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Archives for January, 2008

January 31, 2008

2 Girls, 1 Inadvertent Contextual Advertisement

Daniel Radosh

hayden-panettiere-stanley-cup-2.jpg A few months late to the game, Slate presents a round-up of 2 Girls 1 Cup reaction videos. To watch the videos, you have so sit through a short ad for Epson printers. The ad is part of the company's Epsonality campaign. It features a young couple sitting on a couch. Here is the complete transcript.

She: When we first heard that we might have an epsonality, we didn't know what to think.

He: I thought it was a dip

She: Dip.

He: I don't think that anymore.

She: It doesn't get anywhere near your mouth.

I don't know about you, but I know what I'm going to think of every time I hear the word Epsonality from now on.

January 31, 2008

Executive powers

Daniel Radosh

For a while now, I've thought that if I could ask one question of the presidential candidates, it would be, "Which specific power or powers that President Bush has claimed for the president or the executive branch would you voluntarily relinquish if you were president?"

This Glenn Greenwald post makes clear, yet again, why this litmus test is necessary. And the post also points out that Charlie Savage has already asked this question. Or rather, that he's given each candidate a questionnaire that amounts to a more detailed version of the same thing.

The results are not all that instructive. Both Obama and Clinton are admirably forthright in their rejection of Bush's abuses and affirm quite clearly that they will not claim such powers for themselves. There's so little daylight between them, that if one were to decide between the two based strictly on this, the only relevant question to ask yourself is, which one is more likely to be saying whatever she has to to get elected. She or he, I mean.

It's also a relief to see that while McCain is more vague and slippery than the Democrats (possibly because he seems to be speaking, while the others are writing), he basically comes down on the right side of almost every answer, with the exception of his claim that Congress can't regulate troop deployments. I wouldn't vote for him, but on this issue alone, I could live with him.

Mitt Romney, on the other hand, is batshit insane. He's basically promising another four years of Bush-Cheneyism.

And, yes, I still think either Republican would beat Clinton, though Romney might have a tougher time. Obama could probably, though by no means definitely, win against either of them.

January 31, 2008


Daniel Radosh

"This is very much a protest that's swallowed a bomb, and given the detonator to a monkey."

I've been hearing about this British satire for years. I've only watched the first part so far, but it's as sharp and funny as everyone said.

Parts two and three.

January 29, 2008

Left Behind

Daniel Radosh

From the Conservapedia for the TV show Angel

The title character, portrayed by David Boreanaz, is a vampire who regains his soul. Unfortunately this means that due to his past deeds he is destined for hell when he dies. He spends much time and effort trying to do good works in the hope of avoiding this fate. This suggests that salvation is possible through good works alone, and not through a relationship with Jesus, who is not mentioned.

January 28, 2008

Keep hope alive?

Daniel Radosh

You heard it here first.

"Jesse Jackson won South Carolina twice, in ‘84 and ‘88. " —Bill Clinton.

January 28, 2008

The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #132

Daniel Radosh

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


"It made me hot when you called me 'dirty whore' last night. But this is today, and I'd really prefer it if you just called me mom." —Shawn

"You can take off the helmet if you want, but the voices aren't going to stop until you've killed everybody on the list." —Joshua

"Honey, would you like some coff— OH MY GOD! You already have some!" —Harry

Continue reading "The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #132" »

January 22, 2008

Behind the scenes

Daniel Radosh

Last week, Phillip Morris, a black columnist at the Cleveland Plain Dealer tried to use the word "nigger" in a quote as part of an essay about tolerance. The paper's ombudsman reports what happened next.

The debate was passionate, and opinions varied.

Morris wanted to keep the word in his column. "I don't think we should do so much self-censorship," he said. "I'm not saying that I find gratuitous use acceptable, but if I'm going to use that line as the crux of the point I'm trying to make, I've got to use the word."

Metro Editor Chris Quinn, who edits Morris' column, also wanted to leave the word in: "They're in the bar, the word is used, it shocks them, so Phillip wanted to use the word to achieve the same effect," he said. "By taking the word out, you lose the shock value." Deputy Managing Editor Elizabeth McIntyre and several other Metro assistant editors, both black and white, agreed.

However, Daryl Kannberg, the deputy managing editor whose duties include overseeing the copy editors, disagreed. "I got the point, without having to see the word," he said. "I didn't think it was worth offending the readers I knew we would offend by using it."

