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Archives for October, 2007

October 31, 2007

So what is a "compelling reason" to offend an 11-year-old?

Daniel Radosh

Jesse Sheidlower has been approvingly following our conversation [1, 2, 3, 4] about how newspapers censor "offensive language" and points out that NY Times editor Philip Corbett addresses this issue on the paper's web site (scroll to "why so squeamish?").

I guess we do want to have it both ways. We want to report on issues that are important and interesting to our varied and sophisticated readership. But we don't want to offend any of those readers gratuitously, and we don't want the tone of our writing to echo everything you might hear in a locker room, a bar fight or, for that matter, on late-night TV. My mother reads The Times, as does my 11-year-old son. Of course, we can't and don't edit the paper specifically to shield the most sensitive of our readers. But if we're going to offend any of them, it has to be for a compelling reason....

We also set the bar very high for racial, ethnic and sexual slurs. Reporters often argue for quoting such language, contending that the verbatim repetition is necessary to convey the tone or nature of the slur. Such arguments are usually unpersuasive. Our readers, unfortunately, know very well what constitutes a racial slur; under most circumstances, it's enough to report that one was used. Publishing such offensive language repeatedly can coarsen the tone of our writing, and perhaps further desensitize others to the use of the terms.

I didn't track down the Harry Potter reference in the article that Dr. Nussbaum referred to, so I'm not sure whether we could have been more direct without being gratuitously offensive. (I did read all the books, so I know it wasn't anything very explicit, in any case!) In general, though, the same principles would apply to double-entendres and other sexual references. We don't shy away from reporting what our readers want or need to know, but we try to do so in language that maintains the sophisticated and civil tone of The Times.

In the sophisticated and civil tone of Radosh.net: what a crock of shit.

October 31, 2007

It's a Huckanspiracy!

Daniel Radosh


From late 2004 until at least a few months ago, doing a Google search for Huckapoo would return a link to my exhaustive (and exhausting!) coverage of that band somewhere in the top five results (the exact position alternating with the band's official site, its MySpace page, Wikipedia entry and my New York magazine feature).

Today I discovered that my Huckapoo coverage has been demoted to result number 603. That's right: there are 602 better sources of information about Huckapoo on the internets than Radosh.net, including Les artistes dont la premiere lettre est H.

Now, the upside of scrolling through seven pages of Huckapoo results is that I discovered the previously hidden photographic gem above (see two more from the set here). But the downside is, what the fuck happened over at Google?

Seriously, someone with some tech savvy needs to explain to me why or how my site has been blacklisted as a source for Huckapoo information — which surely someone other than me still looks for now and then.

Clues to this mystery after the jump.

Continue reading "It's a Huckanspiracy!" »

October 31, 2007

Jeff Gordon is clean and sober

Daniel Radosh

436-768-gc4100.jpg "Most of them are good people and are not doing alcohol, drugs or racing vehicles." — Cambodian President Hun Sen, urging citizens not to discriminate against gays, despite having disowned his lesbian daughter.

October 30, 2007

We could use some good news finally

Daniel Radosh

Fingers crossed.

And if you haven't followed this, now's a good time to catch up.

October 29, 2007

Britney, meet Grindelwald

Daniel Radosh

Best example of self-censorship on page E1 of today's Times? Take your pick. First there's the review of the new Britney Spears album, which begins this way:

"Eat it! Lick it! Snort it!" Such was the legal commentary offered by Britney Spears when she left her latest court hearing on Friday afternoon, as reported by "Access Hollywood." (Actually there was one more imperative phrase, but it’s not likely to appear in this newspaper.)

For those keeping track, the paper managed to replace the succinct, two-word "fuck it" with a 16-word attempted joke. Why bother? If it's newsworthy that Britney said "fuck it," quote her accurately. If it's not (and it's not) then don't fucking report it.

Then there's this, from the inevitable gay wizard story:

As for the idea that Ms. Rowling suggested — that as a teenage prodigy, Dumbledore had a homoerotic infatuation with another prodigious young wizard, Grindelwald (who later went over to what in "Star Wars" is called the Dark Side) — Skeeter hints at this in coded allusions.

She proposes that when the two friends had a falling out in a dramatic duel, Grindelwald did not fight but "conjured a white handkerchief from the end of his wand and" — the passage then gives way to an obvious (in retrospect) sexual double entendre.

Yes, Beavis, the end of the sentence is "came quietly." Can we all grow up now? Having first discussed coded sexual allusions in Harry Potter more than four years ago, when people thought it might be Harry who was gay, I suspect the came quietly double entendre above actually is intentional. But it's amusing to see the New York Times protecting delicate young readers from a sentence that has already been read and re-read by some 10 billion of them. Certainly far more than will ever read this article.

I mean, it's not like Dumbledore raised his wand and said, "Eat it! Lick it! Snort it! Fuck it!"

Update: The Times responds.

October 29, 2007

Why not Bil Keane?

Daniel Radosh

October 29, 2007

Can you have a contractual obligation without a contract?

Daniel Radosh

New York magazine's feature story on Kurt Eichenwald is just one big bundle of sad. And somehow, I doubt it's the last word on this subject. What do you say, people, can I stop blogging about this already?

October 29, 2007

The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #120

Daniel Radosh

Submit the worst possible caption for this New Yorker cartoon. Click here for details. Click here to see last week's results.

And don't forget the Thanksgiving anti-cartoon contest (a joint venture, unwitting on their part, with WNYC, so please remember to cross-post in both groups). The bar is already set pretty high (er, low).


"Wha... Where'd the genie go? Well, if he granted my wish, I'm now a big stud. But where's your twelve-inch pianist? Oh, I see. It's in your pants." —mypalmike

With every passing second you spend attempting to mock me, Hasbro gains more mind share. Hahahaha!" —A S. M. Musculus

"[Silence, because potato-head statues don't talk, and the guy at the bar is just quizzically contemplating the odd decor.]" —John Tabin

Continue reading "The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #120" »

October 27, 2007


Daniel Radosh


Kevin sent this screen grab from a TV ad for Bubblicious Bursts. This trope isn't exactly new in advertising. We've seen it before for phones, sneakers, moisturizer (duh), and, of course, milk — but bubblegum for kids?

