Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
May 3, 2011 - April 26, 2011

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

What would be enough?

Mussolini hanged upside down in a public square.

FOLLOW-UP. Don't get me wrong. I want to see a bin Laden picture. Because I'm InstaPunk and want to see the bastard's dead body. But it's not proof I'm after. Proof isn't possible in the way pundits and politicians are talking about it. I just want to gloat. Others pretend they have loftier concerns.

Apparently we've embarked on a new silly season. Senators are gravely disapproving of a swift burial at sea, as if it created some kind of problem that can't be fixed. Talk show hosts are offended that bin Laden received a muslim burial in accordance with the 24-hour rule Islam prescribes. Facebook brainiacs are sure there's something, well, fishy about the whole thing. (Other than Osama "sleeping with the fishes." Ha.)

I'm out of patience with all this crap. And it is crap.

A few things to think about before you join in the general grumbling. If Islamic terrorists want to believe that Osama bin Laden wasn't killed by U.S. Navy Seals, nothing will ever convince them otherwise. That's the nature of conspiracy theories. They subsist on preconceived assumptions, not evidence. Just look at the 'Truthers' and 'Birthers.' There is no factual evidence they will ever accept as refutation of their preconceptions.

Same goes for all of you who think this was a trick of the Obama administration. What would be enough to convince you? The body publicly displayed like Mussolini's, or Bonnie and Clyde's bullet-riddled flesh propped up in coffins, so that throngs can file past and spit on the remains?

Bonnie & Clyde didn't mind, did they?
And nobody thinks they survived, right?

Where would we do that, though? At Ground Zero? But most of you have never been to Ground Zero, have you? So should we arrange a road show and ferry the decomposing corpse of bin Laden from state to state, city to city, town to town, hamlet to hamlet, and fairground to fairground? So that you can be convinced? Even then, what would it prove? There's just a dead man dissolving, and are you really an expert at confirming the identity of the deceased?

Of course you aren't. Nor do you perform DNA tests or deconstruct Photoshop frauds or measure facial dimensions or conduct autopsies.

A DNA report and a photograph are all you're ever likely to get, and anything beyond that would be more than you're equipped to assess in any scientific terms resembling proof.

Meaning, if you think it's all an Obama trick, there's nothing that will ever convince you otherwise. Just like the Islamic terrorists.

Are we good so far?

Now, finally, the controversy about giving the man a muslim burial. Get over it. I'm InstaPunk and I've got no problem with it. What's the whole point of our 'War on Terror'? That we're the civilized ones and they're the barbarians. I don't need to feed his body to the pigs unless I believe in their false scripture and faith in a child-molesting, murderous, genocidal false prophet whose descendants are determined to wreck the world. I'm content to let him meet his Maker and account for what he has done at the Seat of Judgment.

If you thought about it, you'd be content too. But I'm sure some of you who haven't thought about it will be eager to pretend you're thinking up a storm.

So be it. Have fun.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Thank God, at last.

Reportedly, Phillies fans sought out Mets fans and hugged them....
The players didn't know and announcers struggled to do their jobs.

. It still doesn't seem real, all these hours later. Elation mixed with bitter memory. Osama bin Laden is finally dead. As are (still) the innocents he murdered and the troops who died opposing his barbarian terrorist organization and other enemies of "The Great Satan."

Credit where credit is due. Obama did his job as Commander-in-Chief. (I listened to Limbaugh's opening monologue and turned it off five minutes in because the sarcasm of his presidential praise was frankly akin to Keith Olbermann's leaden idea of satire.) Obama picked the right plan -- special forces rather than carpet-bombing by B2s that would leave no proof. He gave the order to launch the mission. His speech announcing the result was statesmanlike and perhaps the best I've heard him deliver.

