May 20, 2009 - May 13, 2009
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Inspiring, ain't it?
All the young'uns I know have learned not to tell me that their
objection to things they don't know anything about is that they're
"boring." The word refers to a surfeit of knowledge, not an incurious
lack of knowledge or interest. Until kids prove they know something,
they have no right to declare they're bored. (Most parents are too
"bored" themselves to apply this kind of discipline.) So: When I
use the word "boring" I really
"Earth Hour" was boring. Boring in the way that hearing a Sarah
women's studies major condemn men is boring. In the way that hearing a
Vegan rail about the soul-sickness of those who like a Porterhouse
steak is boring. In the way that people who are in love with the whole
idea of death talk about "saving the planet" as if that were some kind
of humanistic goal is boring. In the way that hearing anyone reference
ever said by Al Gore as some kind of wisdom is boring.
Think about it. Your idea of progress is watching the lights go out on
civilization? It's never occurred to you that the beginning of the
self-absorbed obsession you have with yourselves occurred in the
torchlight of the aged twenty-somethings who finally had the
post-sunset leisure time to invent social criticism (i.e., art) in
the Lascaux caves 15,000 years ago?
But you've used your so-called rationalism to turn everything 180
degrees in the opposite direction. Your ancestors equated light with
life. You've tricked yourselves into equating light with death.
The next step for you is understanding that your idea of human guilt is
an irrational religious condemnation of life in general and of
conscious life in particular. I feel sure you can accomplish that small
remaining leap of logic. Just allow yourselves to imagine that each of
the evil, insignificant flies in the following footage has a history, a
family, a life, and an infinite set of emotional experiences probably
more varied than your own.
Then come back and tell us how virtuous it would be -- in the grand
scheme of things, you know -- to snuff it all out for the sake of a
planet you have anthropomorphized, based on no evidence whatever, as
We don't need any more "Earth Hours." What we need is for humans to
remember who their friends are. Which doesn't include a multi-trillion
ton chunk of iron and rock.
But never mind our objections. The ending you have planned for all of
us is so much more romantic that it has already been written by a woman
who was, if anything, even more spectacular than Gaia.
Her name was Ayn Rand
She was, like many of you, an atheist. But she
wasn't a self-hating, delusional moron. Like most of you.
Just something to think about. After the glory of Earth Hour
What a bunch of putzes.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
And you don't wanna heeeet.
. The old punks have had their say. Time for the sagely voice
Whether you realize it or not, OldPunk has addressed all the
objections, contentions, and accusations of all the "haterz" in the
comments section. Every last one. Your excuse for calling him racist,
whatever it is, has a successful rebuttal in
of the last two posts. If you're up to the task of reading a massive
block of text thicker than three whole lines, that is. And even if you
I'm sorry. I'll be nice.
I'll put this as plainly as possible. White criticism of Black America
is not, as one commenter claimed, de facto
racism. It may not be "allowed,"
but like any judgment, it sure can be
Nor is use of the N-word de facto racist. You think white people are,
like, biologically incapable of jocular
use of the last dirty word in the English language?
You have to understand. The whole race issue is very different for all
the white kids born since 1980, like me. Those of us who weren't
extremely poor were raised to hate racism. Yes, hate
. Yes, as a rule. If you're
white, and hate racism so much
don't think of yourself as one of the precious few or something.
Anti-racism has, in fact, been a main point of the social orthodoxy
kids have been raised with for a couple decades at least.
And here's something interesting: Another tenet of said orthodoxy was
that society was racist
though, in all important particulars, it just wasn't
anymore. Yes, I know you can
recite a big long list of contrary
cases and incidents. Even so, I maintain there's not enough exceptions
to disprove the rule. (If you disagree, well... we'll have to agree to
disagree. And if you don't agree to that
go ahead and fuck off. I said I'd be nice, but give a nigga a break.)