Still, it's better than the commercial for Bubblicious Ink'd, which is about how to trick other guys into licking your balls.

October 25, 2007

Speaking of turkeys

Daniel Radosh

New Yorker Cartoon editor Bob Mankoff will be a guest on the Leonard Lopate Show the day before Thanksgiving. In a tip of the hat to the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest, the show is inviting listeners to create their own Thanksgiving cartoons from scratch (i.e., drawings and captions) and post them to this Flickr group.

You know what's coming next, right? I've created my own Flickr group, where you can submit the worst Thanksgiving cartoons possible. Please cross-post to both groups, since from what I can see so far, your bad cartoons are likely to be better than WNYC listeners' attempts at good ones.

Via Emdashes.

October 25, 2007

If you decide to turn in Anne Frank for the reward, turn to page 76

Daniel Radosh

Back when I was a kid, Choose Your Own Adventure Books had stories about pirates, space aliens and the lost continent of Atlantis. But by the time the 90s rolled around, the fantasy well had apparently started to dry up, and the series began flirting with historical content, notably these two books about slavery and the Holocaust.

CYOA163.jpg cyoa+Underground+Railroad.jpg

It should go without saying that in these books YOU are the white/Aryan boy who must choose whether (or, more likely, how) to help the runaway slaves/Jews. My first reaction when I stumbled across this was... well, probably the same as yours, assuming that you're still scraping your jaw off the floor. But since I recently made a case for more grown-up videogames, perhaps there's a similar argument to be made about CYOA books. Is the very idea of these books necessarily as offensive as it seems?

Probably these books are most analagous to the well-intentioned propaganda of those serious games about Darfur and humanitarian relief, etc. that nobody actually wants to play. I haven't actually read these two books, but the author went on to write a couple of those problem novels so beloved by educators, so it's a safe bet that they are conscientious and edumacational and all that. Which doesn't necessarily mean they're a good idea.

Use the comments to weigh in, share your own CYOA memories, or provide captions for these book covers.

Related: One of the founders of the CYOA series has his own blog.

Update: Also related: CYOA books that never quite made it. Hat tip: J.

October 22, 2007

Rudy's moral combover

Daniel Radosh

08rudy-2-650.jpg Rudy Giuliani is a lot of things — authoritarian creep comes to mind — but I don't believe he is a bigot. Still, he was very comfortable playing one in last night's panderfest, and that's nearly as disturbing.

When the subject of gay marriage came up, Giuliani began by spouting his usual boilerplate about "judicial activism," and if he'd left it at that, I would have said fine. But then he launched into some totally gratuitious fag-bashing. The transcript doesn't quite get across the obnoxious, schoolyard bully tone, or the glee beyond all that (LAUGHTER) and (APPLAUSE) from the audience:

I did 210 weddings when I was mayor of New York City. So I have experience doing this. They were all men and women.


I hope.



You got to give me a little slack here. It was New York City, you know.

Back in 2001, during his divorce from Donna Hannover, Giuliani famously moved into a house with his close friends Howard Koeppel and Mark Hsiao, a gay couple. At the time, Koeppel (pictured here with the mayor) told the Advocate "If they would pass a law that marriage would become legal between same-sex couples, I would be the first in line. And if Rudy were still mayor, I know he'd perform the civil ceremony for me." In fact, Koeppel told Frank Rich that Giuliani had said as much.

Koeppel also said that he had "a pretty good perception of the difference between chicken salad and chickenshit" and that "Rudy is the chicken salad. He respects you as a person and not as a member of a group whose vote he's seeking." But now that Giuliani has thrown his old friends under the bus in search of votes from a different group of people, chickenshit sounds like exactly the right word.

October 22, 2007

The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #119

Daniel Radosh

Submit the worst possible caption for this New Yorker cartoon. Click here for details. Click here to see last week's results.


There once was a man like an infant?He was a real jerk and skinflint?I put him in bed, oh bed bed bed bed,?bed bed bed bed bed bed infant. —jdt

"He really misses our monstrous baby." —gary

"I think the hospital may have sent me home with someone else's pedophile." —Brian L

Continue reading "The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #119" »

October 19, 2007

N-word, please

Daniel Radosh

76Richard_Pryor_that_nigger_s_crazy_cover.jpg Here's a new twist in our continuing crusade against banning offensive words from newspapers.

Nas confirms album title will be epithet

The rapper told MTV News that he would indeed be naming his new album after the N-word. And he denied earlier reports that the album's title would be spelled "N---a," considered in some circles a less inflammatory epithet.

What I want to address is not whether Nas or anyone else ought to use the word nigger in the first place. The issue is, once the word nigger becomes part of a news story, should the media avoid using it in its reporting?

One could argue that the AP doesn't really need to use the word for readers to know what it's talking about. But at the same time, it's hard to see how the media can conduct a serious, adult conversation about an album title when it can't even bring itself to say what the title is. I'm not all that familiar with the Nas, so I'm only taking his word for it that he has a serious intent here, but if that is indeed the case, it seems to me that the press needs to deal with this intellectual provocation in the form in which it actually exists, not in some sanitized form in which Jesse Jackson would prefer that it exist. To put it terms the baby boomers who run the media can understand, imagine trying to discuss John Lennon's "Woman is the N-Word of the World" or Sly Stone's "Don't Call Me N-Word, Whitey." It's simply not the discussion the artist wants to have. The power of the word is the whole damn point.

And it's not even clear that the euphemism isn't confusing in this case. The AP writes that "The use of the N-word is common in rap." But is it? Nigga is common, but Nigger is less so, which is precisely why Nas's choice is causing a commotion (whereas an album in 2007 titled Niggaz4Life might not). By adopting a style that makes it impossible to distinguish between these two quite different words, the AP makes the news harder to understand.