I believe very strongly that conservatives should resist sniping at Obama about this. At most, they should counter the MSM's predictable efforts to depict the outcome as evidence of Bush's failures. By all means defend the instrumental roles of the Department of Homeland Security, Guantanamo, and "advanced interrogation techniques," which were all obviously contributors to a successful conclusion of a 10-year manhunt. But resist the temptation to trivialize Obama's role in the operation. History happens. Yes, Reagan won the Cold War, but it was George Bush the Elder who was in office when the Soviet Union collapsed in ruin. That's one of the positives of the American political system. Continuity based on pragmatism and a certain amount of irreducible common sense. Obama wanted to but ultimately didn't close Guantanamo, extract our troops unilaterally and completely from Iraq and Afghanistan, and replace military tribunals with the American criminal justice system with all its constitutional protections of the accused. He may have been dragged kicking and screaming the whole way, but in the end he bowed to reality in these instances.

And he directly ordered the mission that got bin Laden. To deny him that accomplishment is mere sullenness. My hope (faint though it may be) is that this experience will be educational for Obama, that he will begin to understand his nation and its virtues in a way he has never comprehended before. The presidency makes men either bigger or smaller. It never leaves them the same. Before this, it had seemed to make Obama relentlessly smaller. But it would be to everyone's benefit if he suddenly started to grow in office to a new appreciation of American character, resolve, courage, and perseverance. If this signal success should cause him to reevaluate his "lead from behind" foreign policy and begin asserting traditional American leadership, how many of us would breathe a sigh of relief? I know I would.

There's also an upside for conservatives in graciously acknowledging success when it occurs. The death of bin Laden is not going to rescue or transform an otherwise failed presidency. After Desert Storm, George Bush the Elder had approval ratings in the high eighties or more. A year later, a mild recession and his fumbling response to it cast him out of office. Foreign policy rarely decides elections. Gas and food prices are far more important than mideast peace treaties. Obama's fate hangs more on the rate of inflation and employment figures than it does on global politics. Congratulate him when he earns it and hammer him on the debt and the sorry state of the U.S. economy. Don't make the Democrat mistake of rooting against your country, or undermining its real accomplishments, for the purpose of winning the next election.

My final thought has nothing to do with Obama. It has to do with the contrast between the Old World and the New World. Last week we had the spectacle of a royal wedding. Perhaps the greatest day for the U.K. since its victory in the Falklands or the end of World War II. Even I was affected by a cut from Westminster Abbey to the million-strong crowd outside who -- glued to a Jumbotron of the ceremony -- sang along with the boys choir inside on a triumphal Anglican anthem, Union Jacks waving by the thousands. Affected but also troubled. Americans love the pomp and circumstance, but the scene is very far from American. It's a genuflection to archaic blood-based aristocracy that flies in the face of our own most deeply held beliefs about equality. Make no mistake. I was happy for them. The bride was beautiful, the props and processions were gorgeous in every detail, and London looked magnificent. It was their day and I don't begrudge them a moment of their national pride and sense of themselves as an ancient power.

But life is a funny thing. Within days of that fantastic moment, America had a greater moment, more real and infinitely more moving. One without the planning, design, and attention to detail of the royal nuptials. A massive national wound was suddenly salved, and with total spontaneity, the nation responded in every venue from Twitter to Times Square. Americans swarmed in joy to Ground Zero and the White House to celebrate. At all three service academies and wherever Americans were accidentally situated en masse (e.g., baseball parks and hockey arenas across the country), they chanted and sang in unison. Most amazingly, back at Ground Zero, in the heart of lefty New York, throngs joined in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance -- not to a king or queen, but to the flag of the United States of America.

Regardless of the polls and the cynical assessments of the pundits, we are NOT done. We are us. And I insist that they, whoever they are, will never succeed in stamping that peculiarly vital attribute of our national character out of us.

P.S. Helk is raising the old question, "Wasn't bin Laden already dead?" We raised the same question long ago. Our answer this time is that Seal Team 6 wouldn't participate in a fraud. Call us gullible. Then wait for Seal Team 6 to show up and answer your accusations.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Atlas... Kinda Sucks. Kinda Really Sucks

Would this trailer interest you in the least if you
didn't know the source material? That's the problem.

