depths of its vision. But these are quibbles. Harry Potter is obviously a stupendous literary creation, and none of what follows is meant as any kind of attack on J. K. Rowling the writer. The works are bound to live on for generations, and the topical observations I'm going to make will rapidly lose relevance. It's just that there are some interesting topical observations to make.

We watched Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix as soon as it was issued on DVD, and I thought I detected a certain internal contradiction in what were obviously contemporary political references then. Now, having seen it a second time this weekend, I decided to do some research to see if my initial intuitions were correct. I think they are. And I also think there's something worthwhile to be learned about the relation between truth and politics by taking a closer look at Rowling's intentions and the effects of her work.

[A brief timeout is in order here for a plot summary. Those who know the story can skip this paragraph. All the other Potter movies begin with a comic set piece highlighting the banality of his non-magical existence in a hellish suburb with his step-parents when he is not at the charmed Hogwarts School. This one doesn't. It begins with a near tragedy as Harry and his detestable civilian (i.e., non-magica) step-brother are attacked without warning by demonic entities bent on their murder. After saving both their lives with a spell, Harry is immediately expelled from Hogwarts for casting a spell in the presence of a civilian. His friends get the expulsion suspended pending a formal trial by the Ministry of Magic, where a kangaroo-court conviction is narrowly averted by the fortuitous appearance of counsel and a witness who had been misled about the timing of the proceedings. Upon returning to Hogwarts, Harry learns that one of his chief accusers, deputy minister Dolores Umbridge, has somehow been installed at his school with unknown and sinister authority over the old administration. He also learns that he's been targeted for persecution. An instance of insubordination results in his physical torture by Umbridge, and the rest of the student body also suffers as Umbridge begins to issue edicts against one school tradition after another. Harry resists by creating his own secret organization of students whom he teaches to do combat against a looming evil -- the wizard Voldemort -- whose existence is everywhere officially denied. In the end, after a climactic battle with the enemy so long denied by the Ministry of Magic, the reality of the threat comes to light and Dolores Umbridge is overthown. But not before the last surviving member of Harry's real family is killed in battle against the enemy Umbridge refused to acknowledge.]

When I first saw Phoenix, I thought (less succinctly, I admit), "How odd. She seems to be trying to do one thing and achieving something altogether else. And the 'else' is so much more fascinating because it's being done in spite of the author's superficial intent." It seemed to me that Ms. Rowling was reacting quite explicitly to the aftermath of 9/11 and the ramping up of the War on Terror by the Blair government and perhaps the Bush administration. (I had seen a similar turn in the BBC television series MI-5, which had gone from being a riveting spy drama to a gassy self-hating soap opera at the juncture when the U.K. began cracking down on Islamic jihadists.) My inference was that Rowling was a fairly conventional leftist who opposed some of the severe measures being taken to thwart terror in the UK. and the U.S., but in shoe-horning these concerns into an existing story that was at some level about the historic British battle against Hitler and Nazism (symbolized by the "dark lord" Voldemort), she had accidentally accomplished the opposite of what she meant to.

First, I had to confirm my suspicions about Rowling's politics. Discounting the considerable blather on the left and the right about these, I had to find more than convenient punditerpretations. Here's what Wikipedia reports:

Rowling is a noted philanthropist and maintains links on her website promoting Amnesty International, the Multiple sclerosis Society, One Parent Families, and the Children’s High Level Group, which Rowling co-founded to advocate against the use of cage beds for mentally handicapped children. Rowling says her heroine is muckraker Jessica Mitford, whom Rowling describes as a "self-taught socialist".[82] Rowling acknowledges being left-wing and said "there is a certain amount of political stuff in [Harry Potter]. But I also feel that every reader will bring his own agenda to the book. People who send their children to boarding schools seem to feel that I'm on their side. I'm not. Practicing wiccans think I'm also a witch. I'm not."[83]

Rowling told a Spanish newspaper in February 2008 that "the international political stance of the United States has been wrong in previous years, for its own and for my country… I want a Democrat in the White House. It’s sad Obama and Clinton are rivals because they are both great.”[84]

Rowling described her experiences working at Amnesty International to the 2008 graduating class of Harvard and advised, "the great majority of you belong to the world’s only remaining superpower. The way you vote, the way you live, the way you protest, the pressure you bring to bear on your government, has an impact way beyond your borders. That is your privilege, and your burden. [emphases added]

All that is fine. Rowling is entitled to her political views. But her political symbolism in Phoenix is fairly transparent. The stiff coif and attire of Dolores Umbridge, not to mention the syllabication of her given and sur-names, are cartoonish spoofs of Margaret Thatcher, as is her declaration that "progress for the sake of progress is not desirable." How can one blame the Blair government on Thatcher? Easily if one thinks the way writers do, in terms of analogous relationships. Thatcher was seen by much of the world as the political "wife" of Ronald Reagan, the patriarch of the concept of the United States as " the world’s only remaining superpower." Ubiquitous U.K. characterizations of Tony Blair as the "lapdog" of George W. Bush are, in fact, resentful recapitulations of the Reagan-Thatcher relationship. For a European socialist, Bush is the direct descendant of Reagan's "cowboy diplomacy," and thus it makes literary sense to impugn Blair by depicting him as a Tory wife and fascistic accomplice of Bush in destroying western civil liberties.

