Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
February 7, 2010 - January 31, 2010

Friday, February 05, 2010

Friday Follies?
For some reason, it's Music Day
in ConservativeLand. Go figure.

BigHollywood is featuring this ode to King George.

SERENDICITY? Who knows? Maybe hearts are just bursting with song because otherwise they'd be bursting with spleen. Still, it's funny. Here's a music video just posted at PajamasTV: It's called "You Talk Too Much" and it's about guess who.

And here's a hat tip from NRO about the likelihood we'll hear a conservative anthem at the Super Bowl.

The Who will probably play the all-time greatest conservative rock song, “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” during the Super Bowl halftime show on Sunday.

That’s the #1 song on the list I compiled for National Review a few years ago. It’s the most talked-about article I’ve ever written...

A few months later, The Who were touring the United States. A writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer asked Townshend about the list.

This summer, National Review magazine called “Won’t Get Fooled Again” the greatest conservative rock song of all time. Townshend says that’s “on the money.” The self-described “working musician” who sees his job as “helping the audience to forget themselves,” says he never really bought into “all that hippie (expletive) I so despise.”

And, Townshend says, “when people say ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ is not about rebellion, it’s the exact opposite of that, I say they’re right.”

Which also highlights the list (from 2006) I frankly missed:

On first glance, rock ’n’ roll music isn’t very conservative. It doesn’t fare much better on second or third glance (or listen), either. Neil Young has a new song called “Let’s Impeach the President.” Last year, the Rolling Stones made news with “Sweet Neo Con,” another anti-Bush ditty. For conservatives who enjoy rock, it isn’t hard to agree with the opinion Johnny Cash expressed in “The One on the Right Is on the Left”: “Don’t go mixin’ politics with the folk songs of our land / Just work on harmony and diction / Play your banjo well / And if you have political convictions, keep them to yourself.” In other words: Shut up and sing.

But some rock songs really are conservative — and there are more of them than you might think. Last year, I asked readers of National Review Online to nominate conservative rock songs. Hundreds of suggestions poured in. I’ve sifted through them all, downloaded scores of mp3s, and puzzled over a lot of lyrics. What follows is a list of the 50 greatest conservative rock songs of all time, as determined by me and a few others. The result is of course arbitrary...

Go ahead. Peruse the entries. A lot of good songs there, some you know and some you probably don't. I'll play just one, and surprisingly perhaps, not the one (or two) you'd expect from an old Stones lunatic like me. I'm going with pure punk: Rock the Casbah by the Clash.

Banned from air play during Desert Storm

Okay, this is too much fun. One more: Bodies by the Sex Pistols.

The 'bodies'? Aborted babies.

Anyhow, I'm bowing to the universe's messages today and maybe you should too. Do you have any favorite songs that articulate your own political and cultural beliefs? Let us know and, if possible, give us links.

And, by all means, rock on.

P.S. Mrs. CP wanted me to devote the Friday Follies to today's 18th annual Wing Bowl, Philadelphia's answer to Fellini's Satyricon and the Eagles 0-for-Forever performance in Super Bowls. As instructed, I listened to much of the live radio broadcast (TV is utterly out of the question) from the Wachovia Center, where 19,000 drunken ticket holders assembled at 5 am to (drink and) watch an indoor parade of floats dissing Donovan McNabb and others, (drink and) watch a beauty contest of bikini clad Wingettes whose tops underwent a series of mysterious wardrobe malfunctions, and (drink and) watch a score or so of local "eaters" compete to see who could devour the most chicken wings in 28 minutes, divided of course into two 14-minute halves. The play-by-play announcers were WIP SportsTalk hosts, and the color announcer was a former porn starlet who commented in pitiless detail about "meat" and the, well, color of the five disqualifying vomit episodes that were also simultaneously replayed in slow motion on the Wachovia Center jumbotrons. Highlights included guest appearances by Snooki of Jersey Shore and Joey Chestnut, reigning Nathan's hot-dog-eating champion, who was so drunk he actually got ejected from the building at one point, though he returned in time to congratulate the winner and almost fall on the poor guy and his bloated bellyful of chicken flesh. The after party will last all day at Philadelphia's most famous strip club.

The long and the short of it is that I couldn't do what Mrs. CP asked. But I'm giving her this postscript instead. The winner downed an astonishing 238 chicken wings. Full coverage, photos, and video (!) are available at the WIP website. Here. (Also covered, oddly, by the elite liberal cognoscenti of the Huffington Post.)

Sorry, honey. Best I could do. I mean, does the whole world really need to know that the reason Eagles fans laugh at the Cleveland Browns' "Dog Pound" is because their own version of it can (and does) fill entire stadiums? No. They don't need to know that. Which is why I'm not going to tell them.

I'm asking people to share good conservative music instead. Like from the Clash and the Sex Pistols. So there.

I'm feeling incredibly virtuous about now. So don't go getting all distracted by Wingettes, okay? Music!

The "Corpseman" Thing

Yeah. He really said it. Three times.

DESPAIR. AllahPundit covered it. But not critically enough for Ed Morrissey, who said this:

I know Allahpundit hit this one last night, but no set of Obamateurisms would be complete without including the Navy “corpsemen” remarks from Barack Obama. Besides, I disagree with my esteemed blog partner on this one. Had Obama said this just one time and corrected it afterward in his remarks, then I’d have bet that some helpful staffer had loaded the Teleprompter with an incorrect phonetic spelling. However, after the first time “corpsemen” came out of his mouth, any speaker with even a passing knowledge of the military would have realized that the word had been mispronounced. After the second one, it should have been obvious...

Next time, maybe a White House staffer should make sure that all of the hard words really are spelled phonetically — or maybe our Commander in Chief should familiarize himself with the nation’s military instead.

I think they're both giving the One a wholly undeserved pass.

This is outrageously embarrassing. To the President. His handlers. And to the entire nation. I'm sorry but there is absolutely, positively no excuse for this kind of "Obamateurism" on any level.