THE KID GRADUALLY COMES RUNNING. OK. Real quick. Why the Atlas movie sucks, and why that doesn't matter.

The review from Slate deftly sums up how it sucks:

Anyone who's seen a SyFy Channel original movie in which a mutated insect battles a mutated amphibian will be comfortable with the production quality.

Ooooch. SyFy isn't exactly synonymous with low-budget excellence. But, as InstaPunk pointed out years ago, no way was Hollywood ever going to make this picture. Maybe Transmorphers-quality CGI train effects are a necessary evil. And clearly, the source material for an Atlas movie is miles ahead of the original Mansquito novella (or short story in a high school "literary" magazine, or drunken rambling of SyFy exec). This... might... not be so bad?

Anyone who's seen a faithful Christian adaptation of a Bible story will be comfortable with the style of adaptation—as much original text on-screen as the screen can hold.

Nope. Never mind. It is that bad. What Atlas, above most books, needs is an adaptaion. Not a rote transliteration. On the page, the dialogue has an air of dignified overwroughtness. Spoken aloud by CW teen-drama extras? As staid and mindless as The Greatest Story Ever Told. An Atlas movie ought to be about the ideas in the book. Not the word-for-word text. The producers' preferrence of the latter is silliness, and disaster.

It's hard to conceive how it could have turned out any worse. Any dumber. A no-budget version shot by 16-year-olds in a small backyard on Home Betamax would have been better. Attack of the Super Monsters redubbed with Galt's speech would have been better.

The hardcore Randians-- the Rand worshipers-- love it, because they eat up all but the most negative attention she gets in the world outside their echo chamber. Those of us who love her, but have more than one author on our bookshelves, are dismayed. (and if Rand wasn't gaining traction, no one would be dismayed. See?)

You know what? That's all OK. The Atlas movie may give her detractors something to snigger about, but her core ideas-- the primacy of reason and the sanctity of self-determination-- remain necessary for the ultimate survival of the American experiment. The film doesn't slow the spread of those ideas. It just doesn't help them spread as well as it should have.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Same old same old

Skip to 7:15 in. Subject --Israel.

PAULISTA NONSENSE. Typical Beck. The file won't obey the centering function. I'm including this because favored commenter Pete insisted I listen to this video. He seems to think it's proof that Ron Paul isn't anti-Israel or truly isolationist.

Not much I can say or have to say. Paul is disingenuous and Peter is naive. The idea that the best way to protect a friend and uphold a solemn moral obligation in a region of pure barbarians is by ignoring your friend, on the pretense that it's for his own good, is idiotic. Criminal in fact. The stability of the middle east is dissolving precisely because the United States is sitting on the sidelines. To cite the danger of impending Islamist regimes to Israel while we do nothing and act as if we're working on their behalf is sickness.

What has protected 3 million Israelis from the 300 million Arabs arrayed against them thus far is not the nuclear weapons they can't use. It's this:

But Peter knows better. As he does about most things. When I was his age, I knew everything too. I wish I still did. But I'm saddled with memory.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Because Guy asked...

I, on the other hand, am NOT a humorist.

SSSSSSSSSSSSS. I was going to do a post about the Balanced Budget Amendment being pushed by so many conservatives as a way out of our fiscal woes. But then two things happened. Guy responded to the last post by requesting more information about the humorists cited there. And I realized that there's nothing in the Balanced Budget Amendment idea worthy of a complete post. It's the single most utterly idiotic fixation of the right in this country. It can't pass congress. If passed, it can't secure a three-quarters majority of the states. And even if it could, the amendment would be confirmed way too late to prevent the bankruptcy of the United States. Besides, it's a rotten idea anyway. There are times of great natural emergency when money has to be spent regardless; we couldn't have won World War II without deficit spending. That's all that needs to be said, unless anyone needs reminding that if this is the best our would-be conservative saviors can come up with, we're in even worse shape than I thought. I can't believe such a crappy "solution" to our debt problem is still getting lip service by anyone.