Umbridge's torture of Harry is consistent with the leftist obsession to blame Abu Ghraib on the neo-fascism of the hated Bush-Blair administration of the war on terrorism. Just as obviously, the plaques of prohibitions that are nailed into the walls of Hogwarts are meant to suggest the fancied incremental losses of freedom associated with the post-9/11 era. Thematically, we are being encouraged to believe that the correct way to deal with the Voldemort threat would involve enlightened leaders like Obama and Clinton "because they are both great,” meaning, presumably, that they wouldn't have engaged in the distraction of persecuting Harry Potter rather than arming him against the real threat.

Which is where the whole thing breaks down in a loud splintering crash. All the larger elements of Rowling's story are already in place, and her trueness to her own conception requires her to be faithful to her original plot. She cannot change the fact that her villain is the Hitler-like Voldemort, who despite having been vanguished a generation ago is reacquiring power at a frightening and nearly invisible rate of speed. She cannot excise the extraordinary parallel between Hitler's Germany and Islamofascism as dire threats which the timid western European governments -- apart from Blair and Bush -- blindly fail to recognize as mortal threats to their existence. She probably doesn't even see the equivalence of Harry Potter teaching his fellow students to do battle and the United States unilaterally taking up military arms against a worldwide threat the "ministry" of the United Nations does everything possible to deny and make apologies for.

Worst of all, she doesn't seem to see the oxymoron of equating Thatcher-Reagan-Bush-Blair with the Umbridge faction of the Ministry of Magic who are determined to prevent the nation's youth from having the power to defend themselves against an enemy those in charge don't want to acknowledge. Thus, the kangaroo court that almost expels Harry in the opening scenes of Phoenix bears a far more striking resemblance to the appeasers in the U.S. Congress and Parliament -- and particularly the narrow law enforcement mentality toward the war on terror exhibited by Clinton, Obama, the U.S. Supreme Court, Red Ken, and George Galloway -- than it does to the Blair government or the Bush administration.

Here's the result. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix becomes, via the author's own political blinders, an allegory of itself; that is, an acting out of the process by which a well-meaning authority makes the wrong decisions under the delusion that it is conforming to the most high-minded of ideals. Do you get it yet? No?

I'll give you one more minute to think about it.

In the allegory within an allegory that is the Order of the Phoenix, J. K. Rowling is Dolores Umbridge. She's the one pointing an accusing, moralistic finger at precisely the people who best understand a threat she but dully perceives, and she's the one who winds up constituting a major distraction -- via the anachronistic plaques, and red herring villains, she nails to the walls of her own creation -- from a clear perception of the danger everyone needs to confront.

I'll hasten to point out that at some level, the author understands this. Or she would have done more violence than she did to her own story. At the end of Phoenix, it is Harry who is vindicated. The world of wizards and witches accepts that legalistic chicanery cannot be permitted any longer to disguise the existence of a genuine malevolent antagonist who means deadly harm to everyone. In this sense, Rowling has been complicit in the slaughter of her own political predilections, which are far slighter than her literary talents.

In this quite personal demonstration of artistic integrity, she puts me in mind of another master:

You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I'm looking forward to the movies that complete the cycle. I'm confident Harry will carry his mother safely through the ordeal.

Letters to the Editor: E.J. Dionne

They'll open it and read it, right?

REVENGE OF THE CENTRALIANS. I never thought it would happen to me. I found something so irritating the usual impotent venting on a blog didn't satisfy. I had to send an actual LETTER TO THE EDITOR. Like an ADULT. ICK.

Here's my best imitation of a properly dignified "letter to the editor" voice. This is how adults talk, right?


A respectable editorial section, like The Oregonian's, is a public forum for airing opposing viewpoints. It is not a platform for doctrinaire sophistry, such as E.J. Dionne's column of the 27th.

In that column, Dionne willfully sinned against reason and honesty more frequently and with more vigor than a North Korean press release. In tortured, Mobius logic, he argued that the Supreme Court's recent upholding of the right to bear arms, enumerated in the Second Amendment, somehow flies in the face of the founder's vision for America. He dismisses Justice Scalia's exhaustive defense of the ruling as a rationalization; an assessment possible only if one hasn't actually read the majority opinion, which Dionne clearly has.

He goes on to share John Paul Stevens's shock (shock!) that "The Court would have us believe that over 200 years ago, the framers made a choice to limit the tools available to elected officials wishing to regulate civilian uses of weapons." Um, YES?! Limiting, not "empowering," the government is the entire crux of the American experiment. If Justice Stevens can't or won't get his head around that, he should be thrown off the bench bodily.

