Eh, probably not. My initial suspicion was that it was a pro-choice message — you know, "let's see if they'll put their money where their mouths are" — or possibly a straightforward for-profit scam — but the snoops at Democratic Underground say the hoaxer is a pro-life wingnut, so I guess the message is supposed to be, "pro-choicers are even more sick than you imagined." Not that my version couldn't have worked. Indeed, Snopes says it was tried a year ago.
Interestingly (sort of) the pro-life message is undermined a bit by one of the e-mails sent to the site, which offers a pro-life evangelical's rationalization for abortion. It's a long message, so I won't reprint it all (if you want to read it, search for the author's name, "eve melancon"), but the key part is at the beginning.
I SAT HERE FOR A LONG TIME BEFORE I COULD ACTUALLY RESPOND TO YOUR REQUEST. I FELT CONVICTION FOR NOT WANTING TO SAVE A LIFE. (I AM PRO-LIFE) AND THEN I FELT ANGRY AT YOU FOR PUTTING ME IN THAT POSITION. THEN AS I THOUGHT ABOUT IT I CAME TO THE CONCLUSION THAT I FEEL COMFORTABLE IN ALLOWING THIS CHILD TO BE RETURNED TO ITS RIGHTFUL PLACE. LET IT GO!!
First of all, you know this is an authentic e-mail by her use of "conviction" in the sense of "made to feel bad," which is a Christianese phrase that a parodist is unlikely to know (caveat, I'd actually expect her to say "I felt convicted"). And then she gets to the heart of the argument: you guys will be such bad parents that the baby will be better off
dead with Jesus. This is reiterated at the end.
SO PLEASE I BEG OF YOU LET IT GO!!!! GOD WILL TAKE CARE OF IT BETTER THAN YOU AND YOUR YOUNG WIFE EVER WILL.
Now, this should not be taken as pro-life doctrine — you'll never find an anti-abortion group endorsing this line of thinking — but it is revealing as an extreme case of how fundamentalists can find spiritual endorsement for any decision they want to reach (as well as a twist on the heresy of baby worship). Obviously the woman's real prayer is that the "couple" will go ahead and have the baby, but she's found a way to make peace with the idea of not paying the ransom. It's a slipperly slope. Lots of selfish, unfit, unhinged people get themselves accidentally pregnant every day — and, yes, the kids usually suffer for it. Wouldn't God take better care of those kids too? Come to think of it, God would probably take better care of my kids. I mean, I love 'em and everything, but He's perfect. It's hard to compete with that.
"It's a shame that the horrific warehouse fire had to ruin our annual municipal employees costume party." rjwhite
"Relax, Estragon. We don't have body cavities anymore, remember?" kejo
"Getting kicked out of the nativity pageant isn't so bad, really, relative to the other ways my life's been ravaged by alcoholism." dean @ t.a.m.s.y.
"My son was a cop, and I never got to tell him I was proud of him before I died." Ed C
Update. Yeah, I know.
So I'm toying with the idea of writing a biography. Which is a little odd, since I don't often read biographies. I should probably start, right? But where? Well, you tell me.
I'm seeking recommendations for popular biographies with strong narratives about subjects who were no longer living (preferably by at least a few decades) when the books were written. Bonus points if the subject was not widely known at the time the biography was published and/or if the biography was the first one about the subject.
The ideal would be a book like Ben Macintyre's The Napoleon of Crime, except not that, because I've already read it.
I just invented the hot new time-waster of the summer: Google Street Racing. It works using the much talked-about Google Street View. As you may know, the new Google Maps feature was created by using a 360 degree camera mounted on a VW Beetle. That means that if you follow the directional arrows on the Street View images, you're really just following the path of a car. And that means that the cars you see on the road with you are travelling at roughly the same speed. And that means: drag racing!
To play Google Street Racing, you'll need to pick a long straight road, preferably with few exits, and start near one end of it. Hunt around a bit until you're directly alongside another car. Then start clicking the directional arrow over and over and over again. Make vroom-vroom noises while you do it, so it doesn't seem quite as boring. As you gain or lose ground, you may need to use the swivel arrows to keep your competitor in view, but unless he gets off the road, you should be able to follow him for a good long time. In my first attempt, I raced the sporty silver sedan above down the FDR drive. I started alongside him at 133rd Street, pulled ahead at 129th and then fell into the rear around 125th before eventually losing sight of him altogether around 110th. I'm sure I can do better next time. Surely I can out run a Mini Cooper, right?
And, yes, I did check to make sure no one had thought of this before. All I found was some pipe dreamer who missed the existing opportunity right in front of him.
Ladies and gentlemen... start your engines. Think of the comments as your leaderboard.