Which brings us back to the topic of humorists. Because laughter is the medicine we all definitely need at the moment. Here's a little more about the authors I recommended on Friday.

Stephen Leacock. He is still remembered today, in Canada, first as a mathematician, second as a famously brilliant Canadian, and third (and distantly) as a literary humorist. There's a Stephen Leacock Institute which celebrates the math thing almost exclusively. But this site has already covered his humor contributions, and you can go here to see them.

P. G. Wodehouse. Another one I've written about before. I read the first definitive biography of him a few years back, and what's clear about him -- as for so many other humorists -- is that his life was in many ways sad, even though he lived to great old age, produced about a hundred novels, and umpty-gazillion short stories. He was a man of baffling contradictions and therefore a more useful source of insight about the U.K. than most of the "serious" writers in his country who were contemporaries or came later. He seems to us locked permanently in the England between the two world wars, a fantasy realm of country estates, two-seat roadsters, gentlemen's clubs, and aristocratic aunts with lorgnettes and no knowledge whatever of everyday English life. Yet he is the source cited by Evelyn Waugh, the deadliest satirist of his age, as the master of dialogue from whom Waugh learned how to eviscerate pretension and hypocrisy in the most maliciously brilliant novels of the twentieth century. In person, Waugh was witty and mean; Wodehouse was everywhere described as dull. Wodehouse was afraid of assertive women, indifferent to sex, not because he was gay, it seems, but because his personality was formed by distant, even cold, family relations, and then frozen for good in adolescence by his happier experience in boarding schools when he finally escaped from home. Then he managed to get himself exiled forever from Britain by being a "good sport" on the radio when he was interned by Germans in the early days of World War II. He never went home again. He never complained. Because that's the way Brits are. No matter what they do to you, you have to petend to have the emotional range of a cricket bat.

The inability of British men to express genuine emotion without degenerating into stuttering incoherence is a staple of dozens of Wodehouse plots, and aristocratic origins aggravate the affliction enormously. The odd result is that this man who never expressed political views in his writing and devoted himself to producing souffles of the purest fantasy is nevertheless a direct progenitor of not only Evelyn Waugh but Monty Python's Flying Circus and the recent Oscar-winning film called The King's Speech, in which an Aussie "Jeeves" comes to the rescue of a "Bertie" who just happens to be the King and a life-imitates-art version of Wodehouse's dimwit protagonist, Bertie Wooster. The life imitated in the latter instance is real life -- neglect, abuse, emotional starvation, and an isolating class system we're being asked to celebrate this week with all the hyping of the royal wedding. In retrospect, the faultessly kind treatment by Wodehouse of the Brit upper classes can be read now as the gentlest of all satires, but his comedy has acquired bite through the passage of time. It is now possible to see in his hilariously lovable depiction of the absent-minded Earl of Emsworth a haunting precursor to the much less benign idiocy of Prince Charles. And so it goes.

Ring Lardner. Finally, an American. I couldn't find the Fitzgerald quote I was really looking for, his reference to Ring's "face like a ruined cathedral." The first book of Lardner's I ever read was titled "How to Write a Short Story." Typically, that title was pure self-deprecation. Lardner lived in a time of consciously "literary" writers -- Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Stein, Joyce, and company -- who were dazzling the reading public with their singular talent for writing sentences, paragraphs, and whole novels that were self-evidently edifices of words, every scene and moment an incarnation of their own unique voices. Lardner was a throwback to the obsolete template of Mark Twain. He had an ear for the way common men spoke. His point of contact was overwhelmingly but not exclusively baseball. The novel "You Know Me Al," arguably his greatest work, is a throwback even in form, all the way back to Samuel Richardson who wrote the first novel ever, Pamela, which consisted of letters. Lardner's "You Know me Al" did too; it was subtitled "A Busher's letters home."