All of my batch of white kids who went to public
school learned the Martin Luther King story every February for 12 years
straight. From Rosa Parks to I Have a Dream. It went like this:
Racism is bad. Once, there was legalized racism in the
south. MLK desegregated the schools and buses and diners and drinking
fountains, then led every black person in the country and a few whites
in a march to the Washington Monument, where he said someday we should
stop being racist altogether. Which is impossible, of course, because
white people will always, always be at least a little racist, even if
they don't know it. They (we) can't help it.
I believed it. Until I became a surly teenager and realized the N-word
was the heaviest artillery in my 'Piss Adults Off' arsenal. (N-)Bombs
Thing is, I never used it around black people. a) I didn't want my ass
beat, and b) even when it was some black dude I could have taken in a
fight, I had
just enough empathy to show a scintilla of respect (of course, if you
had called it "respect" to my face, I would have beat your
My hilariously casual use of "nigga" continues to the present.
The best way to get a rise with it is to pretend using it is no big
deal. That raises people's hackles so quick. So satisfying. I still
don't use it around blacks, because I only believe in punching very
good friends in the balls, and I haven't yet become close enough w/ any
black person to rib him with an N-grenade. I'm a rude dick only up to a
point, and I pride myself on that.
Lots of my peers feel the same way. And-- don't take this the wrong
way-- we don't care even a little
you think our attitude is inappropriate. We know
not racist, and obviously
our flawed "bust balls to make
friends" approach works a whole lot better than yours.
So there's that.
The N-word isn't the real central issue. The reaction to "nigger" is a
visceral expression of how we've come to define racism for ourselves.
From An Amerian
Racist. Any white
fails to feel or exhibit continuous
uncritical love for any or all people who are not white.
That's the problem here. Everyone, including whites,
needs to be free to express their observations and suppositions. About
anything and everything. No matter how noxious or egregious their
conclusions may be. Since human beings depend on their minds to, you
the brain really has to be free to do its thing.
I know we think there's ideas and beliefs that are too dangerous
not to be stomped on with a
heavy boot, because giving them any air at
all will lead to Willie Mays getting dragged behind a truck or
But real prejudice
is easy enough to diagnose when we come across it that we don't have to
prejudiced against it. Thinking things through as a rule is a much
better plan than establishing a No-Fly Zone over certain notions.
That's responsible for most
of the recruiting power currently enjoyed by white supremacists and
skinheads. They're the only ones allowed to even appear to be unafraid of the
For the record: White Supremecy is crap. Utter idiocy. Enough black men
and women have demonstrated profound achievment and capability to place
the entire race beyond suspicion of subhumanity. Which is why the black community is worth
worrying about. Because it sure as hell looks, to anyone willing
to look, like the highest
aspiration of any black man younger than 40 is to live, and die, like
Al Pacino in Scarface.
What's that? Do I
go out of my
way to denounce all white
trash? Nope. Because
see plenty of white people who aren't trash. I see few enough black
examples who aren't to wonder if it isn't anomalous. And oh my God,
screaming about "the media" now. Chris Rock
, that whistleblower of racial politics,
excuse to bed a
Are you starting to get it? This is
what an honest discussion of race looks like.
It's ugly. It's
uncomfortable, for all "sides." It entails risking your tolerance on
the results of your understanding. It is not
a contest. It is not
a forum for showing off your love by hating those who don't love. It is
definitely not a time to reinforce only the smug assumptions you
already have. The ideas you come across in the course of it stay with
you and bother you long after you're done talking.
You don't like that?
YAH, TRICK, YAHHH!
THAT DAY AGAIN
. A mixed bag of topics today, from the ridiculous to
the sad and
back to the ridiculous again. First up is a report in Wired.com
which puts the "climate change crisis" in a whole new light:
Our epoch needs a new name. You're
familiar with, say, the Jurassic? It started 200 million years ago and
ended 55 million years later, give or take. For the past 12,000 years,
we've been living in the Holocene. But in 2000, the Nobel Prize-winning
atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen pitched a new name for our times: the
Anthropocene, the epoch affected by people. He dated it to the
beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the late 1700s — in other
words, when we started messing things up. William Ruddiman, a retired
climatologist at the University of Virginia, likes the name
Anthropocene, too. But he thinks it started much, much earlier — as far
back as 6,000 BC, when human beings first discovered agriculture.