Given that the paragraph quoted indicates that the wire service is OK with n---a (and, presumably n----r) it would probably be better, at the very least, if they used that throughout, rather than the cutesy circumlocution the N-word. As far as I can tell, the N-word is nothing but a way for white people to be able to say nigger without feeling guilty and uncomfortable. Sorry, but that's exactly how white people should feel when they use a racial epithet. It's not the media's job to let them off that hook.

October 19, 2007

Yeah, it turns out the beet farm is funnier as an idea than a locale

Daniel Radosh

136129411-L.jpg Slate's take on what's wrong with The Office echoes my own comments about the hour-long episodes.

In seasons past, each 22-minute episode has been a model of comedic restraint. Easy jokes were avoided. Funny ones landed swiftly and moved on to make room for the next. Rather than encouraging actors to mug and showboat, the camera paused briefly on subtle glances and smirks. Mindy Kaling, who writes for the show and plays the ditzy customer-service rep Kelly Kapoor, told Rolling Stone that The Office is a show without "chuffa"—a writers'-room term for "filler that seems like it's funny but isn't really a joke."

The hourlong episodes make us wonder if there's a word for "filler that seems like a joke but isn't really funny." This season has produced a few great gags: The best, perhaps, has the officemates passing time in a dull meeting by placing bets on whether the logo of a DVD screensaver will ever alight in the exact corner of the TV screen. But we've also seen too many broad jokes that skewer easy targets: Gift baskets? Business lingo? Cat ladies?

Slate diagnoses other problems as well. I don't think it's controversial to say that Pam and Jim's happy relationship is not great for comedy. But I'll disagree a bit with the assessment of Ryan's promotion. True, it's not all that funny now. But that's because it's not the punchline, it's the set up. The more smug Ryan is at corporate, the juicier it will be when he (inevitably) comes crawling back to Scranton.

October 19, 2007

Killing machine

Daniel Radosh

This has never happened before. I'm going to blog about a story involving an extremely hot stripper, and I'm not going to post a picture of her.

I don't want you to be distracted from the more important fact of what an awful person she is.

Today at the Outfit, Kevin Guilfoile writes about how Jeanette Sliwinski murdered his friend.

On the morning of July 14, 2005, Jeanette Sliwinski got into a fight with her mother and climbed into her sports car with a bottle of gin and the intention to kill herself. But she wasn't only going to kill herself. She was going to do it in a way that would punish her mother and everyone else that had made her life so unbearably unhappy. Her suicide was going to be a spectacular one. She would kill herself violently. She would kill other people in the process. It would be on the television. In the newspapers. And the long list of people who had wronged Jeanette Sliwinski would have to live with all that blood and destruction forever on their consciences...

According to Sliwinski's interpretation of the vague, unwritten laws in her head, maybe she thought this couldn't be a homicide. At the moment Sliwinski decided she would never again press the brake of her car, she had never seen Michael Dahlquist, John Glick, or Doug Meis. In the tiny universe with Jeanette Sliwinski at its center, these individuals didn't exist any more than a city in China she'd never heard of. How could she kill someone who didn't exist? This was the brilliance of her plan. At the very moment these men would enter the plane of her existence, Jeanette Sliwinski would leave it. Her mother and all her other enemies would feel the anguish of the dead she would leave behind, but Jeanette never would.

Sliwinski, who "in accordance with one of God's favorite jokes.. only fractured her ankle," is now on trial for homicide.

Kevin has more. Including -- OK, OK -- links to Sliwinski's glamor shots.

The victims left legacies of music. Take a few minutes to hear great rock and roll from Doug Meis, John Glick and Michael Dahlquist.

October 16, 2007

Biblically speaking

Daniel Radosh

Matt Labash is one of the funniest journalists around. And unlike most of his Weekly Standard colleagues, he's funny on purpose. He's also well-steeped in the ways of American Christian culture. When I was shopping Rapture Ready!, I lived in fear of finding out that he'd just sold his own book on the topic. So he's the ideal person to engage in a dialogue with A.J. Jacobs about A.J.'s new book, The Year of Living Biblically (which is, of course, the prize in this week's anti-caption contest).

Here's how Labash gets the ball rolling:

I'm accepting this invitation in order to see what happens when two worlds collide, when Christian (me) and Jew (you) come together, breaking matzo and sipping Jesus juice in the spirit of brotherhood, interfaith dialoguing so that we can celebrate both the commonality and distinctions of our shared Abrahamic traditions. Also, I'm hoping that by the time it's all over and we've fostered mutual understanding, walking hand-in-hand by the flickering lamplight of enlightenment, that you'll renounce your false beliefs and accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior.

Or maybe I'll let the proselytizing slide. You wouldn't have much conversion value to my superiors back at HQ. You do, after all, admit in your book that you've been a committed agnostic who "is Jewish the same way the Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant" and only says "Lord" when "of the Rings" follows it. So, let me start with a compliment.

I've just finished The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest To Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. I don't want to give too much away about your excellent book, but in it, you strive to follow the Bible as literally as possible for a year. And at the risk of overreaching, I'm just going to say it: It's better than the Bible. Or not better, necessarily. But it is funnier, moves faster, and doesn't bog you down with any of those genealogies. I know that God's ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8), but I never understood, with limited space and the pressure of crafting a universal message to resonate throughout the ages, why He would bother squandering valuable chapters telling me that Meraioth begat Amariah, and Amariah begat Ahitub.

October 15, 2007

Bjorn again

Daniel Radosh

I guess when op-ed editors want to find someone to complain about Al Gore's Nobel Prize — someone who's not a complete crazy person that is — their options are limited. Still, it's a little strange that the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald — two directly competing newspapers — ran the exact same essay by "skeptical environmentalist" Bjorn Lomborg on the exact same day. How sneaky must Lomborg be to go through the entire editing process and forget to say, "Oh by the way, your bitter rival is also running this piece tomorrow." (And we know there was an editing process because either the Herald removed an incorrect description of Gore as a "politician-turned-moviemaker" or a Globe editor added it.)