A little over four years ago in this space, I wrote this about sending a care package to my brother-in-law Kevin who was in fighting in Iraq:
Since he once told me that his favorite magazine is Maxim -- and that it has replaced Playboy as the magazine the guys fight over most -- I had planned to go down to the 14th floor and pick up a few copies for him. Then Becky sent us the regulations: "Any matter containing religious materials contrary to Islamic faith or depicting nude or seminude persons, pornographic or sexual items, or non-authorized political materials is prohibited." I was pretty sure Maxim fails several of those tests, so we sent Blender and some other publications Kevin probably has no interest in (along with wet wipes and candy wrapped in the same cheery yellow as cluster bomblets, just to mix things up a bit.)
What a chump I am. On Saturday, the New York Times ran this photo of Kevin's brigade. You can't quite see it here, but the guy on the right is clearly reading a copy of...Hustler!
Imagine -- I watched M*A*S*H my whole childhood, and never learned that Army rules are meant to be broken.
So anyway, Kevin is in Iraq again. Apparently there's still a teeny bit of policing up to do. This time I was just gonna go ahead and send the Playboys. Surely the Army would have more important things to worry about now. But it turns out Kevin's unit is actually embedded with Iraqi Army forces, so that seemed a little too risky. I figured the new issue of Maxim, however, would probably be safe.
At least Stuff managed to get a July issue out. Iraqis don't have any problem with Brazil, do they?
"According to this guidebook that bird is so fucking gay." —TG Gibbon
"No, theriouthly, it'th a thongbird. With a T." —Trout Almondine
"That bird looks good for a shag! Hahahah! You know... Phalacrocorax aristotelis? Aww, never mind. But I tell ya, that joke killed at last year's Glasgow Ornithologists Society convention." —mypalmike
The bad part about not making any money from my blog is that I don't make any money from my blog. But the good part is that I don't have to clench my jaw and go along with whatever lame idea some high-paying advertiser comes up with (the lame ideas here are all mine, baby). Not so at Gawker, which makes money hand over fist, and is now running a sponsored caption contest for You Kill Me, a new comedy about a hit man in A.A. It's like the Sopranos without the "everybody talking about it" part.
Anyway, in the Gawker contest you can win an autographed poster and some DVDs by submitting the best caption for the scene below. In my anti-caption version, your worst caption possible can win, um, how about the right to pick the winner for the James Thurber placeholder contest. The last thing I need is to be judging more anti-caption contests fercrissake. Not when everyone's still bitching about those damn dogs. The results for that contest are now in, okay? By the way, did you know the real New Yorker contest gets an average of 6,723.61 entries per contest? Talk about time consuming. The work people will do when they make money off it!
So the whole Nikki Leotardo theory is bullshit. That's too bad, because it would have confirmed what I think was going on. Not that I really need it confirmed. I'm pretty comfortable with my reading, which is this:
Questions about whether Tony "lives" or "dies" after the final scene miss the point, which is that there is no "after." First let me back up to say that my initial reaction was that of course he's dead -- not because the black screen represents his consciousness or anything that some literalists are insisting on, but because the narrative cohesion of the scene demands it. But then I realized that the abrupt ending was a way of intentionally breaking narrative cohesion, so something else is going on.
Even before Chase said he wasn't trying to "(mess)" with people, I didn't buy the "prank on the viewer" theory. It just doesn't fit the tone of the series. Rather, I think what Chase tried (successfully) to do was to rewrite one of the basic principles of storytelling, which is that a story has to have an end.
Robert McKee says there are only two types of endings: closed and open. Closed endings leave "nothing in doubt, nothing unsated." Open ones leave some questions to be answered by the audience, but "open doesn't mean the film quits in the middle, leaving everything hanging. The question must be answerable, the emotion resolvable."
Chase doesn't do that either. Instead, his non-ending deliberately suspends the action. It does not project forward to one possible ending or another (Tony might die, Tony might go to jail, Tony might take over New York). It creates a permanent state of suspended action — Tony exists forever in a single scene of ambiguous but deadly menace. (This is essentially a more postmodern version of Alan Sepinwall's Theory #1.)
Now when I first heard that all the characters in the diner were people who had been on the show before -- and who had reason to want to kill Tony -- I thought my reading was confirmed. I know some people took it to mean that Tony was clearly about to be killed, but that doesn't work because there's no way all those people would "actually" be in one place all at the same time. They would have had to be symbolic of Tony's deadly karma. Even without this confirmation, I still think my reading makes more sense than any other. If Chase had wanted us to decide what happens "next," he would have used the traditional language of cinema -- a fade out or something -- to indicate that there is a "next" that we're not getting to see. By violating that, he's trying to say that there is not one. The show has just, as the song says, stopped.
Just because Chase was not trying to "(mess)" with viewers, doesn't mean that people conditioned by McKeean (or is it Aristotelian?) principles will not feel (messed) with. Here's McKee again:
All films need a Resolution as a courtesy to the audience. For if the Climax has moved the filmgoers, if they're laughing helplessly, riveted with terror, flushed with social outrage, wiping away tears, it's rude suddenly to go black and roll the titles... A film needs what the theater calls a "slow curtain." A line of description at the bottom of the last page that sends the camera slowly back or tracking along images for a few seconds, so the audiene can catch its breath, gather its thoughts, and leave the cinema with dignity.
