This week, the Obama campaign sent supporters this e-mail from Michelle. Martin Kaminer decided to turn it into a contest for his friends, and I'm picking up the baton here. Simply fill in the blank below. A No-Prize will be awarded next week for the funniest entry.
Barack likes to tell a story about the two of us standing backstage before his speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention.
The way he tells it, he was too busy in the days before the convention to feel any pressure -- but about an hour before the speech, I could tell he was getting a little nervous.
To break the tension, right before he went out on stage I leaned in close and said, "_______________________."
Here are some of the best suggestions that Kaminer got.
Like W, Batman is vilified and despised for confronting terrorists in the only terms they understand. Like W, Batman sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when the emergency is past.
The article is a nonstop string of "he didn't really say that" moments, so let's just stick the two major flaws in Klavan's thesis. The first is that he seems to think that Batman is some kind of, I dunno, superhero. The whole point of The Dark Knight is that the very concept of superheroes is questionable at best. As Harvey Dent says, "You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain." Ironically, Klavan chastises realistic antiwar movies in which "the good guys become indistinguishable from the bad guys, and we end up denigrating the very heroes who defend us," which is pretty much what Christopher Nolan intends with Dark Knight. OK, I won't go so far as to say Nolan denigrates Batman, but surely perceptive viewers will not come away from the movie cheering him unambiguously. Frank Miller's breakthrough was to perceive the fascist undercurrents of the superhero genre. Or will Klavan see next year's Watchmen film as another celebration of Bushism?
To the extent that Batman does remains a hero despite his actions, the reason provides an answer to Klavan's central question, even if Klavan himself can't see it (his second major flaw).
Why is it then that left-wingers feel free to make their films direct and realistic, whereas Hollywood conservatives have to put on a mask in order to speak what they know to be the truth? Why is it, indeed, that the conservative values that power our defense -- values like morality, faith, self-sacrifice and the nobility of fighting for the right -- only appear in fantasy or comic-inspired films like "300," "Lord of the Rings," "Narnia," "Spiderman 3" and now "The Dark Knight"?
Klavan believes the answer is that Hollywood is too afraid to "speak plainly in the light of day," when clearly it is because fantasy is the only context in which the "heroics" of Batman and George W. Bush even remotely make sense. Spencer Ackerman explains why in a much more perceptive column on the Bush-Batman analogy (though Ackerman too confuses the depiction of a cryptofascist worldview with its endorsement).
One problem with Walzer's argument, as its many critics have noted, is that the results are still horrific -- torture, indefinite detention, assassination and other such practices incompatible with civilization. Another is that it presumes that once unlimited authorities are handed to an individual, that person can be trusted to relinquish them -- or even to determine, contrary to his or her interest, that the emergency has passed.
In the world of comic, that's easy. Batman is Batman -- he's conflicted, sure, but he's a hero. That's why in both movies, little children -- fellow incorruptibles -- are the only ones who neither fear nor hate him: they can see him as he sees himself.
But in the real world, this concept is ludicrous and anti-American.
Exactly. As Jane Mayer reminds us in The Dark Side, Seton Hall Law School analyzed the accusations made against detainees at Guantanamo Bay, the ones Donald Rumsfeld described as "the worst of the worst."
After reviewing 517 of the Guantánamo detainees’ cases in depth they concluded that only 8 percent were alleged to have associated with Al Qaeda. Fifty-five percent were not alleged to have engaged in any hostile act against the United States at all, and the remainder were charged with dubious wrongdoing, including having tried to flee U.S. bombs. The overwhelming majority — all but 5 percent — had been captured by non-U.S. players, many of whom were bounty hunters.
Try to imagine a version of The Dark Knight in which 92 percent of the people who Batman beats the shit out of in his effort to get at the Joker are either demonstrably innocent or accused of vague crimes by unreliable sources (while the remaining 8 percent are not caught red-handed either). Very different movie. Also, in that hypothetical movie, Batman doesn't draw the line at killing bad guys in cold blood.
Also, it's an outrage when Bush plays golf, but omigod did you see Obama sink that basket?
I support Barack Obama and will consider the sycophantic toadying of left wing bloggers a small price to pay for an Obama victory -- but that doesn't mean I have to like it. Case in point, Crooks and Liars yesterday aired Andrea Mitchell's complaints that on his Mideast trip, Obama is avoiding the press in favor of softball questions from non-journalists. Instead of being upset about this shameless photo-op candidacy, C&L -- and it's slavish readers -- are giddy about how Obama has outfoxed the evil MSM and its "gotcha" questions.
Just read a handful of the Obamabot commenters to get an idea. Here's a typical one.