Equally strange, no one seems to have noticed.

Wait, that's not really strange at all. No one reads the Boston Herald.

October 15, 2007

Close only counts in horseshoes and journalism

Daniel Radosh

CNBC's Julia Boorstin asks rhetorically, "How many people have won a Nobel Peace Prize and an Oscar?" The right answer is: none. Despite what everyone from the New York Times to the San Diego Union-Tribune seems to think, the Academy Award for Best Documentary actually goes to the person who made the film, not the one who appeared in it. Where's Davis Guggenheim's Nobel? It's an outrage!

October 15, 2007

Some articles have all you need to know in the first paragraph

Daniel Radosh

Eagles take off with first album since 1979

In this exclusive interview, Glenn Frey takes Billboard through the making of "Long Road Out of Eden," the Eagles' first studio album since 1979. "Eden" is due October 30, exclusively via Wal-Mart stores.

Even Starbucks has limits.

October 15, 2007

The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #118

Daniel Radosh

Submit the worst possible caption for this New Yorker cartoon. Click here for details. Click here to see last week's results.

Update: Oops. Forgot to mention that there's another prize this week: a free copy of A.J. Jacob's new bestseller The Year of Living Biblically! Winner must provide a working e-mail address and not have won anything from this site in the last 30 days. If winner isn't eligible, prize will go to the top finalist.


"Man, fuck Ostrich-Heaven! That's all I'm gonna say." —Ogdred

"You know, I'm beginning to think, the halos and clouds and so forth notwithstanding, that this isn't actually Heaven, but is in fact Hell. For one thing, the boredom here is so oppressive that it feels like we're being punished, not rewarded. For another, I was a rapist." —John Tabin

"In Soviet heaven, egg lays you!" —kejo

Continue reading "The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #118" »

October 13, 2007

Scranton, Mexico

Daniel Radosh

If you liked Thursday's episode of The Office, where Michael kidnaps the pizza boy, be sure to watch Duck Season, the utterly charming Mexican indie movie they stole the idea from.

By the way, do these hour-long episodes feel, well, about half an hour too long? Obviously there's no rule that you can't do hour-long television comedy (while you're filling your Amazon cart, you might as well add season one of Slings and Arrows) but it requires a different narrative and comedic rhythm. The extended episodes of The Office play like half-hour shows that forgot to stop.

October 12, 2007

Clinton-haters for Clinton

Daniel Radosh

Two days ago I said right-wing "talkers and bloggers probably secretly hope [Hillary Clinton] will win so they'll have four years to kick her around for fun and profit."

I should have added, or not so secretly. Randall Terry claims he will work to defeat Giuliani in a Giuliani-Clinton election.

An enemy outside your camp makes you vigilant; an enemy in your tent makes you dead. Hillary would unite us, and she could be defeated in 4 years; Giuliani would destroy the cohesion of the right wing.

I don't actually believe this. It's a scare tactic to challenge Rudy's front-runner status in the primaries, not an actual position for the general. And even if Terry genuinely means what he says, I don't think he's going to win many of his followers to that position.

[Via Sullivan]

October 12, 2007

Sorry, but I can't support a candidate who's pro-torture

Daniel Radosh

I was this close to signing the Draft Gore petition. Then I listened to the group's theme song.

October 12, 2007

Breaking: Ann Coulter is sometimes unintentionally ignorant too

Daniel Radosh

209518~All-Dogs-Go-to-Heaven-Posters.jpg Ann Coulter might have just lost a ton of credibility with the last group she was counting on to support her: fundamentalist Christians. Yeah, it's mostly Jews, liberals and sane people who are upset with her right now, but there's nothing new about that.

Let me back up.

A lot of people are up in arms about Coulter's recent pronouncement that all Americans, including Jews, should convert to Christianity and that evangelicals "just want Jews to be perfected." Later she clarified, "that is what Christians consider themselves: perfected Jews."

To a limited extent, Coulter is indeed expressing a common evangelical belief. I've never heard the term "perfected Jews," but many evangelicals do refer to Jewish converts to Christianity as "completed Jews" (though the nearly as misleading "Messianic Jews" is still the most common term). As an extension of this belief, a minority of fundamentalist Christians have taken to thinking of themselves as completed Jews, often observing Christianized versions of Jewish holidays and rituals as a way of exploring their roots. There's a sizable market for Judaica in the Christian subculture of late.

Now, this does not mean that all these people would agree with Coulter that converting the Jews is a worthy goal. Most Christians I've met would be far more comfortable saying, "While it's true that the Bible says Jesus wants everyone to accept him, God has a special plan for the Jews that may be partly hidden from us, so the wisest and most Christian course is to leave them in God's hands." Certainly I was witnessed to now and again, but more often I heard sentiments like, "Jews and Christians are brothers and that's good enough for me."

On the other hand, Ann Coulter really steps in it when she tries to backpedal.

No, no, no, no, no. I don’t want you being offended by this. This is what Christians consider themselves, because our testament is the continuation of your testament. You know that. So we think Jews go to heaven. I mean, Falwell himself said that, but you have to follow laws. Ours is “Christ died for our sins.” [emphasis added]

Well, Ann Coulter may think Jews go to heaven, but to say that we think that — meaning all, most or even more than a tiny few evangelicals — is simply wrong, and shows as an astonishing ignorance of the theology that Coulter professes to hold deeply. Yes, many evangelicals are too polite to say this to a Jewish person's face ("God decides who gets to heaven," is the most common dodge), but if pressed, they will acknowledge that "no man comes unto the Father but by Me." That's Jesus 101.

So how could Falwell himself (what is he, the pope?) say such an ignorant thing? Simple: he didn't.