That's when we started razing forests
and burning lots of wood, pumping enough carbon dioxide and
methane into the atmosphere to alter the world's climate.
What's the difference? Scientists
still argue — though not as much as deniers would have you believe —
about the extent to which climate change is the result of human
activity. And they still argue — quite a lot, actually — about
how quickly the climate shifts in response to new conditions. As I
understand Ruddiman, we humans may have been screwing up the climate
for far longer than anyone thought. [emphases added]
Talk about a stretch. How many human beings were there on earth in 6000
BC? Maybe 10
? That's like scattering the population of London all over
the planet. And they were already changing the climate. Right. So how
is it that with a world population of 6.5 billion today, we still have
reputable scientists (and we do, despite the pompous qualifier in the
Wired.com piece) unconvinced that human beings are changing the climate
The answer lies in that "anthropo" prefix in the preferred new name for
the holocene. A more accurate suggestion would be the "anthropocentric
era." The contemporary religion of scientific materialism, including
its bombastic atheism, tracks closely with the oldest principles of Old
Testament religion. In their view of all the vast wonders of nature and
the cosmos, the only
they regard as vile is the species of mankind and the fruits of his
efforts to build civilization. In other words, the very scientists who
decry the Judeo-Christian insistence on putting man at the center of
creation as a monolithic exception are doing exactly the same thing. When the Christians do it,
it's an act of irrational superstition. When scientists do it, it's the
assertion of an objective fact. In this context, it's easy to identify
the new Original Sin of the evil creatures we are as fire
, the invention that finally
gave man the edge in his battle to survive and prosper. How ludicrously
retro can you get?
We'll leave it at that, but for those who think we're overstating the
case against contemporary scientific zealots, here's a highly literate
and thoughtful review
of the leading new gospels of atheism (long but well worth the
reading), and here's a glimpse
at how professional scientists are trying to use the tools of their
trade to finally hunt down and exterminate God. Just for fun after all
that, here's another humorous recutting of Quest for Fire excerpts
All those simian bullies with their bones and grunts can't help but
remind us that the great scientist and writer Arthur C. Clarke died
last week at the age of 90. We noted
at the time, but since then by an odd coincidence, we
have also lost two other fine contributors to the arts, one in his 90s
and one in his late 80s.
The New York Times
has a fine
obituary of Richard
, who managed to have an incredibly long and successful
acting career while maintaining his personal privacy and a 55-year
marriage to the woman he wed before he ever became a star. He never
once appeared on a talk show but preferred to let his work speak for
itself. Which it does. He rocketed to fame in his first movie role,
playing a character so creepy that the performance remains riveting to
Studio heads literally
drafted him (via contract trickery) in the wake of that role to come to Hollywood to play a
series of deranged villains, but he escaped the typecasting to become a
leading man and an unselfish character actor. Here's a scene from one
of the most star-studded movies in Hollywood history. Note Widmark's
almost invisible entrance and the way he subsequently becomes the
center of gravity in the courtroom, despite the knots of pain and hatred that surround him. You can still feel him as a steady-eyed presence anchoring the orbit of emotion even when he's not on camera.
The reasons for that unassuming but potent gravity are nicely presented
the Times piece, along with a long list of movies you might want to
rent from Netflix or whoever your flick provider is.