Kick this guy off your editorial page. Replace him with anything at all. I'll even put up with an additional sententious Leonard Pitts column each week if it spares me Dionne's barrage of idiot propaganda. Or give me his job. Let me disgrace myself with spectacularly fatuous commentary for a living. Hell, I've been doing that for free on since the end of January. Motivated by a modest paystub, I could crank out inane garbage at a rate you wouldn't believe.

In addition, The Oregonian may wish to conduct an investigation into Dionne's public record, to see what other batshit distortions of fact and right & wrong he has propagated over the years. A five-part series would be appropriate. Attached is an idea of the type of illustrations that could accompany this series.

- Brian Lott,

The Boss, a life-long curmudgeon and veteran of many correspondence wars, lent me his expertise. He shortened this from my original quite a bit. His biggest change was removing the lengthy section with illustrations comparing Dionne's sense of right and wrong to an abortion (he also refused to publish it on Instapunk, and forbade me to show, to anyone ever, my Photoshopping of Dionne's head pasted onto one of those photos of an aborted fetus with a dime next to it for scale.) He asked me to delete the word "batshit" too, but I argued it wouldn't be a true letter to the editor if they didn't have to replace at least one word or phrase with [brackets]. He also sneered, with the intimidating resonance of that 3-pack-a-day chest rumble, that he'd never seen that many italics in a real Letter to the Editor before, but whatever. Maybe in his day, a newspaper's typesetter, permanently stooped from years of backbreaking physical labor, would have to walk all the way to the basement on those rare occasions when some drunken Broadway reviewer needed italics, and set each 200-pound letter by hand. I tried to explain to him (The Boss) that it's all done on computers now. He gave me the classic old guy's disdainful sniff. Which meant he didn't disbelieve me, exactly, but was so unimpressed by modern technological developments that he felt he'd won the argument by contextual default. If he didn't despise me so much, I'd really hate him. I left him to his grumbling and whittling (soap, not pine, the old faker) and sent the letter with italics intact.

Beyond that, I kept it as stodgy and cordial as I could stand. I even used my [ED: totally spurious F-word] Christian name, which I typically go to great pains to avoid. (I'd get it legally changed, but that costs money, which is bullcrap.)

For the curious. here's the graphic I sent with my missive:

I don't know why Photoshopping hasn't caught on at real newspapers yet. It'd be more honest, in a lot of ways. More honest than E.J. Dionne's Brainwashing Corner, that's for damn sure.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

THE movie for our time.

CYD. It started as a simple act of reminiscence, watching the 1957 production of Silk Stockings with Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse. But sometimes a movie becomes altogether new when the context of everyday life changes around it to a sufficient degree. That is certainly the case with Silk Stockings. It's no longer a period piece in the pure sense of the term but a glimpse at how far the western world has fallen from its once splendid heights. It now seems like a prescient satire, a time-travelling jeer delivered by our grandparents to their charmless, humorless, and wholly unworthy heirs.

It shouldn't have the impact it does. It's a musical remake of Ninotchka, the comedy about a beautiful but rigid Soviet apparatchik who is ultimately seduced by the temptations of freedom and capitalism. The songs are far from being Cole Porter's best compositions, and there is nothing in the script or the production that takes itself seriously enough to arouse the suspicion that it's some kind of message picture. And yet watching it in the summer of 2008, one can't help recognizing that the passage of years has effected a disturbing role reversal. The people who claim to be the most enlightened and 'progressive' among us today are so much more like Ninotchka than Fred Astaire's debonaire American entrepreneur that one can almost feel their disapproving presence in the audience as he wears away her doctrinaire facade.

She arrives in Paris from Moscow on a mission to return four wayward sybarites to the stern communist paradise of Russia. Her real antagonist is Fred Astaire, a movie producer who has seduced a Russian composer into scoring a Hollywood musical and corrupted the three Soviet bureaucrats sent to fetch him home. At this distance in time, what's most striking about the Astaire character is his refusal to take any of the communist political cant seriously. It just never occurs to him that it's anything but a ridiculous impediment to his plans. He knows that all he needs to win over the Russian men is champagne, beautiful women and an elegant hotel suite. and he accomplishes their conversion in a single musical number.

His certainty about Ninotchka is just as complete, but since she's a woman he knows he needs to be more patient. Yet he never once doubts that Paris, freedom, charm, and the correct set of baubles and pleasures will strip away her stern veneer.On the night he first meets Ninotchka, he escorts her onto the balcony of the hotel and urges her to appreciate the lights of the Champs Elysee. She misunderstands entirely and reminds him that it is Russians who invented electricity, which is therefore no cause for wonder. When he makes his first romantic moves, she informs him that sexual attraction is a perfectly ordinary and unremarkable chemical reaction against which she has been, apparently, politically inoculated.

In fact, she seems very like an earnest leftwing college student of today, so encased in politically correct poses about sex, capitalism, and "save the planet" orthoxies that there's no room left in her mind for joy, spontaneity, exhilaration, or simple desire. In her view politics is life, and all her most settled convictions turn every color gray and every human urge detestable. Ninotchka would have been a great member of Code Pink, NOW, NARAL,, and Greenpeace. Remarkably, what's harder is to summon a current day version of Fred Astaire's character. His easy and ebullient confidence in the rightness of living it up because life should be fun is the most outstanding anachronism in the movie.