Profanity and racial epithets do not get published without approval from the top, which at The Plain Dealer means Editor Susan Goldberg and Managing Editor Debra Adams Simmons. Neither liked the idea of using the word.

"For many readers, it's never OK to use that word, given its history," said Simmons. "Particularly for people who are older, it takes them back to a place they don't want to think about."

Simmons said that she doesn't believe in a blanket prohibition but that the bar for using it should be high.

To the PD's credit, it has used the word at least 255 times in situations that other papers would not have, thus making it a more reliable source of information about race relations thant, say, The New York Times.

Morris himself has used the word several times. In one short 2005 column, used it 12 times. Here's his takeaway from that column:

Such is the continuing power of the N-word — a word so common, yet so heavily freighted with historical baggage, that America frequently abbreviates and hyphenates it, as if a hyphen would somehow ease the sting of a word that should be as dead as Latin. How uniquely American. How stupid.

[Previously on this topic.]

January 21, 2008

The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #131

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: I forgot to remind you that the winner of this week's contest will receive a signed copy of The Bush Tragedy by Jacob Weisberg.


"I bet this is killing a tremendous number of people." —Dan McCoy

"So much for my career as a safe salesman." —Ned

"This is just God's way of saying he has too many safes." —Francis

Continue reading "The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #131" »

January 18, 2008

First I was person of the year, now this

Daniel Radosh

In the new issue of Time, James Poniewozik has a good overview of Mike Huckabee's pop-culture Christianity. Here's my contribution.

Many voters first met Huckabee through the campaign spot in which he traded lines with action star Norris. The ad did more than defuse the humorless-preacher stereotype; it also spoke to Huckabee's base. To a general audience, Norris is a camp figure. But, notes Daniel Radosh, author of the forthcoming book Rapture Ready!, about Christian pop culture, Evangelicals know Norris as the author of a popular spiritual memoir and co-author of two Christian western novels. To the public, appearing with Norris says Huckabee doesn't take himself too seriously. But, Radosh adds, "within the Christian culture bubble, it's a way of saying, 'I'm one of you.'"

January 17, 2008

The difference is, Shakespeare plays only feel like they go on for eight years

Daniel Radosh

When Slate editor Jacob Weisberg calls the Bush presidency a tragedy, he doesn't mean it the way most of us do. In Weisberg's new book, The Bush Tragedy, George W. is a less eloquent, less noble, but no less complex, Prince Hal — a doomed jerk taking the entire kingdom down with him. This "unexpectedly compelling piece of armchair psychoanalysis", presented with "skill and seriousness" is on sale now, and will be the prize in next week's Anti-Caption Contest. So I'll actually read your entries this time.

January 16, 2008

But when will you be back?

Daniel Radosh

Summer+Glau.jpg Todd Seavey untangles the Terminator timelines, and observes that "time travel with Summer Glau sounds like a nice Travel Channel show."

January 15, 2008

Go ahead, judge the book

Daniel Radosh


January 14, 2008

David Simon floods the zone

Daniel Radosh

I knew the clueless windbag executive editor from The Wire's Baltimore Sun looked familiar. At left, "James C. Whiting III." At right Howell Raines, executive editor of the New York Times during the Jayson Blair era. [h/t Bruno]


January 14, 2008

"I'm coming to blow you up" is the "Baba Booey" of the Straits of Hormuz

Daniel Radosh

iwho-wants-to-be-a-superheroi-interview-monkey-woman-and-tyveculus-20060814031909182.jpg I assume you know by now that the threatening voice on those videos the Pentagon released from the Straits of Hormuz incident likely came not from the Iranian ships but from a notorious prankster known as the Filipino Monkey. He's even got his own theme song.

So should the Pentagon have known this before it released the audio? Well, here's a telling exchange I just found on the military blog Argghhh!!! Back in December, one reader posted an article about a directional sound device that ships can use to warn would-be attackers to keep their distance. To which another reader responded, "Yeah. It says 'This is the Filipino Monkey....I go to hit you. I go to cause collision.'" This in turn elicited a knowing "LMFAO." That exact phrase also turns up in a paragraph about the Monkey in a book about the merchant marine.

All of which indicates that threatening to ram ships is one of the Monkey's running jokes. So putting the audio out there as if it was a genuine threat represents either 1) intentional propaganda or 2) ineptitude. Either one, an excellent reason to go to war.