It's not just about ignorance of the military. It's about fundamental illiteracy -- illiteracy about the military, yes, but also basic historical and English language illiteracy. This is a ripping off of the mask of completely fake education. And stone blind stupid ignorance of institutions that lie at the very core (pun intended) of American experience. This is no staffer error, no teleprompter screwup. For a man who would steer us in the direction of superiorly enlightened European socialism, he can't possibly be this ignorant of the fact that his native language contains entirely assimilated French words like 'corps.' He's perfectly capable of referring to the Marine Corps without turning it into a cadaver. What does this mean? The man can't SPELL. What is it in his highly educated head? The United States Marine Core? Trivial lapse, you say? No. He's the President of the United States of America, not a gas station attendant struggling to limn a "No Shurt, No Shose, No Servise" sign. They made fun of George W. Bush for his malaprops. But his ingenuity with prefixes and suffixes never made anyone suspect he would commend the White House chef on the deliciousness of the 'horse doovers' at the latest state dinner.

And it's even worse than that. Much worse. Navy corpsmen and the U.S. Marine Corps aren't the only corps a president should have engraved not just on his teleprompter but his heart. There is, for example, one of the greatest speeches (as opposed to banal telescripts) ever delivered by a genuine American hero. You can read the full text here, but I urge you to listen to the deeply moving conclusion of a career far more brilliant than anything Obama has yet shown potential to equal.

By all means listen to the whole thing, but focus at 2:20 in to the end.

So. You're the President of the United States. The Commander-in-Chief. And you've never read or heard, or bothered to learn anything about, this remarkable reflection on the mission and meaning of the greatest military in the world, by the single greatest military genius this country has ever produced, because you're an utterly phony pseudo-intellectual illiterate whose idea of leadership is bowing down to all the enemies your predecessors have fought so hard to protect us from.

I don't know how else to say it. Our president is a nightmare of this order:

Allah and Ed, sometimes your even-handedness is pure dimness. WAKE UP. This wasn't a slip of the tongue. He heard himself say it. Twice. And nothing in his illustrious elite background tweaked his ear enough to prevent him from saying it a third time. He didn't know. This is a revelation. And you should be reeling in fear and dismay at what it tells us about the fool we've thrust into the Oval Office.

Damn, Damn, Damn. Bad enough that he didn't know how seriously he screwed the pooch. Worse that neither of you two do.

You should be as ashamed of yourselves as you are of the teleprompter staffer you prefer to blame.

Damn. Now you're embarrassing us.

UPDATE. Excellent point from Guy T:

I'd have thought he'd at least be acquainted with the Peace Corps or the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Frankly, I'd forgotten about them because they're so, well, forgettable. But it slams us back to the basic charge of pure illiteracy, doesn't it?

Which reminds me of an embarrassingly personal point of snobbery. (Forgive me, everyone. I'm human too, meaning vain and awful for typically superficial reasons...) When I was at Harvard, it was commonly understood that Havard meant Harvard College, not all the add-on and extension latecomers like the Law School and the Business School and the (ugh) Government School. We might have been arrogant twits, but we at least knew how to read and pronounce English words. Understand: this is me absolutely squealing in pain that any Harvard alum could pronounce the word "corpseman" without immediately withdrawing into a walnut-panelled common room to do his duty with a Ruger pistol. Just saying.

Wish I hadn't said that. Overlook it. Please. But it's been weighing on me for quite a while now. Maybe you know how that is.

Hotair blinks, but grateful
for the mention...(simper)

SMILE, SMILE, SMILE. You know. That Jon Stewart fellow is smart. He was on O'Reilly this week and he was, uh, smart, with high ratings:

A cute bit which I would have posted even if HA didn’t have a cameo. (Keep an eye out about a third of the way through.) His point about blogger sensationalism is fair — I nodded at it myself two days ago — but go figure that a medium driven by partisan warfare and fierce competition for traffic would favor eye-grabbing headlines rich with violent metaphors. The irony, of course, is that Stewart himself owes no small part of his popularity among the left to his status as some sort of partisan gladiator who can be counted on to make conservative guests squirm.

Yuck. They make their livings from it now: traffic. Over-promote but under-offend and make nice behind the scenes because we're all in the same goddam bidness. Anything else anyone needs to know about the big-time blogosphere?

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Searching for
Tiger Woods

Genius is a gift that ennobles us all,
and the prices it exacts are, uh, fair.

STILL IN THE TOP TEN. Up till now, there's been an air of low comedy about the Tiger Woods scandal. Fessing up, we've participated in that. Belatedly, I'm realizing there are major issues here, which is often the way with major issues. They hide under surfaces that are banal and easy to fool ourselves about. It takes time for the substance to emerge as the fireworks die down and the grinding machine proceeds with its slow, annihilating mission. Now it's clear that the worms are coming out of the woodwork, piling on, helping to further the public reaction we're gradually being herded to. We're told that Tiger needs to confess to Oprah (that ghastly parasite on other people's pain). We're informed, drip by drip, of the corporate sponsors who are abandoning their former gold standard of celebrity selling power. We're alerted to the fact that elder statesmen of golf like Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus are loosing tongues long held in check (apparently) to censure him for sins against decency and, worse, golf. We're treated to sinister and suspect photos of Tiger looking suddenly dark in a thuggish hoody as he begins "sex addiction rehab."

I'm calling bullshit on the whole game. The only smart thing that's been said by anyone was Rush Limbaugh's observation that people are angry at Tiger for the crime of not being happy. The man who has everything -- fame, endless riches, and a picturebook family -- is not permitted to disappoint us by revealing that even everything can be not enough. This is true, as far as it goes, but it's not nearly sufficient to explain the importance and significance of the current media feeding frenzy and the truth that may lie deep inside the world of Tiger Woods.

Or, for that matter, the truth that may lie deep inside the world of Barack Obama. (I'll get back to this. I promise.)