It makes watching the movie an unsettling experience. How much is fantasy, and how much is truth? The simplistic progress of the plot is self-consciously a fantasy, but it also precludes in its whole ambiance any notion that given the choice, people would choose something other than a life of romance, excitement, dreams, and their accompanying pleasures. In this way, it stands as a startlingly cheerful rebuke to our contemporary masochistic obsession with guilt, self-punishment, the criminalization of petty vices, and perverse yearning for a Soviet-style leveling of the world economy.

Is it merely a pretty plot device that Ninotchka is liberated from her ideological prison by a pair of silk stockings and a suave alpha male? Or is there some elemental and inevitable fact of nature hiding inside this simple but delicious souffle? And if the latter, isn't the souffle itself a key part of the message?

I don't know. But get online to your Netflix account, and order up a serving of Silk Stockings. See if you don't find that it makes an extraordinary amount of sense somehow. Even if it doesn't it's still a delightful entertainment. How mny things can you say that about these days?

Oh Canada.

Gosh. Isn't she just so utterly down home completely sexless? Eh?

MAPLE STUFF. So we've taken some heat from the Great White North in the past. For dissing Canada. But we're not going to be apologetic anymore. Not only are they America Lite, they're also the land of Human Rights Commissions and political correctness gone stone damn crazy. There's really no need to be polite to them from now on. Neil Young, Don Henley, stop lecturing us about what it means to be free. We're just better than you are.

Especially those of us who are of Scottish descent. You see, being Americans, we can claim anyone we want as Americans, including people who have only made most of their money performing for Americans. Canadians, on the other hand, are more or less stuck with promoting Canadian-born mediocrities as the best they have to offer. Exhibit A: the Celine Dion cover above of an AC/DC song. Why would a Canadian do that? There's no point. And on top of it, why would you try to transform a pure, rutting male rock and roll storm into a quasi-Lesbian anthem? Unless you were all, always, nothing but a gang of wankers. You tell me.

Here's a video version of the real thing.

And here's a live version. In Toronto.

They're both better than the Canuck-Vegas version up top. Not even a Canadian will have the nerve to dispute that.

Here's the truth. You came to the freedom game way late. And now you're done. Fried. Finished. Caput. It's time for you to go crawling back to the emasculated UK and beg for admission to the European Democratic Peoples' Republic of Muhammed.

Done witcha.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Today's GW Scare Story

Aren't you just shivering with climatic terror?

PASS IT ON. The Super Big Headline at Drudge this morning was about how there won't be any ice at the North Pole this summer. I guess it's supposed to beat down all the silly deniers of anthropogenic Global Warming. Here's the lede in the Independent story Drudge linked to:

Exclusive: No ice at the North Pole

Polar scientists reveal dramatic
new evidence of climate change

By Steve Connor, Science Editor
Friday, 27 June 2008

It seems unthinkable, but for the first time in human history, ice is on course to disappear entirely from the North Pole this year.

The disappearance of the Arctic sea ice, making it possible to reach the Pole sailing in a boat through open water, would be one of the most dramatic – and worrying – examples of the impact of global warming on the planet. Scientists say the ice at 90 degrees north may well have melted away by the summer.

"From the viewpoint of science, the North Pole is just another point on the globe, but symbolically it is hugely important. There is supposed to be ice at the North Pole, not open water," said Mark Serreze of the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Colorado.

What the article leaves out and NRO's Jonah Goldberg points out is that the Arctic has been making science news in another way as well.

Volcanic eruptions reshape Arctic ocean floor: study

Wed Jun 25, 4:13 PM ET

Recent massive volcanoes have risen from the ocean floor deep under the Arctic ice cap, spewing plumes of fragmented magma into the sea, scientists who filmed the aftermath reported Wednesday.

The eruptions -- as big as the one that buried Pompei -- took place in 1999 along the Gakkel Ridge, an underwater mountain chain snaking 1,800 kilometres (1,100 miles) from the northern tip of Greenland to Siberia.

Scientists suspected even at the time that a simultaneous series of earthquakes were linked to these volcanic spasms.

But when a team led of scientists led by Robert Sohn of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts finally got a first-ever glimpse of the ocean floor 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) beneath the Arctic pack ice, they were astonished.

What they saw was unmistakable evidence of explosive eruptions rather than the gradual secretion of lava bubbling up from Earth's mantle onto the ocean floor.

Previous research had concluded that this kind of so-called pyroclastic eruption could not happen at such depths due to the crushing pressure of the water.

"On land, explosive volcanic eruptions are nothing exceptional, although they present a major threat," said Vera Schlindwein, a geologist with Germany's Alfred Wegener Institute for Sea and Polar Research, which took part in the study.

But the new findings, published in Nature, showed that "large-scale pyroclastic activity is possible along even the deepest portions of the global mid-ocean ridge volcanic system."