The same is unfortunately not true of the week's other huge loss, Paul Scofield
who died last Thursday at the age of 86. Compared to other great actors --
of which he was absolutely in the first rank -- he had a fairly short filmography
in which many
of his roles were but brief appearances or in hard-to-obtain British TV
productions. He spent a lot of his career on the British stage, where
he was known as the greatest King Lear of his generation. And while he
did make a movie of Lear, the production was so dark and eccentric that
it did little to showcase his brilliance; it also seems very
difficult to locate a copy of in any form. Mostly, what we've been left
with is his fine performance in The
and the movie that made him famous in the U.S., A Man for All Seasons
In terms of the kind of career he chose to have, he seems a throwback
to an earlier time, before the movie star lionization of great Brit
actors like Laurence Olivier, Richard Burton, Peter O'Toole, Nicol Williamson, and
Anthony Hopkins. The irony is that his demeanor as an actor is
curiously more modern than that of his more famous colleagues, less
histrionic, more deeply involving. With him we're not seeing a
pyrotechnical show, but the interior drama of a mind grappling quietly
with eternities. Above all there's that miraculous voice, with its hint of passionate tremolo, so precise that even its pauses become one with its meticulous tone, as inevitably perfect as Glenn Gould playing Bach.
It's a crying shame we don't have more to remember
him by in this over-loud and over-exposed media generation.
Did someone say "loud and over-exposed"? Yes, the media are too much
with us, especially in this feverish election cycle, and so we'll close
out this entry with a hilariously brave and doomed attempt by a print
journalist to immerse himself in the TV-radio-Internet ocean of
of the Washington Post
chose Valentine's Day for a 24-hour assignation with the blogosphere's
leading pundits, the continuous news/commentary broadcasts of CNN,
MSNBC, Fox News, and CSPAN, as well as the 800-lb gorillas of talk
radio. His tools were a laptop, five TVs, two radios, an endless supply
of coffee, and a universal remote. His mission was to liveblog
what he calls the "firehose" of the information media. With becoming
formality -- and perhaps a smidgen of the solemnity of a sacrificial
victim -- he wore a tuxedo for the occasion.
Along the way he encountered a true diversity of opinion and subject
matter. He experienced "the Drudge Report, Daily Kos, The Fix, the
Corner, Captain's Quarters, Buck Naked Politics, Instapundit, the Page,
the Hotline, Michellemalkin.com and, of course, Memeorandum" in the
blogosphere, as well as Lou Dobbs, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly,
Michael Savage, Laura Ingraham, Larry King, James Carville, Hannity
& Colmes, Ann Coulter, Keith Olbermann, and a continuous stream of
politicians, over-hyped events, and cable-news talking heads on both
sides of the aisle. He found the ordeal overwhelming, dispiriting yet
sometimes exhilarating, and finally exhausting. It's actually quite a
good piece, and we have no desire to carp. If it weren't for the fact
that this is YouTube Wednesday
we'd probably stop here with a
recommendation to read the whole funny story and draw your own
But it is YouTube Wednesday
and we were struck by the three individual
encounters he seemed to find most traumatic. An admitted "liberal" (and
even "lefty"), he was quite frankly discomfited by Rush Limbaugh:
AT THE START OF HOUR SIX, I realize I
am doing something no one else likely has ever done before, something
no one should ever do again. I am listening to both Rush Limbaugh and
Bill O'Reilly simultaneously, on two radios.
Both Rush and Bill start out by disclosing that, earlier that day, Jane
Fonda had used the c-word live on NBC's "Today" show; it went unbleeped
and at least initially unapologized for.
Somehow, I'd missed it. Fortunately, the gaffe is all over the Web in
streaming video, and, yes indeed, here she is, Hanoi Jane herself, the
bete noire of right wing radio, flagrantly uttering the unutterable.
Clearly, Rush and Bill are courageously willing to address this
shocking and distasteful subject even at the risk of driving their
audiences into multi-orgasmic rapture.
Limbaugh joyfully eviscerates Fonda and moves quickly on to other
things, but O'Reilly is in high dudgeon and is all over this
reprehensible event. He's morally outraged, and seems to want to wring
all he can get out of it, as though it were, say, a luffa sponge.