Tiger Woods is the product of a process well known to us, one which we have frequently condemned even as we celebrated what it produced. His comrades in arms? Michael Jackson. Mike Tyson. Mickey Mantle. Venus and Serena Williams. Amelia Earhardt. Judy Garland. Macauly Culkin. And Bobby Jones. In each case, you have a parent or spouse who pushes an obvious talent toward greatness, often at tremendous cost to the person whose life is being directed by a dominant other. The ambition behind the pushing isn't necessarily malevolent. But it can be incredibly destructive and sometimes fatal.

Several things about this phenomenon are interesting to me. First, hasn't it been about a year since we were all poselytized to forgive Michael Vick, to accept his crimes as 'mistakes' and give him a 'second chance'? Are Tiger's sins really worse than Michael Vick's? Yes, he blew out his marriage, but he committed no atrocities against man or beast. Is there a double standard at work here? Perhaps a racial double standard? We're supposed to understand that Michael Vick never learned that it was evil to torture and murder dogs because of the impoverished state he grew up in. Meaning, we're supposed to understand that not forgiving Michael Vick his 'mistakes' is tantamount to racism.

Which would be ironic indeed, because I think there's also a racial component to the fix Tiger is in now. Consider this. Every sports fan has learned that the sorry ending to Mickey Mantle's life was the result of the fact that his father mercilessly drove him from earliest childhood to become the greatest player in baseball. Which he, in fact, became. We still love Mickey Mantle but we cluck at the abuse the old man dished out to create our icon.

Contrast this with the treatment Tiger Woods's father has received from the media: he was a good man, a military man, who guided and instructed his son on his path toward golfing greatness. uh, in other words, he was Mickey Mantle's father. A man with a suspect agenda.

Mickey Mantle's father but black. And so immune from publicly voiced suspicion. Except that by popular media treatment and his own protestations, Tiger isn't black. (What is he? 'Blasian.' Oh.) Or else we might now be looking at him as we do Michael Jackson, the victim of an abusive childhood which made him into a freak, defenseless against the forces that transformed talent into narcissism on a suicidal scale. And, for that matter, has the sporting press ever really pursued the question of what occurred in the Williams household to make Venus and Serena into tennis champions? Even when there is the occasional spectacular ugliness we saw from Serena last year? No.

To be clear, I'm not saying that the syndrome Tiger has fallen prey to is a function of his race. Only that he, oddly, is a double victim of political correctness. He gets punished going and coming because of what we agree to talk about and what we agree not to talk about. Truth is, prodigies of every sort have been subject to the same ills throughout recorded history, beginning perhaps with Alexander the Great. The process of grooming a promising child for breakthrough greatness is moral quicksand. Terrible things can be done. Especially when the one who pushes is doing it not for the sake of the pushee but for his or her own selfish motives. To live vicariously through a child or spouse, to achieve a sort of vengeance on the world for everything the pusher is not and can never be. (Worst example: 'Toddlers and Tiaras.')

But that's not the whole story, particularly when fathers are involved. Unlike mothers, fathers have a responsibility to the culture into which they thrust their children. They are there to protect, certainly, but not just the child. They are also there to make sure their blood does its best service to the tradition of which they are a part. It is uniquely their responsibility, unlike mothers, to make sure that their sons and daughters do no harm and, wherever possible, participate in setting the bar of excellence higher for everyone else. In other words, there's a case to be made in defense of Mickey Mantle's father. What's that case? He gave us Mickey Mantle.

It's all well and good that Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus now choose to criticize Tiger Woods. I understand. I do not criticize them for criticizing. But the world needs geniuses, with all their dramas and flaws. The difference between Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods is illustrative. Nicklaus was as great a golfer as it's possible to be without actually being great. He never understood the drama of his records or greatest victories. Golf was never a force that flowed through him and erupted in spontaneous specific gravity. He dominated but always as a drab. Tiger is a force of nature. Like Bobby Jones before him.

Key moment. 48 seconds in. Nicklaus is
mad at Tiger for having a temper. Do tell.

Just two more points to make. Since when did 'forgiveness' become an external institutional sacrament of popular culture? The forgiveness of Tiger Woods is not a function of Oprah or TMZ or polls. It's a private matter between Tiger Woods, his family, and his own conscience. It may well be that being Tiger Woods is worth the price he is paying right now. Personally, I fear that he may be suicidal because he has allowed himself to be so packaged, sponsored, and promoted that there's nothing left of him. As far as I know, I'm the only one who's concerned about this. Does that tell you anything? My hope is that he remembers he was raised to be not the greatest husband or father in the world but the greatest golfer. Which he is. Even if he quits it all today. That's a worthwhile basis for embarking on a new life, one that provides more return for the effort expended. I sincerely wish him peace of mind and, eventually, happiness, based on the forgiveness only he can accord himself, with whatever repentance he may find necessary. Note that none of this has anything to do with what we, the public, can bring to the table. Or even Jack Nicklaus.

Finally. My fears for Tiger are analogous to my fears for Obama. Both were raised as special projectiles against the disappointments of an obsessive parent. They differ only in that Tiger possesses real genius. Obama is presently experiencing his own first acquaintance with reality outside the bubble of a missionary upbringing. (I do know something of this kind of upbringing, kiddies.) We may be on the brink of watching him shatter into a thousand pieces. Not all putative geniuses are.

But Tiger is. Which is why I'll close with this clip.

Have I given you anything to think about? Doubt it. We're all used to setting the price on the value we obtain from strangers. A big part of that price is our right to stand in judgment over the corpse of our inspirations. So be it.

P.S. uh, the whole 'sexual addiction' wheeze. Anybody else out there who thinks this is a bridge too far? Must we have 12-step programs for everything? Is every excess we indulge in a nail that has to be crushed by a 12-step hammer? I have to admit that, for me, sex isn't the same thing as alcohol or drug addiction. Sex is actually fun, exciting, and curiously lacking in hangover symptoms. It doesn't rot your liver, loosen your front teeth, kill strangers on the highway, or suddenly stop your heart. Not that it can't do damage to people you're supposed to protect. But it's not exactly an addiction, is it? Worst case, contextually but never absolutely, it's -- what's the word -- a sin. Turning it into something else is the ultimate hypocrisy of our age. And a sure sign that our attempts to 'cure' people of it as if it were a disease are doomed to failure. Most particularly when we posit the mass audience of pop culture voyeurs as the judges of the cure. Infidelity is not a disease. or an addiction. It's a failure of character. There's no 12-step program for that. There's only confession, apology, repentance, atonement, and the love that allows for redemption. Most women aren't capable of it. Some are, though. When they are, we call it Christianity, not rehab.