I don't suppose massive amounts of hot lava being spewed into the Arctic Ocean could have anything to do with the melting of ice on the surface. But if you're having a hard time getting past The Independent's shocking front page, there is video of an ocean floor volcanic event.

Just so you know underwater eruptions really do occur. Although it's easy to predict that there will be some kind of dismissive explanation after a few more skeptics start putting two and two together. Maybe they aren't eruptions after all. Just the exhaust belchings of some Hummer that wandered a little too far off-road. That kind of thing.

Anyway, let's be positive about all the skewed reporting. Maybe it'll enable us to put together a junket to go water-skiing in the Arctic Circle this August. Interested?

George Carlin Meets
"The Big Electron."

NSFW (typically). But funny (equally typically).

A THREATENED SPECIES. We didn't respond immediately to the news of George Carlin's death. In a way we were surprised that so many libs remembered him so fondly. He made fun of things they can't stand to have made fun of, including them. He wasn't a flower child; he was a curmudgeon and not even a Baby Boomer but a member of the curiously unacknowledged in-between generation, which we have written about at this site before. On Mick Jagger's 63rd birthday InstaPunk posted an entry titled "The Uncredited Generation," of which Jagger is a prominent member but hardly the only one.

[R]ock music is only one aspect of the dominating influence of a generation that isn't even identified by any particular name -- they're just the ones born too late to fight in World War II and too early to be part of the Baby Boom. Yet they have led and outshone the Boomers in multiple fields...

In demonstration of this we quoted from an essay about the "in-between" generation, which offered up a representative list:

Other legendary figures of the 1960s were of this generation — Mohammed Ali [sic], the last athlete to attain mythic stature, was born in 1942. Ken Kesey, who attempted to smash open the doors of perception, and his chronicler, Tom Wolfe, who helped revolutionize journalism, were both born in the 1930s. So were Gloria Steinem, Warren Beatty, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson and Clint Eastwood, who made cinematic history in the '60s. Martin Luther King, born in 1929, and Albee, born in 1928, were also virtually of this generation.

Then we returned to the subject of the Rolling Stones, acknowledging how many Boomers in particular rate them lower than other megastar in-betweeners like the Beatles and Bob Dylan. We demurred, singling out a characteristic that is also intensely relevant to the career of George Carlin:

But the Stones, and Jagger in particular, did them one better. They stood above the times in which they were nonetheless major protagonists, looked at the goings on with a razor-sharp eye, and laughed out loud. The real triumph of Jagger's output was its embedded mockery -- sometimes musical, sometimes lyrical, sometimes vocal, sometimes sartorial, sometimes contextual, sometimes overt, and sometimes concealed. His Satanic apostrophe in Sympathy for the Devil was, regardless of the (too) obvious political satire of its lyrics, an extremely subtle satire of the burgeoning cult of pop star gurus like John Lennon and Bob Dylan. He was making fun of it all...

So was Carlin. Making fun of it all. Which is becoming something of a lost art. Just this week, for example, we had the sorry prospect of Jon Stewart (mildly) suggesting that it is okay to make (mild) fun of Obama, which drew anguished responses from leftwing fans of one of the most biased "comedy" shows ever to hit the airwaves. And today, we have a pair of absurd news stories from Canada, one about a comedian who is is being prosecuted by one of the "human rights commissions" for making fun of Lesbian hecklers at one of his shows, and another about the decision by one of the HRCs to drop the case against Mark Steyn, despite his unfunny provocations of muslims in a Maclean's article. Ezra Levant discusses both cases:

Th[e] application to dismiss [the complaint against the comedian] was rejected this week. Here is the ruling... that commits the matter to go to trial.

Take a look at who wrote it: Heather MacNaughton, the same tribunal member who chaired Mark Steyn's show trial earlier this month.

In that trial, too, the funny-ness of jokes became an issue. The Canadian Islamic Congress said that some of Mark Steyn's jokes weren't funny, but they also insisted that the CBC's awful "sitcom", Little Mosque on the Prairies, was indeed funny, and if Steyn didn't think so, he was a racist.

So MacNaughton feels comfortable in her self-appointed role as government joke-tester.

The difference between the Uncredited Generation and those which have come after is largely about narcissism, which has risen decade by decade as long as it has been tracked. The belief that you and your partial perspective on the great big whole of everything are so right and so virtuous that no one is permitted to disagree with you, challenge your assumptions, or (heaven forbid) laugh their asses off at you when you're being a dolt is something new on the scene. And, unfortunately, it also comes at a time when individual perspectives are more ignorant, partial, fragmented, self-serving, and half-assed than ever before. That's why devoted Democrats who explode in diva-like tantrums at the merest whiff of (what they deem) 'fascism' are nevertheless perfectly okay with shutting down freedom of speech for their opponents and even putting them on trial for what they think The contradictions are invisible to them because they really do lack any unified conception of a universe that does not feature them as the perfect, inviolable center around which everything else must rotate in obedient harmony.