You know how professors can fool you. I was an English major. In college I was exposed to a list of the consensus "ten best novels of the 20th century." All of which we had to read. Literary stuff. One of the ones on the list was Ford Madox Ford's "The Good Soldier," which we were told accomplished the impossible task of making the reader see what the narrator could not, that the truth of things was very different from the way the narrative represented them. Impossibly subtle. Brilliantly oblique. Blah blah. For years after, I recommended "The Good Soldier" to friends as if I were sharing literary wisdom. It took me some years to realize that I had seen this same "impossibly subtle" feat performed even before I read "The Good Soldier." In a book published at approximately the same time, after what was demonstrably a longer period of gestation, meaning that Ring Lardner started "You Know Me Al" before "The Good Soldier" was published.

Yeah, it's still possible to make the case that "The Good Soldier" was a better book because the 'reveal' is slower. But Lardner makes it clear that seeing past the stupidity of the narrator is something that can be accomplished on the first page, not the 200th. And the art involved is in no way less, because the invitation, the insistence, to read between the lines begins at once. And he actually manages another so-called literary impossibility -- making you keep turning the pages after you've realized you don't really like the person who's the major actor in the story. Ring Lardner was a hell of a writer. Too bad he never knew it. What Fitzgerald was trying to say, if not all he was trying to say.

Damon Runyon. The P.G. Wodehouse of Broadway and the lowlife of New York. Not as great because it has fewer echoes, though there are echoes. If Wodehouse represents the sentimentalization of coddled aristocrats, Damon Runyon represents the sentimentalization of criminals in the five boroughs. The writing is incredibly colorful, as transparent as the prose we've praised in Lardner, and really really funny. There's a sense in which Runyon is a superposition of Wodehouse and Lardner. Aristocracy is transmuted into a realm where Sing-Sing and San Quentin are alumni affilations akin to Yale and Harvard. Except that such intimations are the most blatant possible exposures of a worldview that is hopelessly limited in every way. The fun can disguise the Wodehouse-like satire that a hitman is unaccountably uncomfortable with killing a kid. The stories are collectively an expression of native American optimism, that there is good even in the worst of us, and it will somehow find a way, through either personal decision or confluence of circumstance, to effect the archetypally American happy ending.

Whether you think you know Damon Runyon or not, you do know him. If you've ever seen Frank Sinatra in Guys and Dolls, Shirley Temple in Little Miss Marker, Glenn Ford, Peter Falk and Betty Davis in Pocketful of Miracles, or, yup, The Sopranos, you have seen the Damon Runyon effect at work. The very idea that there can be something accessible, simply human, and forgivable about the lives of thug criminals is pure Runyon. But the original stories he wrote are far more innocent and enticing than the derivatives..

Will Cuppy. The single best work of humor I've ever read is "The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody." Why? Because as part of their basic operating code, humorists are free to make up facts as they feel the need. The objective is laughter, not accuracy, and unfairness is assumed. Will Cuppy is the closest Americans have to Stephen Leacock, a hybrid polymath. Cuppy was a meticulous historian who wrote a completely accurate book of history that was falling down funny. He researched, researched, researched. Then, when he was confident of his facts, he utterly demolished the reputations of Hannibal, Alexander the Great, and a score of other historic notables.

Of course, he was personally miserable. He lived like a hermit, made no money, and his greatest work was published posthumously.

Robert Benchley. Probably the most dated author on this list. One of the founding lights of The New Yorker and a key member of the notorious Algonquin Roundtable, he seems today an artifact of an earlier simpler time. He's here because he was the first of them I found and he led me to the others. As a kid I read a book called "Chips Off the Old Benchley," and it was like moving into a balloon, weightless and without any possibility of ill consequence. For all that he was a Harvard sophisticate, there was a simplicity about him. I remember a piece he wrote about gardening. He listed three steps: 1) Preparing the soil; 2) Preparing the soil; 3) Preparing the soil. Then he gave up in exhaustion and rested. You can easily find on YouTube the numerous short subjects he did in Hollywood, which are lesser than his written works, but nothing there will explain that he did the best he could for stricken friends like Dorothy Parker and James Thurber. He was always content to play the fool, and it broke my heart to learn that when his brother died in WWI, he heard his mother say, "Why couldn't it have been Robert instead?"