Just how loud do I have to scream to make you realize how sick our national life has become?

Vertigo Followup
for Eduardo

The Vertigo vortex image. In her hair.

OLD BUSINESS. We had this deal. Eduardo would watch Vertigo, and I'd watch Babylon 5. What a sucker I was. Two hours versus dozens. Oh well. I keep my word. He kindly wrote back that he had watched Vertigo and understood that it was better than he'd thought, though he had some questions. Like, why did she jump at the end? What was that all about? Which caused me to write him again. Only he never got my email. And still, two email addresses later, hasn't gotten it. So here's what I wrote him.

Hi [Eduardo],

I was good too. I watched the first disc (four episodes) of Babylon 5. Note that you're done and I'm still under sentence. But a deal is a deal. It may take a while, but with my wife's persistence, I will keep going.

Too early to give you a review. I like some of it, but I'm waiting to see where it goes, reserving judgment. Okay?

As for your questions about Vertigo, let me first say that I appreciate your giving it a real look. I know how hard it can be. I got my first clue about that when you said you could only watch Rear Window by fast-forwarding through it. It brought to mind a close friend of mine (older than you and also smart as a whip) who jeered at Shane without knowing it was one of my favorite movies. Too slow. Nothing happens. Like watching paint dry. He'd been raised on Clint Eastwood westerns, which I also love, and waiting an entire movie for one gunfight was just unthinkable. I know how he felt. But I saw Shane BEFORE I saw Clint's remake, Pale Rider, and I love them both, though I know when I'm being honest with myself that Shane is the better movie by far, though slower, more 'composed' and hence more structurally artificial, though more dramatically, realistically, and humanly honest. [The solution to generational disconnect of this sort btw is to slow down. No, it's not Transformers, the Sequel. Sloooow Doooown. Listen to the Moonlight Sonata first. Satie. Nina Simone. Read T.S. Eliot out loud to yourself. It can be done.]

Hitchcock is also structurally artificial. He was famous for having every shot of a movie mapped out before he ever yelled action. He referred (glibly) to actors as cattle, though he always picked the ones (Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart) who could attend to the tiniest details on camera. He was the the cinematic equivalent of what in painting is called super-realism, hyper-realism, or photo-realism.

Like this.

His cinematography achieves an extraordinary FOCUS, either black-and-white or bursting color, that does not bleed, blur, stain, or otherwise interpose some filtering vision between filmmaker and observer. The dull sections of Rear Window you fast-forwarded through were Hitchcock's self-revelation of himself as a director. He is watching the intimate details most people fail to look at, because we all always confess our natures even if we never explain them in words. That's his signature. Always watching. Always a voyeur. And always third-person behind the camera. Incredibly difficult.

For example, I don't know if you've read the detective fiction of Dashiell Hammett. He was the precursor of all the greats, including the greatest, Raymond Chandler. But what is distinctive about Hammett from every other twentieth century writer I've ever read is that Hammett wrote in a pure third-person point of view. Not third-person ominiscient, or third-person limited omniscient -- not telling or intimating even his main character's thoughts. He wrote like a news reporter, depicting the physical appearances and actions only. I can tell you, as a fiction writer, this is an almost impossible narrative voice, even in the visual medium of film, where there are so many subtle ways to cheat. No other film director I know of tries it at all. Hitchcock does it exclusively.

He, and you, are always just watching, from some distance. That's where all his suspense comes from. None of his characters ever directly tells you, the audience, what they're thinking or planning. They tell other characters, perhaps, but they may be, and frequently are, lying.

Which is hyper-realism. You get to see everything in excruciating detail, but the director never saunters in to explain it all, just so you'll both be on the same page. Life isn't like that. Hitchcock isn't like that. Revelations always come in the form of action, outcomes, events.

Which is why Hitchcock movies require incredibly close and minute observation.

Which is especially true of Vertigo, considered by many of us to be Hitchcock's greatest picture. It was as close as he ever came to formal confession. What Stewart did with Novak in Vertigo, Hitchcock did with many of his (always blonde and beautiful) leading ladies. He made them all into his fantasy love object, dressing them, schooling them, directing them, transforming them. Grace Kelly. Tippi Hedren. Eva Marie Saint. Kim Novak. Others. They were just clay for his remote voyeuristic vision.

He knew that the exercise of such cold power was possibly evil, destructive, and most of all obsessive. At the end of Vertigo, Kim Novak didn't JUMP. She fell, frightened by a sudden apparition -- of a nun -- that is supposed to be a figure of safe and comforting authority, even divine authority. So who is the man who relentlessly drives her to this hysterical reaction? The man who begins the movie hanging by his fingernails from a rooftop? A man afraid of the heights his job pushed him to. A detective. In other words, a man whose whole profession is supposed to make him proof against being manipulated into a devious plot whose sole purpose is to destroy innocence. A man well loved and enfolded in superficial understanding who cannot stop himself from becoming the victim of his own fears and obsessions and creating other victims thereby.

The whole conducted in the most reasonable, understated, and third-person objective way imaginable.

Vertigo is an anguished psychological horror film, but one devoid of the arterial spray today's generation expects. The moment I've previously called transfiguration is tantamount to the sexual release Hitchcock obtained by controlling and commanding the beautiful women he could never possess sexually in real life. And they all got away from him. And his own internal torture was eternal, equivalent to damnation. The guilty man on top of the tower, no longer afraid of height for its power to do him in, but profoundly stained by the damage that height could do to clueless, illusory innocents.

Or, if you watched the movie enough, you could come up with a whole other interpretation of what it might mean, because nobdoy anywhere in the film volunteers the slightest sliver of insight about what it might mean.