Andrea this is “message management” And Just who do journalist like Andrea do “message management” for? Certainly not the American people
Andrea “not interviews from a journalist” Just which journalist would Andrea choose to do “interviews’ with Obama with? The ones who sold our nation the war in Iraq? Which Journalist?
I would have to choose, Amy Goodman, Justin Raimando, Juan cole or Seymour Hersh, to do interviews with Obama on his trip..certainly not Andrea
Now look at the nearly identical gloating from the far-right Powerline blog back in 2003 when George W. Bush first announced that was going to "go over the heads of the [media] filter and speak directly to the people."
Yesterday's interviews are part of a long-standing administration effort to get around the Democratic press and take their case, on various issues, more directly to the people. They should continue and expand this effort; in fact, Republicans should actively undermine the assumption that the broadcast networks, the major daily newspapers and Time and Newsweek are the "real" news media. The President should give exclusive interviews on important topics to journalists like Brit Hume or Tony Snow on Fox News. He should give live, on-air interviews to talk radio hosts like Hugh Hewitt. These journalists are more intelligent, better informed and fairer than their "mainstream" Democratic counterparts. Why should the President not acknowledge this fact?
I'm half expecting Matt Drudge to wring his hands maniacally and declare, "We are not so different, you and I."
I haven't been watching the TV news, so I have no idea what Mitchell is referring to when she talks about "fake interviews." They may not be as bad as she makes out. And it's well known that Obama has scheduled a series of network interviews for after the trip, so it's not like the media should have been expecting anything other than photo ops this week. And of course it's clearly preposterous for Mitchell to say we've "never seen this before." Bush has been doing it for eight years -- and the media has beencallinghim on it. My point is that when he did, the left correctly excoriated him for it. So far Obama hasn't come close to Bush in terms of media manipulation -- does anyone remember Jeff Gannon, Video News Releases, the FEMA interviews? -- but when he shows the same impulses (if indeed Mitchell's comment is accurate), the left should challenge not applaud him.
Submit the worst possible caption for this New Yorker cartoon. Click here for details. Click here to see last week's results.
Results from guest judge Harry Effron Winner
"Well, if none of you brought marshmallows and I didn't bring marshmallows then that explains why these marshmallows taste like mice." —TG Gibbon
"I don't want to be a spoilsport, guys, but I think this might be a fire hazard. Also, marshmallows cause cancer and the way the sticks are poking through them probably constitutes sexual harassment on some level."— Francis
"Twice now, those pussies in inventory have fucked this up! Who the hell wants a s'more on a fucking triscuit?" —WillM
Tennis babe Ashley Harkleroad slips out of her little skirt for the new Playboy and reveals... an abiding love for her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Forget "spot the bunny," this must be the first appearance of an Ichthys tattoo in a Playboy pictorial.
In the word-things that accompany the pictures, Ashley says she got the tat when she was younger, but stands by it. "I still believe in God, but God made female athletes beautiful and sexy, and I want to represent that." Amen, sister. I'm sure all the boys who have seen this tattoo immediately fell to their knees in prayer.
Full NSFW picture is after the jump for proof that it's her, and because my traffic from people searching for "Ashley Harkleroad nude" is about to go through the roof and I can't disappoint random Internet perverts.
If you ever suspected that Abba was created in a lab... you're not entirely wrong. This clip from The Jewish Channel explains how singer Frida (ironically not the blond one) was sired as part of a Nazi eugenics program to populate the world with the master race. Little did they know that their experiment would ultimately benefit the gays most.
Derek Webb, who, at the risk of being ridiculously reductionist, is sort of the Billy Bragg of Christian rock, has a new album out. To distribute it, he's created a web site, NoiseTrade, where artists can give away their music. Currently there are about 40 albums on there, all available for whatever you want to pay, or free if you recommend the album to three friends.
The emphasis is on Paste-friendly indie folk rock. Here's Webb's widget, if you want to sample some tracks. Check out particularly A Savior on Capitol Hill.
Here's Webb from a previous album on the Christian pop culture phenomenon. "Don't want the song, I want a jingle/ I love you Lord, but don't hear a single."
Photographs of the Colombian military intelligence-led team that spearheaded the rescue, shown to CNN by a confidential military source, show one man wearing a bib with the Red Cross symbol. The military source said the three photos were taken moments before the mission took off to persuade the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia rebels to release the hostages to a supposed international aid group for transport to another rebel area.
Such a use of the Red Cross emblem could constitute a "war crime" under the Geneva Conventions and international humanitarian law and could endanger humanitarian workers in the future, according to international legal expert Mark Ellis, executive director of the International Bar Association.