What probably sets the best of the in-between generation apart is that no one ever put them on a pedestal just for being there. They distinguished themselves not by demanding attention but by distinquishing themselves through superior achievement, acuity, and the analytical powers of observation which must be developed by a healthy middle child.

We could use another 'middle-child' generation. The Baby Boomers were the pampered first children of a new age. The "X," "Y," and "Z" (?) gens that have come along since are all being spoiled and catered to like the babies of the family they continuously act like, getting away with everything just because they can. There's really no part of their experience that can process the universal perspective on fad issues like Global Warming, as represented by a graphic that stands as a perfect concluding punchline to the Carlin monologue above:

If he's sitting on the Big Electron now looking down at the rest of us, I'm pretty sure George Carlin is adding his laugh to the great thrum of his new stage.

Mr. Carlin. We'll remember you with affection and appreciation. That is, those of us who got the joke when you were here.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Futile Gestures (#1)

Enraging the Enviro-PussiesWimps*

The International CXT Pickup Truck

FIGHTING BACK. Of course it's childish. But we all have a breaking point. Wasn't there a moment in the last year or so when you got really really sick to death of all the environmental hysteria, all the green breastbeating, all the thinly veiled hatred of the whole species of man on earth? Are you fed up with hearing about the Toyota Priuses of the Stars, Hollywood mansions with solar panels, and Al Gore slashing his bloated carbon footprint to a mere $10,000 a month electric bill?

Yeah, well, me too. Don't you just want to make the hugest, most politically incorrect environmental statement you can? Here's how you can do it. It doesn't come cheap, but some of you out there have the wherewithal to buy and drive an International CXT Pickup Truck, which makes even Hummers look like Smart Cars (scroll to see one). Here are some of the CXT's specs:

If you work for one of the mainstream brands, namely Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford, GMC, Nissan or Toyota, and "believe" that your trucks are the biggest, toughest and most powerful--you need to make like R.E.M. and lose your religion. This new top dawg is so big that neither full-size nor heavy-duty are adequate descriptions. The best way to describe the 2007 International CXT is INDUSTRIAL size!

The 2007 International CXT is not only the biggest pickup in the full-size category, but its the biggest production pickup in the world. Check out these numbers. Wait, you might want to be seated for this--so are you seated? No seriously, you need to be seated. The CXT is just over 21 feet long, 258 inches to be exact. Its cab height is a staggering 9 feet or 108 inches tall. Think about that a little longer, because even if you were a 7-foot, 3-inch, 420 pound giant like the Great Khali from World Wrestling Entertainment, the CXT would still tower 7 inches above your head. Its bed height alone is just under 5 feet high at 58 inches. Oh by the way the CXT has an 8-foot dualie bed, and last but not least it has a Sumo wrestler-like curb weight of 14,500 lbs...

Alright this is my last warring, if the first statistics did not knock you off on your ass, these will. The CXTs entry level engine, the 245 horsepower DT466, also generates 600 pounds feet of torque, and its bigger brother, the 300 horsepower DT466, pumps out 860 pounds feet of torque. Oh, and the 310 horsepower DT570? It cranks up an amazing 950 pound feet of torque! The latter enormously high number allows the CXT to tow up to 17,000 lbs.

Okay. It's not just not cheap. It costs a bundle. $115,000. But this is America. We can be entrepreneurial. Think about time-sharing with four or five or ten of your pissed-off friends. Because what could ever be better than rolling up to the convenience store in the tony suburb with all the Obama signs on their lawns and dash in for a loaf of bread and a soda -- in your 14,500 LB INTERNATIONAL CXT PICKUP?! Nothing could ever be better. The looks. The sagging jaws. The impotent (of course) liberal fury. Some of you actually live in college towns like Austin, Norman, Ithaca, Madison, Ann Arbor, Piscataway, and Hanover. They would absolutely HATE you. Kewl.

That's an experience that could actually be life-changing. Think about it. I can hardly think about anything else these days.

*Objection noted. Headline revised.

Hey. Let's start naming some
things after San Francisco...

Use your imagination.

CIVILIZATION. Progressive intellectuals are just loaded wth taste, aren't they? Well, aren't they? Here's an example:

San Francisco may name sewage treatment plant after Bush

SAN FRANCISCO: Reagan has his highways. Lincoln has his memorial. Washington has the capital, and a state, too. But President George W. Bush may soon be the sole president to have a memorial named after him that you can contribute to from the bathroom.

From the Department of Damned-With-Faint-Praise, a group going by the regal-sounding name of the Presidential Memorial Commission of San Francisco is planning to ask voters here to change the name of a prize-winning water-treatment plant on the shoreline to the George W. Bush Sewage Plant.

The plan - hatched, naturally, in a bar - would place a vote on the November ballot to provide "an appropriate honor for a truly unique president."

It reminds me of Chris Rock's mantra -- "tired, tired, tired." It's not clever, it's not witty, it's just juvenile and nasty. So I think it's time to start paying San Francisco (and its evil conjoined twin Berkeley) back for all their disgraceful lowlife antics. Let's start naming some things after them. Like, say, garbage scows:

And public toilets:

And, well, more public toilets:

I'm sure you can all think of some others. I'm just brainstormingthought showering here. Forward any additional suggestions you think of.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Where's The West Wing?