All I know is that having seen it a few times it stays with you. Haunts you like the haunts of Stewart's delusions. Her suit becomes eerie. Her French twist. Her platinum hair. Why? Because Hitchcock succeeds in his plot just like the malefactor you noted succeeds unavenged in his. They get away "Scot-free." How? They make you fall in love with the illusion too. You can't wait to get rid of Kim Novak's mousy hair, trashy wardrobe, and thick eyebrows in favor of the vision in platinum and gray. Hitchcock is telling us, you want it too, and his choice of music makes it all seem something like romance. Stewart's moment of transformative fulfillment is ours too. And H's.

That's the real definition of H. Horror.


You see? Engage us here and we will -- what's the word? -- 'dialogue' with you to your heart's content. Or at least ours.

UPDATE. Just for fun, on the subject of point of view.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Harvard Whores

NOTWITHSTANDING OLD LOYALTIES. Maybe this entry is a little unfair, and maybe it isn't. I watched Fox News Sunday this week and got a bad taste in my mouth. The show began with a panel of two senators and two congressmen assessing the State of the Union speech, Obama's current positions on healthcare and the war on terror, and the nature of the political environment in the wake of the Massachussetts miracle of Scott Brown. Three of the four were candid and thoughtful as much as politicians can afford to be -- Senator Evan Bayh (D) of Indiana, Senator Lamar Alexander (R) of Tennessee, and Congressman Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin. The fourth was Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D) of Maryland. Every second he spent on camera was an utter waste of time. Rote, repeated talking points. Denial. Outrageous claims of Obama achievement and popularity. Bush bashing. Class warfare. An almost parodistic string of empty clichees. It was as if he were appearing on a completely different program from his congressional colleagues, who endured his remarks with thin smiles and thinly disguised, uh, embarrassment.

Here's the transcript. And just one representative excerpt:

WALLACE: Let's turn to — I mean, we've been skirting around it, but let's talk just some politics with a capital "P" here.

Congressman Van Hollen, as we've said, you're in charge of electing more Democrats to the House this year. In the wake of the November loss in New Jersey and Virginia, in the wake of Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts, how much trouble is your party in?

VAN HOLLEN: The party's not in trouble, but at the same time we need to recognize what's on the mind of the American people, which is jobs, which is why the president and the Congress will be focused on a jobs acceleration package going forward, why we're going to make sure we try and pass the Wall Street accountability bill so that we don't have the taxpayers left holding the bag again in the future if you have bad decisions on Wall Street.

And the president's made a proposal to make sure that the taxpayer gets all those monies back at the end of the day, and we're hoping our Republican colleagues will join us in that.

So I think if we focus on the fundamental issues — and by the way, we all know health care reform is essential to bring down the deficit over the long period of time. All my colleagues would acknowledge that. So I think that if we focus on that, we will be in good shape going forward.

It's always going to be a difficult election year, the first midterm for a new president. We understand that. But let's focus on the fundamentals.

And if I just could, the president's point was not that the Republicans don't have any ideas. He pointed out he had incorporated some of them, like tax cuts, as part of the stimulus bill.

But what he was saying is, "Let's not go back to the same ideas that got us into the mess to begin with," for example, big tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.


OK indeed. All this pitiful spin on the same panel where a clearly troubled Senator Bayh said:

I mean, we can all criticize what happened last year under the previous administration, but I think the real question is where do we go from here.

I think a freeze on domestic discretionary spending is a good step in the right direction. I think the president's pledge to veto spending bills that go beyond his pledge to restrain Congress is a good step. A commission to restrain long-term debt, where we have bipartisan solutions - - I know Lamar voted for that. I voted for that. That's an example.

John McCain and I last week put out some suggestions, taking some of Paul's [i.e., Rep. Paul Ryan's] good ideas about how to restrain spending.

So it was a wake-up call, but whether we actually get the message and do the tough things to implement what needs to be done — that remains to be seen.

Now here's where the bad taste in the mouth comes in. While these gentlemen were speaking, Fox News producers were subtitling their responses on camera with chyrons spelling out their educational backgrounds. Evan Bayh:  B.S., business economics/public policy, Indiana University; J.D., University of Virginia. Lamar Alexander: B.A., Vanderbilt University; J.D., NYU School of Law. Paul Ryan: B.A., economics/political science, Miami University of Ohio. Chris Van Hollen, B.A., Swarthmore College; M.P.P.A., Harvard University; J.D., Georgetown University Law Center.

Have I made it clear that Van Hollen was the whore on the panel? Lacking only black lip liner, breast implants, and platinum hair extensions to establish his real profession beyond doubt. The only Harvard guy there (apart from a slightly incredulous Chris Wallace). Veritas.

Right. What a joke. And so I'm thinking, not for the first time, Harvard has a lot to answer for in this country. Teddy Kennedy has finally gone to his reward, whatever that might be. But we still have to account for the fact that many of the, well, blowsiest, most shameless lying whores in today's federal government have a Harvard connection: Senator Chuck Schumer, who will say absolutely anything to get on camera; Congressman Barney Frank, as despicable and duplicitous an abuser of the public trust as has ever been elected to the House of Representatives; Senator (ugh) Al Franken, who nakedly connived to chisel and steal an election he should never have been allowed to participate in as a carpetbagger and dilettante gadfly; and Barack Obama, who has never told us the truth about anything in his brief but incredibly damaging public career. Veritas.

One element of unfairness is that Harvard isn't the only offender in this regard. The other over-esteemed Ivy League schools are just about equally culpable. Timothy Geithner is a cheat and liar from Dartmouth. Eric Holder is a corrupt political buttboy from Columbia. Keith Olbermann is a vengeful pseudo-intellectual, semi-psychotic streetwalker from Cornell. The Clintons are both Yale sociopaths. Economist-whore Paul Krugman hails from Princeton.