March 02, 2006: Earlier today, reports began circulating across the globe that I have recently stated that Jews can go to heaven without being converted to Jesus Christ. This is categorically untrue.

These false reports originated from a March 1 Jerusalem Post front page column which said: "An evangelical pastor and an Orthodox rabbi, both from Texas, have apparently persuaded leading Baptist preacher Jerry Falwell that Jews can get to heaven without being converted to Christianity...."

Before today, I had never heard of Rabbi Aryeh Scheinberg or had any communications with him. I therefore am at a total loss as to why he would make such statements about me to the Post...

In this age of political correctness and diversity, the traditional evangelical belief that salvation is available only through faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ is often portrayed as closed-minded and bigoted. But if one is to believe in Jesus Christ, he must believe in His words: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father but by Me” (John 14:6). I simply cannot alter my belief that Jesus is The Way to heaven, as He taught.

Oh, snap, Ann: I think Jerry Falwell just reached out from beyond the grave to call you politically correct!

Update: Good timing! The current issue of the Christian magazine Charisma has an editorial warning that too much embracing of the Jews can lead to Coulter's heretical "dual covenant" theology: "To suggest that a Jew is given some type of free backstage pass to heaven is the most blatant form of deception. If we truly love Israel and want God's blessings for the Jewish people, we will unapologetically tell them the truth and urge them to believe it."

Related: From an article in today's NYT about bridging the Christian-Muslim divide: "Some analysts see the letter as being addressed as much to Muslims as Christians, although the chances of it influencing radicals is considered slim. Radicals often interpret 'love thy neighbor' as help thy neighbor find Islam, said Prof. Muqtedar Khan, director of Islamic Studies at the University of Delaware."

October 11, 2007

Plan my fall reading

Daniel Radosh

Remember when I asked you to recommend some biographies because I was thinking of writing one. Well... I might still do that... someday. But now I'm also toying with the idea of writing one of those micro-histories that have flooded the market in the last five or six years. You know, like Salt or One Good Turn: A Natural History of the Screwdriver and the Screw. The only thing is — you guessed it — I've only ever read one of them (Longitude). So: which ones do you like?

On this list, my idea would best fit under the "unmentionables" category, partly due to the subject matter and partly in that it doesn't really have a natural, chronological narrative. I've already ordered Stiff, which I've heard great things about. But what else? Has anyone read At Day's Close? It's not as micro as the others, but the topic interests me.

October 10, 2007

Well, she's hotter than Monica

Daniel Radosh

riellewhiteheadshot.jpg Bored of the campaign coverage so far? Well, meet Rielle Hunter! The National Enquirer today officially breaks the John Edwards cheating scandal that a handful of bloggers have been buzzing about since Huffington Post's Sam Stein posted an almost comically insinuating item two weeks ago (followed by an even more over-the-top one today) about some mysteriously disappearing web videos.

Mickey Kaus thinks "the MSM seems to be strenuously trying to not report" this story, which is a bit of a stretch, given the flimsy evidence and the short time frame. I'll betcha anything this will be all over the MSM within a week, under the guise, of course, of hand-wringing about what's considered acceptable discourse on the internets (it's still funny!) .

Now clearly the smart money will withhold judgment on this story. While it could be true, it could just as easily be a total crock. Off the top of my head, maybe Rielle Hunter is a headcase who only thinks John Edwards was in love with her — and that's why she got pushed aside. If that theory sounds implausible, spend a few minutes with her loony website. I'm not seeing the firmest grasp on reality there.

On May 4th 2004, enlightenment happened. Meaning, I realized I AM what I've been looking for. And it's my experience that when Self truly realizes Self, the awareness doesn't go anywhere, there is nowhere for it to go. It's always here. Enlightenment is conscious connectedness with It, felt oneness with totality that never goes away. Enlightenment is living a human life as awareness of being 24/7.

Frankly, does this sound like the kind of woman John Edwards would be into? I certainly hope it's not (although if it is, my friend Jake might now consider voting for him over Kucinich).

If the story is true, however, it's probably legitimate news, given how central Elizabeth Edwards has been to her husband's campaign. And while voters might forgive garden-variety cheating, cheating on a wife with cancer...? OK, the affair, if it happened, began and probably ended well before the recurrence, but who has time for such nuance? (One person who doesn't is the Enquirer's source who says Hunter "knew there was no way he was going to leave Elizabeth, a wife battling cancer." Perhaps this should tell you something about the Enquirer's story).

Where is Rielle Hunter (née Lisa Druck) now? Let's just say, the University of Tampa isn't the only one looking for her!

Update: I should point out that the Enquirer doesn't name Rielle Hunter as the Other Woman. That's just Kaus adding two and two. Of course, he used the same math to conclude that Saddam Hussein had WMDs. Kaus never said Saddam had WMDs. My bad.

October 10, 2007

Another good book

Daniel Radosh

My friend A.J. Jacobs, the author of the bestselling-yet-underappreciated The Know-It-All is back with a buzzy new book, The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. It's a thoroughly entertaining romp that captures both the folly and the allure of religion. A.J. spends most of his time puzzling through the Hebrew Bible — longer, more rules to obey — but he also tackles the New Testament at the end of his year, and a few chapters of TYoLB overlap with — complement, let's say — my own excursions for Rapture Ready!. Of course, all is done with A.J.'s trademarked wit and panache.

And I am extremely pleased to announce that A.J. has donated a copy of his new book (autographed, I think, though I haven't actually asked him) as a prize for next week's anti-caption contest. Check back on Monday for details.

October 10, 2007

The shirt con

Daniel Radosh

model-commies-LE375.jpg In the course of a funny riff on Che Day, Burro Hall's Frank takes a parenthetical swipe at anti-Che shirts: "The same people who recoil at the Guevara myth-making would have you believe that nutty right-wing conservative chicks are really this hot. Please. Your dictator lost. Get over it."