James Thurber. As a child, he got shot in the eye with an arrow by one of his brothers, and that began a long, inevitable march toward blindness, with anecdotal evidence that he -- like Benchley -- was the less favored son. He began his writing career by wanting to be Henry James and wrote a bunch of embarrassing James-like letters before he became James Thurber. He was far more literarily ambitious than Benchley, and he holds up ever so much better all these years later, but that's probably because there was an ever-present darkness we recognize more easily today. He, with his rotten and ever-fading eyesight, did the cartoons that emboldened me to create Shuteye Town 1999 (for which I had no similar excuse), and he never got over being a provincial Ohioan in the land of The New Yorker. If there was a 20th century Mark Twain, it was Thurber. Lots of humor, lots of fanciful stories from youthful days, and a gradually accumulating darkness that led in Twain's case to "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg" and in Thurber's to a blind, hospital-bound, mostly humorless swansong called Lanterns and Lances. But make no mistake. He was a genius and an American original. He never forgot that he was from Columbus, Ohio, (as was my mother), and he wrote about dogs and women and people in general in a way that still resonates.

I hate to have to say this, but Keith Olbermann has a whole series of Thurber readings on YouTube. One is all it takes to discover what is going on: The Rabbits Who Caused All the Trouble. This is a Thurber fable, and it's a fine piece, but it also illustrates the problem with political advocates. Olbermann reads it like a Leninist lesson, assuming we all know who the villainous wolves persecuting the rabbits are. He injects a malice into the text that Thurber never put there. One could as easily see the "wolves" as government bureaucrats whose paranoia about Global Warming ('earthquakes') and disrespectful Tea Partiers mandate the attacks we've seen every day on MSNBC. The measure of Thurber's greatness is that his fables are there to question assumptions, not dictate ideologies. Even his 'morals' at the end of each fable are open to interpretation. There's "The Scotty Who Knew Too Much." Who gets his ass kicked in the fable, but we know to a certainty that Thurber loved Scotties more than perhaps any other breed. He was lampooning 'morals' as well as 'fables.' Let's never forget that he was first inspired by the infinite complexities of Henry James. He was playing with us all the time. It's almost obscene to hear Olbermann read his prose as if it were a New York Times editorial. What you really need to do is read Thurber.

Max Shulman. And then there's all-out humor. I've only read three Max Shulman novels (I'm not even counting Dobie Gillis, which was also his.) Barefoot Boy with Cheek and The Zebra Derby were one of the few examples I've ever known of a sequel that exceeded the original -- jokes about college marxism in the first and a much larger joke about post-war silliness in the second. But the centerpiece is an almost novel-type novel called The Featherbedders, which contains the best send-up of Hemingway anyone ever wrote, complete with all the "thee's" and "thou's" and "little rabbits" of For Whom the Bell Tolls. There are themes that tie all these works together. In the Shulman omnibus I read, he begins by explaining -- a la Ring Lardner -- How to Write. And maybe it's funnier for a writer than anyone else, but he explains metaphor ("his stomach was a like a big round ball") and temporal switching: the flashback, the telescoping flashback, the double-telescoping flashback... Although he never explains his funniest device, which is that every minor character has his own long, long story to tell, until you realize that he is goofing on narrative itself as a form, and that everything he is doing is more sophisticated than his confessedly incompetent and simple-minded style would ever admit of. Max Shulman was deconstructing the novel before Thomas Pynchon ever put pen to paper. Genius.

It bears repeating that none of these masters were what you'd call mean. Or obscene. Or expressly political. They used humor to illuminate their audience.