For future reference, there's also a Stinkie Indian.

January 14, 2008

The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #130

Daniel Radosh

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


"Keep moving Billy so mommy knows you're O.K." —reid savid

"I don't hear the safe word. Do you hear the safe word?" —Richard

"It's that snowman they were talking about on the news, who kills people." —David John

Continue reading "The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #130" »

January 12, 2008

How devious are the Clintons?

Daniel Radosh

OK, I admit this is bordering on paranoia, but I'm not convinced it's wrong. Isn't it possible that Bill and Hillary's crypto-racist gaffes were actually intentional, and designed to call attention to the race of a rival whose hallmark has been that he, to use the cliché, transcends race?

Think about it. All of a sudden, Obama is being reduced to "the black candidate" he never was before. Bill even called Al Sharpton's radio show to "apologize" for his remarks -- thus linking Sharpton's name with Obama for perhaps the first time ever. Indeed, it seems like every African-American politician is being called for comment, driving home the point that Obama is "one of them" rather than "one of us" (where us means all America).

And because the Clintons are being "forced" to apologize and clarify, it makes it look like Obama is playing the race card, something he'd gotten so much credit for not having done. (In the linked article Stephane Tubbs Jones makes this allegation). The fact that the stories of allegedly offended blacks appear to have originated with former Clinton advisor Donna Brazile is especially suspicious. And of course, the Clintons' remarks were so ambiguous that 1) they have total deniability and 2) Obama comes off as hypersensitive.

Even if it was unintentional, this is very much a narrative that Hillary wants right now. For the first time in the primary, she's running against "the black candidate" rather than Barack Obama. If it was intentional, that's just one more reason the country needs the Clintons out of the picture immediately.

January 8, 2008

Is this how Tom Lehrer felt when Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize?

Daniel Radosh

An actual New Yorker cartoon has a classic anti-caption.

[h/t Gary]

January 7, 2008

You don't say

Daniel Radosh

"Bush is the first U.S. president to visit Jerusalem since Bill Clinton" —Reuters, Jan 7

[hat tip: Slutwench]

January 7, 2008

I knew that looked familiar

Daniel Radosh

I loved last night's episode of the Wire, but the photocopier lie detector is a 35-year-old urban legend that's already been used by Homicide and NYPD Blue.

January 7, 2008

Let me rephrase that

Daniel Radosh

"I got really mad at [Bill Clinton] about the Monica thing. It really creamed the party." — Undecided New Hampshire voter Denny Gallaudet.

January 7, 2008

The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #129

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: After I dropped the ball on contest #127, frequent winner Mo Buck picked it up and chose a batch of honorable mentions.


“No, you’re just hallucinating. Just kidding – he’s really there. Just kidding again – you’re really hallucinating. Ha! I love this game!” —Deborah

"You're about a meter and a half above sea level. We'd like to get that down a little." —Joshua

"We're canceling the plan to inject a miniaturized diver into your body without actually miniaturizing him. Unfortunately, the test results show that we've attempted this joke so many times that the virus has become resistant to it." —Walt

Continue reading "The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #129" »

January 5, 2008

What Huckabee's music sounds like when you play it backwards

Daniel Radosh

[Ed. note: This was supposed to go up on Huffington Post this morning as part of my shameless promotional campaign for my book, Rapture Ready! Adventures in the Parallel Universe of Christian Pop Culture, but apparently they shut down on Saturdays. Big thanks to Ernest for the tip]

In its coverage of the Iowa caucus, the New York Times quoted a pastor who said he'd be voting for Mike Huckabee despite his serious reservations about the candidate's belief that it's possible to serve "God and rock 'n' roll at the same time."

Huckabee plays bass guitar. He recently showed his chops on the Tonight Show. But the Iowan pastor's concerns are out of synch with contemporary American evangelicalism. Fundamentalist churches that say "Christian Rock makes as much sense as Christian Adultery" are a dwindling fringe. The vast majority of evangelicals, even the most theologically and politically conservative ones, have embraced rock 'n' roll for decades.

And yet there are fierce debates within evangelicalism about whether secular rock is as acceptable as Christian rock and even about the ideal purpose of Christian rock — is it entertainment? evangelism? ministry? So it's worth noting that the church band Huckabee plays in is what's known as a praise and worship band. That's the "safest," most "religious" and most insular variety of contemporary Christian music. The fact that it's Huckabee's genre of choice also explains the origins of his mysterious campaign buzzword: "vertical."