Another element of unfairness is that some of the good guys come from these schools too. Charles Krauthammer. Bill Kristol. Ann Coulter. George Will. But nothing can make up for the harm that has been, and is being, inflicted on us by universities that proclaim their visionary discernment on matters of character, learning, and enlightenment. If they're any good at all at fulfilling their educational mission, why do their graduates constitute 40 percent of the top ten "most corrupt" politicians in the United States?

Harvard (and its vassals) has become the Fool on the Hill. Which makes me sick. And it should make you mad. I know I am.

Duplicitas. Yuck.

The Most Depressing
Music on Earth, Ever

Yeah, I admit it. Mezzo-sopranos are God.

RUSSKIES. Mrs. CP was a Russian scholar. We have a running joke about depressing movies. They can't be depressing enough for her. I prefer, well, Seabiscuit.

So this is a hat tip (courtesy of NRO's John Derbyshire) I couldn't ignore. He has an incredibly depressing book out called "We Are Doomed." People have been writing him about depressing music one could listen to while reading his apocalyptic tome. This recommendation has to do with Alexander Nevsky. And some incredibly sordid and depressing episode in Russian history involving genocide, ice, and all-around Russian-ness. The music is Soviet, crushing, in short -- Prokofiev. Mrs. CP is going to love it to death. Here's the whole ball of wax.

I think it's a good thing. The Russians really are the masters of depressing music, depressing everything. But we're Americans. We can flirt with the awfullest, saddest, most soul-destroying nothingness... for a while. Then we buck up and start believing again. Which is why I urge you to watch this...

...and then move on to the antidote. Which isn't as cheery as it is just plain vital.

We live. Always did. Always will. We are not Russians. We're Americans.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Super Bowl Week

My Favorite Players

The myth is that there has never been a Golden Age. It is a myth.

FIGHTING BACK AGAINST THE POISONING. I'm still sick and a little off my head on something called Mucinex-D, so forgive me if these musings have little to do with the Colts or Saints. When you're at your most vulnerable, you frequently fall victim to -- what's the word? -- nostalgia. The great Eagles cornerback Tom Brookshier died last Friday. That's one factor. Another factor was the Pro Bowl Sunday. Having to sit through yet another hagiographic ESPN promo for Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, whose greatest (and luckiest) career achievement to date was getting criticized by Rush Limbaugh. Ever since, the sportscasters have cut him a break they uniformly deny to every other QB in NFL history but the inarguably greater Dan Marino: they consistently add McNabb to their lists of finest active quarterbacks, in the same company with Brady, Manning, Favre, and Brees, never voicing the criticism -- "He can't win the Big Game" -- they used to level at even the great Peyton Manning until he won the Super Bowl a few years ago. (Mark my words: you'll hear it said about Philip Rivers next fall, but not McNabb.)

While the ESPN know-it-alls assailed ungrateful Eagle fans for dissing the superstar who tossed his cookies when the NFL Championship was in his grasp, McNabb was throwing two interceptions (one invalidated by penalty) and killing earthworms as usual with the ground-pounding artillery he calls passes. He was also, as usual, grinning and laughing as he trotted off the field after his three-and-outs. In a game that produced almost a thousand yards of total offense. Phooey.

So, just to distract myself, I got to thinking. Who are my favorite NFL players of all time? Forget the money, free-agency, prima donnas, MSM PR, and self-promotion. I'm not even trying to field an entire team, just to call out the ones who if you had them on your team would make you an insuperable force even if everyone else around them was a journeyman.

It also occurred to me that this kind of exercise is a litmus test. Something about how you approach life. For example, most of my choices predate the mega-million dollar contracts today's players enjoy. I'm drawn to the ones who played for pride, the love of the game, victory more than Maseratis and stock options. I'm obsolete, old-fashioned. But here are the players I'd want, whether they're really the best or not. I'm no scholar of football. Just a fan with a bunch of personal memories. Like many of you. Feel free to nominate your own favorites. After all, mine are only that.


I think of this part of the game in terms of units instead of individual stars. Which makes it easier. My defensive line is the Purple People Eaters of the old, pre-dome Vikings: Page, Eller, Marshall, and Larsen. Back in the era of the 14-game schedule, they once held their opponents to 133 points in a season. That's less than a touchdown and a field goal per game. If memory serves, their quarterback that year was Gary Cuazzo. Remember him? Exactly. They weren't big but they were game changers. I recall one Monday night game in which Alan Page got called for personal fouls on two successive plays. He proceeded to get all the penalty yardage back on the next two plays with two unassisted sacks of the quarterback. Sadly, there's no record on YouTube of this extraordinary set of defensive linemen. I know there will be those who prefer the "Steel Curtain" of Mean Joe Green and company, but I don't like the Steelers. Never did. It's that simple.

My offensive line is the unit known as the Redskin "Hogs." You can see their handiwork in the clip below, where my backup fullback demonstrates the value of a mohawk + incomparable blocking. I've never liked the Redskins either, but consistency is the bane of small minds. It's that simple.


I do have a full complement in this category. As an Eagles fan, I have to include the last of the 60-minute men, Chuck Bednarik:

As should be obvious by now, I've also always had a soft spot in my heart for the Colts. Which means my roster will forever have a place for Mike "The Animal" Curtis (scroll):

Not to mention one of my all-time-favorite favorite players. Who STILL rules so thoroughly that his latest heir is but a shadow of his memory:

The Defensive Secondary

Sorry. I don't remember corners any more than you do. I only remember free safeties. And this is the one I want. The only 'still active' player on my list if that tells you anything. I also have his jersey. His Eagles jersey.

Running Backs

You only need two. A halfback and a fullback. (With Riggins as backup). Here's my halfback -- poetry in motion:

And great as he was, he's just a distraction from the one and only all-time greatest running back in the NFL. I first encountered Jim Brown on the radio. Eagles announcers kept describing the fact that it took five men to tackle him and he still got five yards even when they hit him at the line of scrimmage. I couldn't even visualize such a man. Until I saw him play.

Simply the greatest football player of all time. Unstoppable.
And he didn't win the Heisman Trophy. Late bloomer? Right.