A synonym for 'meaner' is 'lower' I cheerrfully admit that I am lower than these forebears The audience as a whole is lower. Roles have been reversed. Humorists -- i.e., comedians -- are now mean as snakes, and satirists are the gentler breed, trading pure advocacy for something like perspective.

Except for me. From first to last, Black Mamba. And don't you forget it.
P.S. Also don't forget for a moment who this mamba is protecting with all his malignant venom:

I patrol a space for you. Where you get to talk freely. Because I kill everyone else. Why I'm not as funny as I used to be.

P.P.S. "Any love for Bierce?" asks Apotheosis. Yup. Here. Also, a belated nod to S. J. Perelman, whose "Westward Ha!" is one of the greatest comic travelogues ever written. Can't think why I didn't include him in the first place. If you're in the mood for full-bore genius, acquire a volume called "The Most of S. J. Perelman." You won't be sorry. Like Twain and Thurber, though, he reached a point where he ceased to be funny. At the end of his life, The New Yorker -- after thirty-some years of featuring him -- rejected his work. God damn The New Yorker.

Lifting the Curtain

A SLICE OF INSTAPUNK. A close friend of mine who is trying to contribute to the Foreword of the first InstaPunk book is himself an accomplished writer, and he insisted on knowing how Brizoni could do what no one else has been able to do, including both him and me, which is, uh, compiling a first InstaPunk book. As I thought about it, I realized that no one was going to do it real justice, so I'd better. Brizoni and I are famously antagonists about all kinds of subjects, including Ayn Rand and his dilatory nature when it comes to posting. That's fun, of course, but the truth is that though we have never met in person, we are exceptionally close and fond of one another. Here's what he told me about the process of compiling the book. I think you'll agree that it will be as fascinating to see what he included as what he left out. Truth is, he's a fine and very real friend, and I want everyone to know that his book is not a random thing but a (hard) work of editing art and superlative intellect. Completely opposite the impression he intends in his posts. Here's an email that explains his modus operandi. Just so you know.

I love mixtapes. (mix CDs, really, but "mixtape" sounds so much cooler, and has accordingly put down stakes in the language, much the same way "steamroller" has). Been making them with a passion since the first CD burners came out in late '98. The first couple I made were on a friends computer, with songs he and his parents had that I didn't. By then, the mixtape bug had bit me hard. Don't know what it was. Still can't explain it. Nothing satisfies quite like filling those 80 minutes (to capacity, damnit) with the perfect tracklist.

At first I'd just pour in songs until I ran out of room. Then-- don't remember what precipitated this-- I got the idea to start paying attention to the ebb and flow of the tracks.

My inspiration, my conceptual model, my Platonic archetype for the proper rhythm of a CD? The Doors Greatest Hits, from 1996. There have been dozens of Doors compilations, but for my money, this one's just about perfect. Twelve tracks:

1. Hello, I Love You Listen
2. Light My Fire Listen
3. People Are Strange Listen
4. Love Me Two Times Listen
5. Riders on the Storm Listen
6. Break on Through (To the Other Side) Listen
7. Roadhouse Blues [Live] Listen
8. Touch Me Listen
9. L.A. Woman Listen
10. Love Her Madly Listen
11. The Ghost Song Listen
12. The End [From Apocalypse Now] - The Doors, Clinton, George S. Listen

Not at all comprehensive: You could make a second disc from the key tracks that have been left off (Wild Child, Love Street, The Changeling, etc). But this CD meets the two essential needs equally well. It's comprehensive enough for those who want only one Doors record AND it's a fantastic introduction for those who want more. And it works equally *excellently* as either.

The gamut is run. From their first couple albums of dark mystery that cemented their reputation, to their days of ill-fated pop experimentation, to their conscious return to their blues roots that yielded Riders on the Storm AND LA Woman AND Love Her Madly, to the one good cut (Ghost Song) from the... poetry album that the surviving Doors finished for Jim, working from his tapes, to a rarity that is nevertheless historically significant: the version of The End from Apocalypse Now. (that choice is especially brilliant: that version plays like a single edit with an extended coda, leaving the real The End for the intrepid listener with the wit to dig a little deeper into the discography).