Can you spell E-T-H-A-N-O-L?

DID PRESIDENT BARTLET DIE OR SOMETHING? I'm not claiming a conspiracy here. I just think it's interesting and suggestive. With the Democrat Party in the clear ascendancy (sporting a 20 point lead in voter affiliation), you'd think the cable channels would be glutted with reruns of The West Wing, just to remind us all how marvelous it is to have a brilliantly intellectual liberal in the White House. But where is it? Nowhere. couldn't find a listing for its being shown at all.

I wondered for a bit if it had to do with the estrogen-soaked final season, which seemed to be preparing us for a Hillary presidency that the elite media libs suddenly stopped wanting sometime last year. On the other hand, that season also featured an attractive young non-white male coming out of nowhere to steal the Democrat presidential nomination, as well as an unexpectedly centrist Republican candidate running against him; these were really quite good guesses. So what gives?

My theory is that forward-thinking liberals in the various network programming departments are seeing some things in The West Wing that they don't want to remind the voters about right now. Maybe later, but not now. Let's not forget that the Democrat Party subtly reconfigures its message and image at regular intervals, and while their fundamental conviction that bigger government is the answer to all questions remains a constant, the specifics of their PR strategies at any given time vary considerably. A party that's betting all the chips on infatuating the electorate with a "rock star" candidate probably doesn't want to create any thought-provoking contrasts between Jed Bartlet and Barack Obama.

Bartlet was, accidentally or not, an express opposite of George W. Bush: a Ph.D. and former college professor from an historic New England family, a learned Catholic, a dextrous participant in the infighting between the executive branch and Capitol Hill, and perhaps most importantly, a near-encyclopedic policy wonk. In the context of this election, ironically, comparing Obama to Bartlet makes Obama seem more like, uh, Bush. Think about it for a minute before you howl in outrage.

Take away the differences in pure personality and political constituencies, and you'll start to see that the Obama campaign bears a strong resemblance to Bush's 2000 campaign. Time for a change from eight years of a president who inspired bitter, destructive partisanship. Tiime for a president who knows how to work with both sides of the aisle. Time for an outsider who isn't tainted by a lifetime of grubby inside-the-beltway wheeling and dealing. Yes, the experience factor is wanting, but at this particular moment in time, less is more, because we have seen for years now that experience is more like corruption than wisdom. Trust my good intentions. No need for lots of specifics. Much better to stick to glossy generalities that give voters real hope for a desperately needed change in tone. In many ways, the track records of the campaigns are also similar. A near constant stream of gaffes, large and small, which betray a layer of disturbing ignorance beneath the generalities that Jed Bartlet would have exposed with witheringly sarcastic precision.

Indeed, the whole focus of The West Wing show seemed to be on exactly the kinds of process issues that encourage a view of the presidency as a skill position rather than as a font of feel-good rhetoric. The president must have a grasp of details, a thorough understanding of the complex interdependent organizational structures inside, yes, the beltway, and a profound understanding of history to keep him anchored against the winds of political pressure and public opinion. It's probably the case that not too many Americans know Obama's least favorite, and least studied, subject in school was history, but they will come to experience the inevitable effects of that hole in his education. His many blunders in the state primaries are a direct consequence of the fact that he just doesn't know much about the states, academically as well as personally. And Jed Bartlet was an economist, fond of lecturing on the subject. He would have been particularly scornful of Obama's fuzzy grasp of issues such as the capital gains tax.

And there's also a ticking bomb inside The West Wing that is very specific and relevant to a huge chunk of 2008 campaign rhetoric and its, well, lies on all sides. The bomb is addressed directly but incompletely here:

West Wing's Ethanol Problem

The West Wing is a smart television program, written by smart people with access to an enormous amount of expertise. Part of the show's appeal is its willingness to present both sides, even with highly controversial issues like the morality and efficacy of the death penalty or political assassinations. When it comes to ethanol, however, The West Wing's writers apparently believe there is only one side and it is exceedingly negative.

This was demonstrated a number of times in the show's early years, when Aaron Sorkin was in charge. In the first season, Vice President John Hoynes (Tim Matheson) was asked to break a tie vote in the Senate in favor of extending the ethanol tax incentive. He balked, since he had vigorously opposed that incentive when he was in the Senate. At the show's conclusion, President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) gives Hoynes permission to kill the incentive, and confesses, "You and I agree on ethanol, but you were the only one to say it."

The Jan. 26 episode, "King Corn" raised ethanol trashing to an entirely new level. In this episode, one of the presidential candidates, liberals as well as conservatives, and Democrats as well as Republicans, strongly object to ethanol, although in the end all but one ends up "pandering" to Iowa's caucus voters by endorsing the fuel.