I won't argue that this isn't usually true, but Chase broke the rule to great effect. The ending was probably the most satisfying moment of the entire season.
Update: All that said, I'm still open to the theory that Tony comes back to life with cleavers on his hands.
There's no New Yorker contest this week, so if you're as bored as I am with last week's cartoon, see what you can do with this 1933 James Thurber classic. Give it your best and/or worst. Next week I'll reveal the actual caption — it's pretty anti-, actually — and maybe choose a new one.
Update. Actual Thurber caption: “I brought a couple of midgets—do you mind?”
It is a curious process by which some questions of dubious import get pressed endlessly and others, which matter far more, are entirely ignored. I think we have one of these cases here. And if you'll indulge me I'd like a moment to explain what I mean.
"I did have a choice to go to a pay jail. But I declined because I feel like the media portrays me in a way that I'm not and that's why I wanted to go to county, to show that I can do it and I'm going to be treated like everyone else. I'm going to do the time, I'm going to do it the right way."
"I can't specifically talk about the medical situation other than to say that, yes, it played a part in this."
Yeah, she's sick of jail. Hoo-ha!
As a sign of how funny it is, it's not really possible to convey the humor in a trailer. Without context, the jokes don't quite land. But watch it through. The part that best captures the movie's sensibility is at the end, when the narrator names all the stars. Anyway, whether you like the trailer or not, I'm still confident you'll love the film.
Our computers at The Week share an IP address (and a publisher, at least for now) with Maxim. So when Wikipedia tells me there's a message for me, it really just means for someone at the company. And what was that message? "This is your last warning. The next time you vandalize Wikipedia, as you did to Maxim (magazine), you will be blocked from editing."
The vandalism? Adding "NOT FOR LONG" next to the name of editor-in-chief Jimmy Jellinek.
It's the question everyone has been asking: which is the more reliable journalistic enterprise, Maxim or Wikipedia?
Via Emdashes comes a profile in the Louisville Courier-Journal of Farleigh Brooks, the New Yorker caption contest winner, Tarzan division, briefly discussed here last month. Turns out he's a "former suburban pseudo hippie" who "taps into the roaring spin cycle of distorted popular imagery." Hmm. Sounds like he should be submitting anti-captions instead of wasting his time with The New Yorker.
The best part of the profile is the reader comment at the end: "Man, the threshold for fame in Louisville is low." Ya think?
From The Tortured Lives of Interrogators in The Washington Post.
Not long ago in Iraq, he felt "absolute power," he said, over men kept in cages. Lagouranis had forced a grandfather to kneel all night in the cold and bombarded others in metal shipping containers with the tape of the self-help parody "Feel This Book: An Essential Guide to Self-Empowerment, Spiritual Supremacy, and Sexual Satisfaction," by comedians Ben Stiller and Janeane Garofalo. ("They hated it," Lagouranis recalled. "Like, 'Please! Just stop that voice!' ")
I think there's a tendency among critics of George Bush to write off stuff like the JFK terror plot because it is so "amateurish," as even the feds acknowledge. While it may be true that the Bush administration seems better at arresting harmless crazies than combatting actual threats, I think that misses an important point. For one thing, I'm happy to have these schemes busted up in the planning stages, even if they were unlikely to ever get past them anyway. What's the argument against that, exactly?
But a bigger problem is that in being too dismissive, I think we miss an opportunity to highlight the real problem, which is that five and a half years after 9/11, the number of people around the world, and around the U.S., who want to engage in terrorism has increased dramatically. They may not have the capability, but they have the desire, and I think that can largely be put down to the conduct of the Bush administration and the Republican party, which have never, from day one, taken national security seriously. (The number of actual international terror attacks have also increased dramatically under Bush's watch, even not counting incidents in Iraq.)
There is nothing a government can do to persuade the entire world to love the United States, but when the sphere of people inspired by al Qaida has metastasized to Guyana and Trinidad, it's safe to say that things are trending badly. It will take decades, at the least, to undo the damage George Bush has caused this country and make America safer again.
"Somewhere there's a human licking his balls." —Mssr Bouf la Tete
"The first rule of dog baseball is, you do not talk about dog baseball. The second rule is don't shit on the playing field." —MoBuck
"Hey dickless, go fetch yourself some genitals." —t.a.m.s.y.
And... exhale. Exactly eighteen months after selling my book, I've just turned in the manuscript. Rapture Ready! Adventures in the Strange Parallel Universe of Christian Pop Culture (as it's now, but not necessarily permanently, being called) will be published in a little less than one year. Sometime before that I'll be creating a large, multimedia companion/promotion site. In the meantime, I've created the following teaser — an interactive map showing the location of every place I visited during my research. For now, it's intentionally cryptic. As time goes on, I'll add details, photos and more. Thanks for putting up with me for the last year and a half — and the coming one.