Josh Marshall posted about Huckabee's vertical politics last night. "Can anyone explain what the hell that means?" Marshall asked. "Is there something I'm missing here?" Soon enough, he posted an update suggesting that the phrase might be "crypto-evangelical code wording... a clever dog whistle call out to Christian fundamentalists and evangelicals that his politics are God's politics."

Marshall is mostly correct. The phrase is Christianese. And while it's used in a variety of contexts, it's most commonly applied to distinguish one type of contemporary Christian music — the type that Huckabee plays — from others. As the Lyrical Theology blog put it, Christian lyrics can generally divided into two categories. 1. Lyrics that are horizontal, or directed towards people, and 2. Lyrics that are vertical, or directed towards God." A few years ago, the top A&R guy at Word, a major Christian record label, explained what this means as a practical matter: "Overt, or vertical, lyrics are lyrics that are not afraid to say 'Jesus' or 'God' in them. 'Vertical' meaning: I am speaking to God, or God is speaking to me, or this is a prayerful song. The lyrics are out in the open—overt—about the Christian faith, praise and worship or the like." Horizontal lyrics, on the other hand, "are the type that could often be love songs, but the You is with a capital 'Y.'" Snarky young Christians call these "God-is-my-girlfriend songs." The vertical language is so commonplace that Christian entertainment sites like Crossmap use it frequently without any explanation. There's a Christian record label named Vertical Music.

There is zero chance that Mike Huckabee is using this language unintentionally. The candidate published two books last year. In Character Makes a Difference he writes, "The Ten Commandments are divided into two sections — the vertical laws dealing with man's relationship with God and the horizontal laws dealing with man's relationship with others." In From Hope to Higher Ground, he writes, "We don't need our leadership to embrace a horizontal direction, but a vertical one — we need to aim up — not just right or left."

There was a period when George Bush got a lot of grief from the left for using evangelical code words. Sometimes I agreed, but just as often I found the charge paranoid. What Bush does is use biblical metaphors — a perfectly reasonable, even literate, mode of speech. It's not his fault that secular elites don't always recognize the language of the King James Bible, and it shouldn't automatically be seen as sinister to employ such time-tested rhetorical devices. Huckabee's "vertical" metaphor, however, isn't lifted from the Bible. It originates in a particular strain of Christian culture. But I don't think that necessarily means he's intentionally using code words. A charitable interpretation — perhaps overly charitable, but not unreasonable — is that he's simply adapting language that he's comfortable with to an entirely new purpose. Indeed, there doesn't seem to be any hint of theocracy in Huckabee's frequent deployment of the "vertical politics" line. He's not saying that "vertical politics" deal with "man's relationship with God." Instead, he's turned "vertical" into exactly the kind of vague and meaningless pablum that candidates always use. It's merely his way of saying "positive" or "hopeful," except that while those shopworn phrases completely fade into the white noise of the campaign, "vertical" cuts through the clutter. It works on a purely attention-getting level. It may well be that the word's function as a signal to the evangelical base is just an added bonus.

Keep in mind that when Huckabee talks about "vertical politics" he contrasts it with a negative, destructive "horizontal politics." But in Christianese, "horizontal" carries no such connotations. Talking to God is important, but so is talking to people about God. True, many evangelicals believe that "vertical" is better than "horizontal," but they wouldn't say that horizontal is bad. And it's not hard to find evangelicals who say that Christian music does not put enough emphasis on the horizontal. There are a lot of reasons to be concerned about Mike Huckabee, but his decision to repurpose a Christian buzzword now and then hardly seems like one of them.

A related note. While searching for references to verticality on the web site of CCM magazine, the leading Christian music publication, I was startled to see this pop-up add.


Yes, CCM is using a quote from H.L. Mencken to sell subscriptions. Leaving aside that this particular quote refers to individual liberty, not free magazines, Mencken is a bizarre choice. One wonders why CCM didn't go with a more familiar Mencken quote, like, "I believe that religion, generally speaking, has been a curse to mankind — that its modest and greatly overestimated services on the ethical side have been more than overcome by the damage it has done to clear and honest thinking."

Last week I wrote that the Christian culture bubble does not do irony. What I meant, of course, was not intentionally.

January 4, 2008

The Wire as sitcom

Daniel Radosh

A little warm up for Sunday night. Also, don't miss the short prequels.