I have a lot of favorite quarterbacks. Roger Staubach. Kenny "The Snake" Stabler (video tribute, unless this is.), Fran Tarkenton. Randall Cunningham (best individual plays ever), Bobby Layne, George Blanda. All for different reasons. There's also Peyton Manning, whom I've written about before. If he wins the Super Bowl this year, he'll probably go down in history as the greatest QB of all time -- but still the second best QB the Colts ever had. Why? Everything he does was invented in the first place by this guy. The one who would have dismissed Joe Namath to oblivion if he hadn't been injured that year. Who? The Main Man.

Unmistakably iconic


No, I don't have a tight end. Who cares about tight ends? I have just two receivers. The greatest breakaway threat ever.

And the greatest third-down-game-on-the-line-all-time-favoritest-football-player-ever for those of us who are small and slow and invincibly determined to win. The one and only Fred Biletnikoff:

I never EVER saw him drop a pass. Un-fucking-believable.

There you have it. Maybe I'll talk about the 2010 Super Bowl later. Or not. As I intimated earlier, I'm not entirely in my right mind about now. I'm rocking back and forth in waves of nostalgia, remembering professional football the way it used to be, filled with personalities, giants, villains, and mythic forces of good and evil. I guess it says something bad about me that I was rooting a lot of the time for the evil silver and black. Punk has always been a state of mind.

My prediction. America will begin to recover from its current nanny-state malaise when the Oakland Raiders return to their pinnacle atop the National Football League. Lake, you keep track of predictions here. Write this one down.

P.S. For the faint of heart. The best videos, for those who only pick and choose, are the ones about Jim Brown, Dick Butkus, Brian Dawkins (Numero Uno by far, trust me), and Randall Cunningham. Everyone else should watch all of the YouTube links.

Monday, February 01, 2010

A video parable in
the Age of Obama

Yeah, it's also an advertisement. So what else is new?

WHO WE GOTTA BE. Cheese can be nutritious. It can also kill you. Which makes it a lot like Hope and Change Obama style. No big lesson here. We just got to learn how to push that weight off our chest and get strong enough to escape the trap. Even a mouse can have the eye of the tiger.


'Minority Report' Redux

A Minority Report. I'll explain. Later.

SHAMMADAMMA. Brizoni and IP have both weighed in on the State of the Union speech. But Mrs. CP and I have both been down sick with the -- what do they call it? -- Wild Boar Hog Flu -- which collapsed the two of us like flour sacks on the couch in front of the TV set for about five days. So, if you don't want to spend hours documenting intern misspellings on Fox News chyrons (My favorite? "Navel vessels.") or watching NBA lowlights on ESPN, soap operas, Lifetime Channel movies (where old actresses go to flex their facelifts) or Criminal Minds reruns (Mandy Patinkin needs a drink), you wind up watching murder on Dateline ID.

Kind of ironic when you think about it. You never have a more jaundiced and misanthropic view of life than when you're feeling physically lousy. Everything and everyone is annoying just by being there. Your spouse is feeling the exact same way right next to you. And you're sitting there watching husbands killing wives and wives killing husbands, all of them bent on committing the perfect crime. What's the kick? Making sure the other person on the couch isn't making surreptitious notes on the backs of envelopes. (Just for the record, I wasn't, and I never once caught her doing it either. Although she's far better organized than I am. And mostly smarter too. That's not an accusation. At all. But if CP suddenly vanishes from the site.... I'm just saying.)

So what are all the murders about? Spouses killing spouses. In the past five days we've probably seen somewhere between thirty and fifty spouse murders introduced by that weird chick NBC won't let out of the basement. Initially we felt sorry for her. "Such a nice outfit! Why does she have to stay down in the cellar?" Toward the end it was getting nasty: "Okay, so she lives on mold and mildew in the world's largest underground walk-in closet. They obviously have a very very good reason for keeping her there..." In fact, it seems that practically everybody should be locked in a basement, at all times, on general principles.

Because after a week of such education, I may not know a damn thing about the Obama agenda in 2010, but I know one hell of a lot about murder. Wanna hear? You better. It's all I can offer today.

I'm pretty sure, regardless, that my flu week constitutes a great service to my fellow citizens. It boils down to a handful of rules, a couple of keen observations, and ONE breakthrough recommendation. Ready? Rules first:

1. If you're looking for vengeance, get the venue changed to Ohio.

There is no case so circumstantial, so gossamer, so outright fantastical that an Ohio jury won't convict a husband or wife on a charge of First-Degree Murder. You thought the Sam Shepard case that inspired 'The Fugitive' was an artifact of the 1950s. It wasn't. There's an old saying (said way too many times btw by legal pundits) that a Grand Jury will indict a ham sandwich. Ohio juries will convict a ham sandwich of murder and then eat the sandwich themselves in their zeal for a death sentence. (This is not prejudice. My east-coast Vassar aunt was living in Ohio during the Shepard case. She would bite your nose off if you suggested Sam Shepard was innocent even after he was proven innocent. I'm just saying.)

2. Whatever you do, don't ever marry a doctor, a nurse, or an orderly.

Stone killers, all of them. Especially when it come to a nasty little drug called succinocholine. Don't ask what it does. Too awful to contemplate. Just know that they're dying to give it to you the moment your backside is turned (it's delivered by injection).

3. Forget about life insurance. Don't ever bring the subject up. Not for your spouse. Not for you.

As it turns out, all life insurance policies are simply the first step in a murder plot. Whenever there's a life insurance policy, the insured person dies. The police are looking for this. Which means that if you're the insured one, you're dead the moment you sign. ANd if you're the one who suggested it, you're going to be tried and convicted for murder. Even if you don't live in Ohio.

 4. Adultery is a death sentence. Either way.

If you cheat, you'll kill or be killed by your spouse. If you're cheated on, you'll kill or be killed by your spouse. Simple enough? Good.

5. Don't ever have money problems.

They always end in murder.

6. When planning your own spousal murder, stay the hell away from any plot that involves garbage bags, duck tape, tires, shoes, baseball bats or knives, arterial spray, Kleenex, or succinocholine.