While over at that wingnut outfitters page, I couldn't help but notice that in addition to their anti-Che shirts, they have a whole host of equally subtle anti-Hillary shirts. I've been saying for more than a year (though apparently not explicitly on this blog) that there is virtually no way Hillary Clinton can win the 2008 election. I don't care how much of a shambles the Republicans are in. What Clinton and the Democratic establishment seem to have forgotten is that 49 percent of the country already hates her passionately. Remember John Kerry? The GOP had to work their assess off to convince 51 percent of the country that he was unlikable, and they just barely pulled it off. With Clinton, they start the race mere steps from their goal. Obviously not everyone who dislikes Clinton is as batshit insane as these shirt-mongers, but they're on the same continuum. Roping in the last two percent should be a breeze. Take my anecdotal analysis for what you will, but travelling around the country for the last two years, I met lots of people who would accept, if unenthusiastically, an Obama or Edwards presidency, and who will, if either of them gets the nomination, sit out the election rather than vote for a Mormon or an abortion-enabler. But I promise you, they will hold their noses and vote for Giuliani or Romney or Thompson or the rotting corpse of John McCain rather than let Hillary Clinton into the White House. model-rdf-3.jpg

The GOP and its allies on talk radio, Fox News and the rightwing blogoweb are drooling for the chance to take on Hillary Clinton again. After eight years of being saddled with an allegiance to George W. Bush, they need a juicy enemy to find their groove again, and there's none juicier than HRC. Hell, the talkers and bloggers probably secretly hope she'll win so they'll have four years to kick her around for fun and profit. They're keeping their powder dry now, feigning respect for her political skills and so forth, but when the time comes, Clinton won't know what hit her. Yes, she thinks she does, but the heat she took during her husband's years in office doesn't begin to compare with what she's due for next fall.

And don't tell me that she won over upstate New York. Alabama is not upstate New York -- and neither are Florida or Ohio.

October 9, 2007

That's sort of the point, right?

Daniel Radosh

Lindsay Lohan says rehab was 'sobering'

I'm waiting for next month's headline: "Lindsay Lohan says snorting vodka was drunkening."


October 9, 2007

The problem with Democrats (part DLXXIII)

Daniel Radosh

The Times reports today that Democrats are preparing to cave on eavesdropping because "they remain nervous that they will be called soft on terrorism" (though Glenn Greenwald holds out hope). As Tim Grieve notes, it's pathetic for Dems to think that if they just do this one more thing, Republicans will finally "wake up tomorrow and agree that you're just as tough on terrorists as they claim to be." But the more important issue — one I've argued before — is that Democrats are playing defense when they should be playing offense. This is the perfect time to loudly make the case that it is George Bush and the Republicans who are fundamentally unserious about fighting terrorism.

This weekend, the Oxford Research Group released a report showing that "the war on terror is failing and instead fuelling an increase in support for extremist Islamist movements." Even if Bush administration policies were reversed immediately, said the author, it will take "at least 10 years to make up for the mistakes made since 9/11." And today the Washington Post reports that the administration burned a valuable intelligence source for a short-term public relations boost. Imagine what the wingnuts would do with that information if the culprit was a Democrat or "the liberal media." Remember the traction they got out of the bogus Bin Laden satellite phone leak? Even if that story had been real, it wouldn't have been as bad as this one. So where is the assault on the administration for being soft on terrorism?

October 8, 2007

Notes from the Chinese Wall

Daniel Radosh

miley-cyrus-skirt.jpg Why, look! My new advertiser — Ticketliquidator.com, over there in the left-hand column — is under investigation for violating scalping laws. Like it's their fault that people want to spend $2,565 to see Hannah Montana naked — wait, just singing? Are you sure?

Gabe Holmstrom, a spokesman for McDaniel's office, said the attorney general's office is focusing on whether ticket brokers used computer software to manipulate ticket purchases and essentially cut in line on the Ticketmaster Web site to buy large quantities of tickets.

McDaniel is also investigating whether fictitious tickets are being listed on those sites just to determine whether consumers would buy tickets at higher prices.

Ticket reselling is a big and increasingly legit business. Arkansas is one of only six states that still has anti-scalping laws on the books. (Though I'm not clear on whether the practices being investigated would, in fact, be legal in other states). Still, anyone thinking of clicking on one of those links should probably do a little research before they actually "go for it."

More than anything, however, I just want to assure you that no matter how much money advertisers pump into this site, Radosh.net remains one hundred percent committed to bringing the news without fear or favor. And to finding any excuse to run photos of hot 14-year-old girls.

October 8, 2007

I has teh Halo

Daniel Radosh

xbox.jpgI've said it before and I'll say it again. Radosh.net is the site to read when you want to know what's going to be on the front page of the New York Times a week later.

There is a certain irony that under several laws written to pander to the same people who are luring kids into church with Halo, letting kids play Halo at all would be illegal. I suppose context is everything.

October 8, 2007

The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #117

Daniel Radosh

Submit the worst possible caption for this New Yorker cartoon. Click here for details. Click here to see last week's results.


"Well, sir, PETA made us release the animals. OSHA made us get rid of the trapeze, ring of fire and so forth. The health department closed down the concessions because of trans-fats. The carney workers went on strike. I'm afraid this is all that's left. But, you know, 'step right up!' and all that." —JohnnyB

"Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It's been, apparently, a really long time since my last confession." —Kevin Guilfoile

"Virtual reality is amazing. If it weren't for this incongruous circus ring, I'd swear we really were sitting in a large room sipping wine, instead of chained to a wall and being mechanically masturbated every four hours in a nightmarish post-apocalyptic future." —Walt

Continue reading "The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #117" »

October 5, 2007

We do what we're told

Daniel Radosh

McBlow.jpg McDonald's worker wins strip-search suit

A jury awarded $6.1 million Friday to a woman who said she was forced to strip in a McDonald's back office after someone called the restaurant posing as a police officer.