January 4, 2008

Will your honor allow "vajayjay"?

Daniel Radosh

I was all set to retire my award-winning series on media self-censorship (scroll to third item), but two recent occurrences are too interesting to pass up.

First, Ernest points out that the New York Times completely and perhaps defamatorily misrepresented the words of screenwriter John August when it attempted to sanitize his language. This is a perfect example of the serious point that's always been behind these self-censorship posts: prudishness isn't just silly, it's bad journalism.

Second, today's New York Post features what is perhaps the funniest bit of censored dialogue in any newspaper ever. The story concerns a court appearance of a Broadway actor who had a sexual encounter with a 15-year-old girl.

"I placed my hand - I mean her hand," Barbour continued, flubbing his line, "on my p- - -s and my hand on her v- - - -a."

"On her what?" asked the court stenographer, leaning in to hear him.

"On her v- - - -a," he repeated helpfully, projecting more clearly.

"I'm sorry, I don't speak dash," replied the stenographer.

To understand the arbitrariness of this practice, consider that according to Nexis, the New York Post has printed the word penis 532 times and vagina 256 times since 1997, including in stories about teenage victims. Just last week it quoted actress Jenna Fisher saying, "That's right, ladies, we have penis." And a month ago, Cindy fucking Adams had no problem quoting Gene Simmons saying "Her vagina is so large that the Verizon man couldn't get reception in certain parts." (Cindy drew the line, however, at revealing the name of the lady in question.)

So why the sudden skittishness? It's like the Vajapocalypse never even happened.

January 3, 2008

He'll be just as predictable as Herbert, but way more funny

Daniel Radosh

On Radar today, Charles Kaiser quotes Jon Schwartz explaining what's wrong wtih the New York Times' response to all those exploding heads over the appointment of Bill Kristol to the op-ed page.

"It's as though an NFL coach decided to start a four-foot, 65-pound Korean eight-year-old at middle linebacker, and when he got criticized, responded: 'People are mad we're using a player of such tremendous size and experience, just because he's Korean. How intolerant!'"

I don't even know what an "NFL" is, and I understand that.

Skip the rest of Kaiser's piece and jump right to the page of Kristol's greatest hits on Iraq, from "the war itself will clarify who was right and who was wrong about weapons of mass destruction" to "a broad Iraqi consensus favoring the idea of pluralism."

Meanwhile, to understand what a joke it is that the Times claims to be pursuing a diversity of opinions by hiring another inside-the-Beltway hack who happens to be a neocon, consider a point my former Week colleague Brad Cope made back when the paper hired David Brooks: foreign policy conservatives are OK, but you will never, ever see the paper hire a staunchly pro-life, anti-gay-rights, morals-obsessed social conservative -- especially not a Christian one. Now, unlike Brad, I'm not saying the paper should do this. But his point is well-taken that if the paper really wanted to diversify the page to include opinions that are cherished by many Americans but shut out of the Times, that would be the way to do it.

January 2, 2008

My New Year's Day hangover started a week early

Daniel Radosh

Sorry for the dead air. Usually I like to post a stay-tuned message when I'm offline for an extended period, but this time I was too focused on last-minute changes to Rapture Ready! (Exclamation point is part of title, not enthusiasm for last-minute changes.) If you're keeping track, I've just returned the copy-edited manuscript, which was my last chance to make substantive alterations to the text. Galleys come out in a week or two. The book goes on sale April 8. Make that, April 8!

I did manage to squeak out a promotional post for HuffPo on Chuck Norris's career in the Christian bubble. I'm actually getting hate mail from Christians for this one. That's a bit of a surprise. I met so many cool Christians on my travels that I'd begun to think I might even be able to sell my book to Christian audiences. Of course, the assholes are always louder than everyone else, so maybe I shouldn't take this as any kind of real sign.

However, it may be that once the book comes out I'll need to institute some kind of registration for posting on this blog. I'd hate for the comments to be overwhelmed by idiots.

January 2, 2008

The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #128

Daniel Radosh

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


"Do you think they'll euthanize him with one big shot, or just lots of regular-sized shots?"
Posted by: Dave

"I'm going to have the abortion. I just can't in good conscience bring a child into a world overrun with gigantic dogs." —gary

"All right, have it your way -- you heard a seal bark." —Joshua

Continue reading "The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #128" »

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