Whoever compiled this could have made lots of easy mistakes. Just about any cut from the first album could be justifiably included. Most of the Doors best-ofs have Soul Kitchen or Back Door Man or even 20th Century Fox, or all of these. I remember a 2-disc Best Of with NINE of the debut's eleven tracks. Or, they could have included all the 45s Elektra records released during the band's career-- including the 5 or so that failed to chart and sucked anyway.

(Sole problem with the 96 Greatest Hits as it is: The live version of Roadhouse Blue is inexcusable. The Doors' reputation as this great live act doesn't reeeeeally hold up to the intense scrutiny of actually hearing them live)

Thing is, that's a small feat compared to the InstaPunk book. The Doors have maybe 80 songs, 90 if you count the box sets and live albums. 100, tops. EVEN IF lists of where their singles charted weren't available, and EVEN IF I couldn't pick out 9 or 10 tracks right away, based on my own memories of classic rock radio, it wouldn't take too long to listen to all 100 songs a few times and pick out the strong ones. My twelve might not match the '96 Greatest Hits, but it'd be pretty damn close.

And. As I've said, even with a paltry 100 songs, there's a ton of considerations that go into a good Greatest Hits, and 99 point nine to infinity percent of the other Doors comps get it wrong.

Think of that in light of InstaPunk. Two million words. Two thousand entries. That's why chronological order was a must. Otherwise, I'd be up against a knapsack problem ( Infinite complexity. Which meant I had to arrange AS I compiled. As I thumbed through the archives, I could say to myself "I still need a global warming piece, some Obama stuff, and maybe I don't feel the memoir stuff I have so far is a strong as it could be, so keep an eye out." Or "I like this piece, but this sector of the book is already pretty graphic-heavy. There was an equally good piece on the same topic back a year or so; I'll use that one." Or "hey, 'A Can of Worms' isn't quite as strong as 'Punking the Atheists,' but it compliments 'More Atheism' better, and it largely picks up where 'Pharaoh Hound' leaves off. Continuity's always stronger. I'll junk 'Punking the Atheists' for this volume."

Couple things to keep in mind.

One: This first book is the hard one. We won't need to arrange by timeline in the books-by-topic to come. We can simply gather up all the, say, sports posts, and sequence them however we see fit. Obama skipping the Army/Navy game, Little League as the last bastion of true sportsmanship-- we can arrange them by sport, or by date, or by sheer feel, or whatever we like.

Two: Your concerns about second-guessing and looking too hard are not unfounded. In nitpicking each particular piece, it's easy to lose sight of how the pieces play with the pieces near them and reflect and augment pieces farther away from them, and how all the pieces fit as a whole. That's why I'm getting ready to call it a day on compiling. Tonight and tomorrow, and that's it. After that, they'll be some fine tuning to do, but not of selections. And I appreciate your concern that "S-Word" and "Child Seats" not be included simply as token entries of their respective topics. They're token, yes, but chosen for how good they are, as well as how well they fit with their surrounding posts. In a book like this, there's a tension between Best Of and Introduction, between "Here's all the great, essential pieces" and "Here's what InstaPunk can do." With the sheer size of your output, not all the pieces that seem essential can make it in. THIS IS A GOOD THING. There are treasures for those with the wit to dig. I deliberately left out "Chickenhawks," even though 2004 is a little lean...

Back to it, then. :)

- Brizoni

Yet again, I am humbled. Brizoni. Lake. Guy. Apotheosis. George. I can never repay what you have all done. But I will keep trying.

btw, it's not too late for any of you who want to contribute to the Foreword. Go here to refresh your memories about how you can.


Even I am disappointed by how much people don't want this movie.

. Who's going to care if you don't? Come on in, son. The water's fine. And all yours.

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