The environmental site in which the above appears is pro-ethanol -- as are both presidential candidates in 2008 -- and strongly objects to the "King Corn" episode, which is summarized at a West Wing fansite with more samples of dialogue:

...Josh and Santos go to Iowa... The next morning each has a 5:45 wake up call and each immediately turns on the TV to see the same news story, etc... Each of three candidates that day (we follow Vinick through the same kinds of things after he has a 5:45 wake up call as well) deals with ethanol and what to tell the Iowa Corn Grower's Expo about this product as each addresses the group at different times this day. Even Russell, whose speech is first, tells Will,
"It takes more oil to transport it and fertilize it than we save using it"
"Sir, you're not considering changing the speech?"
"...Don't worry, I'm not suicidal. I'm going to take the pledge."

The environmental site is absolutely correct about The West Wing's writers. Ethanol is something of a running joke in the series, a kind of all-encompassing symbol of the lies politicians on both sides of the aisle are willing to tell for votes. With the Hoynes vote against ethanol mentioned above occurring in the first season of the show and the "King Corn" blasphemy in the last season, that's seven years of writer antipathy to a linchpin of the "energy independence" and "decarbonization" policies of both parties today. I haven't seen every episode by any means, but my memory tells me that ethanol comes up more often in West Wing conversations than any episode guide will reference.

The fact that ethanol is a symbolic litmus test of political integrity in West Wing Land may very well keep the show off the air for a long time to come. Maybe forever. Because ethanol is even worse than a litmus test. It's also a highly visible thread that if tugged on enough could lead to a complete unraveling of everyone's political plans for dealing with energy issues and so-called climate change issues. Biofuel mandates represent the first very large-scale attempt to address both sets of issues by immediate government intervention in markets. If the first such attempt should unleash a tidal wave of unintended negative consequences, the twin identity of ethanol as a marker of political dishonesty and as a headline for misguided government attempts to manage the natural forces of the planet could prove the undoing of a whole generation of politicians, in both parties.

Think I'm overstating the case? Are you sure? Then take the time to watch ALL of this C-span video of a speech by Robert Bryce, author of "Gusher of Lies: The Dangerous Delusions of Energy Independence." Yes, it's an American Enterprise Institute speech, but as Bryce proudly proclaims at the beginning of his remarks, his political roots are as a liberal and even a left-winger. (He even begins with a set of Bush jokes.) Actually studying the energy industry in depth, however, which has become his lifetime avocation, forced him to accept that the laws of thermodynamics did not conform to his political preferences. His presentation is stuffed with facts even political junkies know little of, and what political content he offers arises directly from those facts, not from his advocacy of any politician or party. How can we be sure of that? Because he can prove that they're all lying to us. (The Flash Player works well once you figure out the clunky controls, and there is a full-screen option as well.) As further incentive, I'll dangle the news that he proposes a sensible and dramatically improved solution for the 21st century with respect to meeting fuel needs and minimizing carbon output without crashing the global economy.

To end on a less serious note, those who have been missing The West Wing might enjoy the following all-purpose episode produced by Mad TV.

Well, I enjoyed it anyway.

Nancy Pelosi Quits Congress:
"His name is Bruno... I think."

A wobbly Speaker of the House resigned late Wednesday
to pursue "the one true love of my life, come what may."

XOFF NEWS. After having gone missing for almost twelve hours during which her family frantically sought her whereabouts, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi made a brief appearance before cameras Wednesday night to announce that she was leaving Congress to "follow my man to Tijuana for the Pan-American Tattoo Festival," because "he told me to -- or be ready to get my ass kicked from here to Mexico."

Colleagues and friends of the Speaker expressed astonishment and dismay that she would so suddenly abandon one of the most powerful political posts in the nation. Her husband was reportedly so distraught that he cancelled his entire round of appearances at San Francisco bathhouses tonight. Senator Diane Feinstein was the only Pelosi intimate on Capitol Hill to tender any word of support: "In all fairness," she said, "I've spent a weekend or two myself in Oakland with a few dozen of my closest motorcycling friends, and I recognize that look in her eyes. When you've been well and truly, er, befriended, within an inch of your life, it doesn't matter whether you're a U.S. Senator, Speaker of the House, or Empress of Goddam Japan. He snaps his fingers and you do what he says."

When asked for a comment, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, "Damn." Moments later, he added, "Damn." Then he concluded, " If only I'd known, I'd have, well, you know, not wasted so much time talking about screwing Republicans."

No party elections have yet been scheduled to determine a replacement Speaker, although multiple party-type parties are in full swing all across Washington, DC. According to party insiders, Senator Barbara Boxer, also of California, is leading the swinging by a head and a "surprisingly agile abdomen."

A spokesperson for the Hillary Clinton campaign dismissed rumors that the former candidate had anything to do with Pelosi's resignation. "Bruno is just a casual friend of the family," she said. "He has no official duties in the campaign organization. What he does in his private life is completely unrelated to any services he might perform, if and whether he does, for Mr. and Mrs. Clinton."

The San Francisco office of the FBI was still printing out Bruno's rap sheet at press time but estimated that the last page would be in hand before the morning network shows went on the air at 7 am.

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