They're onto all that stuff. Even those dumb hicks in Kentucky. You'd be shocked at how good those white trash language hammerers in border-state police forces are at nailing genius wife-killers.

7. Just because you're a rocket scientist, neurosurgeon, or rabbi, don't think you're automatically talented at murder. Think instead: you probably suck at murder. Big time. Laughably. Godawfully. Think about what an asshole you're going to look like during the perp walk. And they will do the perp walk. Because they don't like you.

Let's put it this way. The SATs do not measure aptitude for successful spouse killing.

Did I mention observations? Okay, here are a couple:

1. Murder juries seem to take their job seriously in 49 states of the union.

They're pretty impressive overall. Something about the dynamic of individuals from many walks of life evaluating everything that happens in the courtroom.

2. The quality of police forces and prosecutor offices varies enormously from place to place. Getting away with murder really is a crapshoot.

Sometimes the cops are amazing and the prosecutors spineless shits. Sometimes the prosecutors are brilliant but relying on lazy, slovenly police work. Sometimes they're both admirable, sometimes equally weak. The good thing is that there's no pattern. There's no way to be sure that the town or county you kill your spouse in will be staffed with dumbfuck cops and timid "I don't go to court without a slam-dunk conviction" prosecutors. The good ones, wherever they are, protect all of us. It's called deterrence.

3. Justice isn't just about forensics; it's also about judgment.

Spouse killers, male and female, really are different from you and me. That's what the juries see, even when they convict in ephemerally circumstantial cases. That's why Mrs. CP and I stuck with our murder course. You usually get to hear from the jurors what the jurors thought. They don't discount forensic evidence. They understand it better than Obama might think they would. But they're also watching the accused. They don't even seem to be judging him or her for violations of traditional morality. Infidelity, pornography, larceny, domestic violence, none of that seems to equate for them to murder. They really can set that aside. They suffer, even for the most unlikable defendants, under the power of life and death they hold over the accused.

They speak commonly of entering the courtroom after the verdict has been agreed on with hammering hearts and tears in their eyes, even when the verdict is guilty. After five days of watching them, I'd trust the juries of 49 states to judge me fairly.

Which leads me to my only real recommendation. The only dead-serious one anyway.

Mrs. CP and I developed a habit over the five days of looking to each other when the narrator announced that a case had gone to the jury. I'd say, "Guilty or Not Guilty?" She'd say, well, uh, "Guilty." As would I.

You see. Our five-day course taught us something else. When a spouse who has no enemies is murdered, the surviving spouse is usually the murderer. Not always. But usually. And the question of guilt or innocence is often easy to assess.

Killing someone you supposedly care about without immediately confessing the deed is almost always a job for a sociopath. The good news is that sociopaths tend to give themselves away. They know how to mimic ordinary human emotions -- vexation, disappointment, anger, loss, grief -- but their mimickry is based on observation. Which means they don't know how to imitate the unique emotions of having a loved one violently murdered.  They've never seen it and so can't imitate it.

The media get in the way of this observation, making it seem as if there's some conformist ideal of grief whose violation is a disruption of clichee that leads to the death sentence. "uh, he didn't act normal." That's not what's happening. Juries aren't convicting defendants because they don't cry when they seemingly ought to. They convict them because they have an ear -- and an eye -- for what is false, what is faked. The husband, the wife, the children who cry predictably at every mention of their purported loss, without tears.

That's what Mrs. CP and I saw again and again and again and again in OUR murder tour. The accused who wept lavishly and at every whipstitch, without tears.

We lifted our congested heads from our weary hands, looked at one another, and said, "Guilty."

BUT. The insight is this. Spouses who kill spouses in the first degree are almost all like this. They are sociopaths. That's why my recommendation is a kind of 'Minority Report.' There are many more sociopaths among us than most people suspect.  These are people without empathy, without conscience, without morality, and in most cases, without fear, which is why murder seems like a reasonable option to them. It never is. The price is so exorbitantly high compared to the benefit that the expected vaslue of the risk run is ridiculously low. The person who can't perform that dead-simple calculation is an emotionally retarded freak.

In fact, the people who think murdering their wives or husbands a rational choice are human defects. Damaged, incomplete, missing persons in your face. They're different enough from the rest of us that they can be identified by testing. Truthfully, we should all be able to identify them in normal conversation. (I know I've done.) And there are more of them now than have ever existed in our culture before:

As we've said. Before.

Of course, I'm just an old batshit bastard who doesn't know one thing one about anything.

Ignore me all you want. But test the kids for sociopathy. More of them are than you want to know. Do you really want their hands on the Hoverround when you're touring the Grand Canyon?

If you're too stupid to understand that question, stay away from Mrs. CP. Her Hoverround has a machinegun.

And I ride right behind her.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Turn the Sound Off

THIS TIME WE KNOW THE CAPTIONS... I'm not trying to compete with Brizoni's LiveBlog but to complement it. He heard the State of the Union address on the radio without being able to see it. Now I suggest that you watch Obama speak without being distracted by the voice, the words, the tone, the applause, the punditry. Just look. At his demeanor, his face, his eyes, and most particularly his mouth. Its default configuration is an arrogant, even contemptuous sneer. Even after a smile it reverts to a hard downturned line. This is no servant of the people. This is a superior taking time out from loftier matters to lecture his unworthy subjects. Watch as long as you can stand it. Note how often his chin drifts superciliously upward. Is it just me or are his eyes as fixed and cold as a shark's? We like this man, do we? Really? We deserve this man?

Not really. Unless we continue to value him as highly as he values himself. In that case we would merit the indignities he intends to heap upon us.

I'm with Chris Matthews on one point at least. I didn't think of him as black either. I thought of him as a tyrant barely restraining his impulse to arrest all the undesirables in the room. That's a mien that knows no color, except for that of the soul which inhabits the uniform of power.

Watch. To the extent that this performance has not been adjudged unanimously a disgrace to the office of president, it is our own disgrace as a nation, a people, and a citizenry we are witnessing.

Why the site has been silent for a few days... mortification.

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