As someone in the broadcasting business, he says, he doesn't want to
become "the scold police," but he wonders just the same if someone
ought to call the FCC and demand punishment. (Later at night, on Fox's
"The O'Reilly Factor," he will devote an entire segment to the issue,
practically sputtering in exasperation when he can't persuade his
guest, lawyer Anita Kay, to agree with him that heads must
roll... The peril of listening to Limbaugh and O'Reilly at the
same time is that you tend to compare them, and these are dangerous
waters for an unapologetic, unreconstructed New Deal liberal like me.
The comparison makes you actually like Rush. He's funny; O'Reilly is
not. Limbaugh teases and baits his political adversaries; O'Reilly
sneers and snarls at them. Limbaugh is mock-heroic; O'Reilly is
self-righteous. So, when Limbaugh speculates that the Democrats in the
House committee went after Roger Clemens because liberals hate
cherished American institutions such as churches, the Boy Scouts and
baseball, you know he's sorta kidding. When O'Reilly says liberals who
oppose torture of prisoners just don't care how many people will die in
a terrorist attack, you know he's as serious as an aneurysm.
Of course he manages at length to quell the panic he feels at
momentarily liking Limbaugh -- although to be fair, he seems to allow
that he might be straining at straws even in this -- but one can't help
surmising that the real reason for his surprise about Limbaugh is that
he, like so many of Rush's most ferocious critics, hadn't ever really
listened to the man in person. The first 30 seconds or so of the clip
below summarize what is probably an epidemic phenomenon (although the rest of it is illustrative of what Limbaugh has been subjected to, if not of his usual cheery mien):
Then Weingarten has a moment of genuine horror when he listens to the
Michael Savage show, obviously for the first time, and finds himself
roaring through the thesaurus in search of a word even stronger than
"shameless." There isn't one. Most of us can sympathize with his
reaction to Savage. But many of us will also have to laugh at the next
moment of horror that freezes
his bones. It's much later at night. He's still flipping channels. He
goes to CNN:
Here's Ann Coulter. I'm not listening
to what she says. Don't care.
I'm exhausted, but taking sides again. Savage put me there.
Switching stations. Here's Keith Olbermann doing an extended editorial
on MSNBC. Olbermann's a reliable lefty, so I listen.
His subject is a rift between President Bush and the House Democrats
over whether to extend a bill giving the government the right to
wiretap suspected terrorists without a warrant... The issue is probably
a little too important to be a
tempest in a teapot, but it's also not that big a deal, because
everyone knows it's mostly without substance -- grandstanding and
brinksmanship on both sides. Call it a tempest in a crockpot.
Uh, here's the exact Olbermann clip he's watching:
The building tirade takes Weingarten completely by surprise:
Olbermann begins strongly, addressing
himself directly to Bush that he's only protecting his cronies, the
powerful telecoms. Yay!
Now he compares the bill Bush wanted to other bad laws, including the
Alien and Sedition Acts, which I actually think might be just a little
over the . . .
Uh, now he's comparing it to . . . slavery.
Now he's addressing Bush directly, and he's . . . oh, God.
"If you believe in the seamless mutuality of government and big
business, come out and say it! There is a dictionary definition, one
word that describes that toxic blend. You're a fascist! Get them to
print you a T-shirt with FASCIST on it!"
Now he's, he's . . .
". . . and if there's one thing we know about Big Brother, Mr. Bush, it
is that he is -- you are -- a liar!"
I've already checked the thesaurus, so I know there's no help there.
"You are a liar, Mr. Bush. And after showing some skill at it, you have
ceased to even be a very good liar!"
"You said that the lives of countless Americans depend on you getting
your way. This is crap! And you sling it with an audacity and a speed
unrivaled by even the greatest political felons of our history!"
I mute it.
I send an e-mail to a friend who I know is online. This is what it says:
o s, s brtu dytpmh [rtdpm/
I realize I had my hands on the wrong position on the keyboard. I have
to resend it. It says: "I am a very strong person," more of a plea than
a statement of fact.
Truthfully, we salute Mr. Weingarten. He seems like somebody one could
talk to. That's encouraging.
Which is an excellent note on which to bid you all adieu.