Louise Ogborn, 21, had sued McDonald's Corp., claiming the fast-food giant failed to warn her and other employees about the caller who already struck other McDonald's stores and other fast-food restaurants across the country.

If you read this article today and thought "whatthefuck?" you owe it to yourself to read the whole horrifying story, as reported two years ago by the Louisville Courier-Journal. "Forced to strip" doesn't quite capture the situation. The C-J went with the more accurate "hours of degradation and abuse."

I won't try to summarize the story, because you really need to read it all to understand what happened -- not just that night, but nearly 60 other times as well. The abuser-by-proxy who pulled off this spree knew his Stanley Milgram. If you ever wondered what Derren Brown could get away with if he were evil, now you know.

The Courier-Journal also points out that the perpetrator picked his victims wisely.

In her book, "Making Fast Food: From the Frying Pan into the Fryer," Canadian sociologist Ester Reiter concludes that the most prized trait in fast-food workers is obedience.

"The assembly-line process very deliberately tries to take away any thought or discretion from workers," said Reiter, who teaches at Toronto's York University and who spent 10 months working at a Burger King as part of her research. "They are appendages to the machine."

Retired FBI Special Agent Dan Jablonski, a Wichita, Kan., private detective who investigated hoaxes for Wendy's franchises in the Midwest, said: "You and I can sit here and judge these people and say they were blooming idiots. But they aren't trained to use common sense. They are trained to say and think,`Can I help you?'"

As for why McDonald's was on the hook, crazyimpassioned blogger guy has more (just don't steal any of it!).

October 5, 2007

Why even Christians hate Christianity

Daniel Radosh

datomana_1926_22675556.jpeg My post about Christ-followers against Christianity now has statistics to back it up.

Even among young Christians, many of the negative images generated significant traction. Half of young churchgoers said they perceive Christianity to be judgmental, hypocritical, and too political. One-third said it was old-fashioned and out of touch with reality....

When young people were asked to identify their impressions of Christianity, one of the common themes was "Christianity is changed from what it used to be" and "Christianity in today’s society no longer looks like Jesus." These comments were the most frequent unprompted images that young people called to mind, mentioned by one-quarter of both young non-Christians (23%) and born again Christians (22%).

Kinnaman explained, "That’s where the term 'unChristian' came from. Young people are very candid. In our interviews, we kept encountering young people - both those inside the church and outside of it - who said that something was broken in the present-day expression of Christianity. Their perceptions about Christianity were not always accurate, but what surprised me was not only the severity of their frustration with Christians, but also how frequently young born again Christians expressed some of the very same comments as young non-Christians."

[Via Andrew Sullivan, who has the gay angle.]

October 5, 2007

By their fruits ye shall know them

Daniel Radosh

flagcross.jpg The Fox News bloviators are trying to gin up some outrage over Barack Obama's refusal to wear an American flag pin on his lapel.

But it won't work, because this debate is actually already a very familiar and largely settled one, particularly among the conservatives Fox apparently wants to reach. Many "real Americans" already agree with Obama's choice, and those who do not still accept it as a reasonable decision, not grounds for vilification.

To understand how this can be, read what Obama said and imagine that instead of talking about a flag pin, he's talking about a tacky Jesus t-shirt.

I decided I won’t wear that pin on my chest. Instead I’m gonna’ try to tell the American people what I believe what will make this country great and hopefully that will be a testimony to my patriotism... I haven’t probably worn that pin in a very long time. I wore it right after 9/11. But after a while, you start noticing people wearing a lapel pin, but not acting very patriotic. Not voting to provide veterans with resources that they need. Not voting to make sure that disability payments were coming out on time.

My attitude is that I’m less concerned about what you’re wearing on your lapel than what’s in your heart. And you show your patriotism by how you treat your fellow Americans, especially those who served. You show your patriotism by being true to our values and our ideals and that’s what we have to lead with is our values and our ideals.

During the two years I spent talking to evangelicals for my book Rapture Ready!, I heard over and over again this exact same argument against the ostentatious, thoughtless or hypocritical donning of "witness wear." Obviously many people do choose to wear their faith on their shirts (or I wouldn't have much of a book), but even they would acknowledge that this is not enough — and that it doesn't matter if someone else chooses not to, as long as they have Jesus in their hearts and reflect him to the world. [Update: I appreciate the link from Andrew Sullivan, but while I generally share his opinions about "Christianists," the people I'm talking about don't necessarily fit that category.]

Obama, of course, is himself a devout Christian, and the language he so confidently uses here — "testimony," "values," "what's in your heart" — pretty strongly indicates that his feelings about displays of faith are informing his opinion about displays of patriotism. And Iowa audiences will easily pick up on that same language in making their decision about whether or not this is really an outrage.

October 3, 2007

Nine years late and a buck seventy-five short

Daniel Radosh

Paul Tough, another [This American Life] staff member, had a thought: ''We could do a whole show in which people tell stories in which the last line is, 'And that boy was Henry Kissinger.' '' —The New York Times, March 19, 1998

Ira Glass: "Every high school also has bullies, and there was one guy who picked on Jonathan..."
Jonathan Gold: “He was the sort of person who would walk across the street to be unpleasant to somebody. Or in my most notable instance, I was walking down the hall to history class and he hip-checked me. I was carrying my cello, and I went sailing down the stairs with my cello… He was laughing about it to his friends. I suspect he forgot about it five minutes later. I didn’t."
IG: "And so who was he. Who was that guy?"
JG: "That guy was Jack Abramoff."
This American Life, September 28, 2007

October 3, 2007

Now he tells me

Daniel Radosh

girlmc0ii1.gif Chris Suellentrop, who edited my Times op-ed about how Halo 3 fails as a work of narrative art, has his own essay on the game in Slate.

Reviewing the game on the merits of its single-player campaign is like judging a deck of cards based on how fun your last game of solitaire was. The best games are exercises in collaboration and competition with human opponents.... Halo 3 is probably a disappointment for fans of console gaming as it's evolved over the past decade. It's not a game that wows players with new discoveries and twists over the course of a shaggy 40 hours of play. But it's a delight to an arcade button-masher like me. The online game boasts tightly coiled, elegantly paced action that's a blast even to a slow-thumbed player who frequently finds himself outmatched by the competition. So, don't think of Halo 3 as a work of narrative fiction. Think of it as Madden for the science-fiction crowd. It ain't art, but it sure is fun.


October 3, 2007

An interactive post about an interactive story. Totally freakin' meta.

Daniel Radosh

facade_5therapygame.jpg This was originally going to be part of the previous post about reactions to my videogame op-ed, but I didn't want it to get lost in the shuffle.

Andrew Stern of Grand Text Auto and Procedural Arts sent a link to a fascinating article about his work that appeared in Atlantic Monthly last year. It's genuinely eerie. If I hadn't written that op-ed myself, I would have assumed that whoever did had cribbed large sections of it from this article and Stern's quotes.

Procedural Arts's first attempt at a game (if we can still call serious graphic stories "comics," I don't see why we can't call non-achievement-based interactive stories "games") is Facade. When it came out in 2005, the Times' Seth Schiesel called it the future of video games. Using an AI programming language Stern and his partner created, Facade is an Albee-esque drama about a marital crisis that develops organically based on how the player chooses to engage the characters. Stern told Atlantic's Jonathan Rauch it's about 30 percent successful. "We shot for the stars in hopes of getting to the moon, and we made it into orbit."

Each game of Facade takes 15-30 minutes to complete. You can download it here. I'm going to start playing as soon as I can, and I hope you will too. Sometime next week, we can meet back here to compare notes on whether this intriguing project really is what we're looking for... or at least the beginning of it.

October 3, 2007

Underestimating teh internets

Daniel Radosh

Contrary to my prediction, the response to my Op-ed about videogames has been almost wholly positive — not in the sense that everyone agrees with me, but rather that the criticisms have been both respectful and thoughtful. Even the guys at Bungie were polite. Highlights:


I do, however, disagree that in-game cutscenes and a desire to be cinematic are detrimental to a game. What I love about videogames are their ability to merge many forms of media into one -- books, visual art, movies, music, all combine and add interactivity to provide a truly unique and varied experience. As artistic entertainment has evolved, it's always been about adding more while remembering where it evolved from. I think videogames do that too.

Yes, videogames often borrow from movies, but then movies borrow from books and plays. Does a movie not start out as a script, as a screenplay? A book of sorts? As we evolve, so too does our art, but the foundations remain the same.


...encapsulates much of the discussion that's been going on at international game studies conferences for the past few years... One of the ironies about Radosh's criticism of the dearth of games that are "profound" and "resonate" with players is that one of the games that's winning awards and critical attention for doing this -- Bill Viola and Tracy Fullerton's The Night Journey -- owes some of its user-friendliness to Halo 2. The relationship of perceived addictiveness or intensity or immersion in game play to media merit is certainly one in literary studies as well, in which "page turners" rarely make it into the canon.

Brainy Gamer

After championing these less-conventional games, I find it ironic that Radosh invokes the 30s as the beginning of cinematic art, because the 30s were truly part of the height of the structured studio system in Hollywood. During the teens and twenties, filmmakers were given more freedom to experiment with narrative and non-narrative forms to see what the possibilities of cinema were. Avant-garde filmmaking flourished in France. The Russians pushed the bounds of montage. The Germans dabbled in hyper-stylized expressionism. By the 30s, studios knew what storylines sold well and genre filmmaking was streamlined. Film budgets were calculated precisely so that production risk was minimized. The producer and director unit system had certain filmmakers working on the same type of films for their entire careers. Innovation and experimentation were at a low-point in American film. Of course, this didn't destroy good filmmaking, but it did severely restrict the range of style in cinema.


Today's video games do aspire to cinematic levels of reality, but in the end you're still shooting at wooden ducks on the carnival midway. Way back when, the bleating speakers and photon-squirting CRTs meant that the graphics games at the time were hideously crappy, and they still look crappy. But the commercial interactive fiction still holds up as good interactive fiction. (We're talking on the scale of boutique art, with authors who know the tastes of their small audience very well.)

Only a Game (not a response to my essay, but related)

There is no way to avoid the fact that games are an inefficient medium for delivering narrative. But there is also no way to avoid the fact that interactive narrative can only be attempted in a game, or something very much like one. What is lacking is the commercial impetus to justify the costs required in making creative interactive narratives, and while the market for videogames remains focussed on games of harsh challenge and fleeting entertainments, this commercial impetus remains absent. It is not even clear that we will ever find such a market. Creative interactive narrative might always be a by-product of the games industry, and never a commercial goal.

Grand Text Auto

If you’ve read this blog over the years, then you’ve heard it all before, but perhaps not quite so succinctly, eloquently, and certainly not as an op-ed piece in the New York Times!
Related: GTA's round-up of envelope pushing interactive fiction, in various stages of development. Includes a link to Storytronics, whose creator weighed in here a few days ago.

October 1, 2007

Op-Ed columns: a cross-cultural comparison

Daniel Radosh

Wondering why I am into this today? is the Let me explain of Nigeria.

[h/t Slutwench]

October 1, 2007

But what to E! readers think of Britney's custody battle and funding for SCHIP?

Daniel Radosh

Today's most active conversations on E! online.


October 1, 2007

The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #116

Daniel Radosh

Submit the worst possible caption for this New Yorker cartoon. Click here for details. Click here to see last week's results.


“Ha! That’s brilliant! Of course we’ll run it - thanks for submitting! Do you have any others?” —Deborah

"Not another Muhammad cartoon!" —Mike Mariano

"He will die of hunger, either from lack of food or lack of mouth. Either way: funny!" —Arthur

Continue reading "The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #116" »

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