Calling on the press to protect the common man from the potential corruptions of satire is a strange, paternalistic assignment for any journalist to give his peers, but that appears to be what The New Yorker's detractors desire... Only weak thinkers fear strong images. The publication that convenes itself as a polite dinner party, serving only strained polenta and pureed peas, need not invite me to sup.
OK, I differ slightly with the characterization of the cover as a strong image. One complaint about it is that it merely presents the smears without putting the extra spin that would mock them, but New Yorker covers aren't supposed to be jokey and heavy-handed, they're always somewhat genteel, no less so when they're trying to be edgy. It's supposed to elicit a wry smile, not a self-satisfied laugh. Judged on its own terms, rather than Colbert's, the cover clearly succeeds.
Kamiya also notes that some critics say ridiculously say the image doesn't even exaggerate the smears. More Kamiya:
Some on the left, however, are so terrified that Americans, in their cosmic stupidity, cannot distinguish between satire and smear that they reject satire. After Obama wins, they decree, there will be time for all the sophisticated ha-ha. But right now, imagery must be as tightly controlled as at an exhibition of Stalinist realism paintings. As Ari Fleischer said, we must all watch what we do, watch what we say. Such reactions are utterly political and deeply skeptical: They're based on the belief that journalism is all about power, that it must cater to the lowest common denominator, and that the critical and ironic thinking satire requires is an outmoded luxury...
The magazine's left-wing critics, understandably scared (and perhaps deafened) by the vicious noise of the right-wing attack machine, are demanding that those on the left also turn their amps up to full Spinal Tap 11. Cartoons to be chuckled at over sherry, they say, are not funny and are too dangerous. (What they don't say is that when everything is dangerous, nothing is funny.) Ugly times call for ugly tactics. Noise calls for noise.
The premise underlying the response Kamiya takes on here is that The New Yorker (and Jon Stewart, etc) should not do anything to undermine Obama, even if they know and we know it's only a joke. That's pretty pernicious. Since when is it the job of the media or comedians to support a presidential candidate?
Meanwhile the New York Times reports that while the late night laffers are having trouble landing their Obama jokes, black comedians are doing better -- except that due to more ridiculous self-censorship, the paper won't tell you how.
“I tell jokes on stage about him,” Mr. Grier said, reciting a few that would not ever get onto a network late-night show (nor into this newspaper).
Why won't those jokes get into the paper? Do they use profanity, the dreaded N-word or both? In his column last week, Public Editor Clark Hoyt got permission to use the forbidden obscenity "nuts" because it was "central to this discussion." But as I've said again and again, when a story is about a word or a quote, that word or quote is always central to the discussion and should always be used. Hoyt's justification for saying "nuts" could certainly be applied to Sally Field, to take just one egregious example. (Also, it was my understanding that the Public Editor has completely free rein to write what he wants. Why would he need the permission of the editors he's criticizing to criticize them as he sees fit?)
Related: Slate's Christopher Beam finally acknowledges that he started the terrorist fist-jab meme (or rather, the meta-meme) in a column that largely exonerates Fox's E.D. Hill.
By the way, whatever happened to FuckedCompany.com?
Hey anti-captioners, what do you think of this idea? If you can figure out how it works, crank the cartoon appropriately. Otherwise just use the old school text comments, even though this will result in less buy-in.
What, you thought I was going to blog about that Op-Ed in the Times?
You know what bugs me about The Little Mermaid? Why wouldn't Ariel know what a fork is? Sure, I can understand her being confused about things like "street" and "fire," but merfolk have cities and musical instruments, so why wouldn't they have forks? Her dad carries a trident for fuck's sake. That's just a big fork, right? Are we supposed to think mermaids just shovel food into their mouths with their hands?
Come to think of it, why is Sebastian so freaked out by the fact that humans eat fish? You know who eats a lot more fish than humans? Other fish! Even if mermaids are on an all-seaweed diet, surely Sebastian has noticed the eating habits of some of his other friends. Hell, if Ariel found herself a nice Jewish prince, Sebastian would be a lot safer in the castle than under the sea.
As promised, Farley Katz, the real power behind the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest, answers our questions.
How are the hours there?
It’s your typical 9-5 punchclock, unless it’s one of the weeks we’ve run a double issues where people have twice as long to submit captions and submit twice as many. Those weeks are called my “suicide weeks."
How disappointing. That question was actually a test, and I'm afraid you failed. Or more accurately, I failed, because it was a test of the reach and influence of the anti-caption contest -- a reference to the only New Yorker contest winner that originated as an anti-caption: The hours here are obscene. So I probably know the answer to my next question: does anyone at The New Yorker read or pay attention to the anti-caption contest, and if so, has it ever influenced the real contest, even just a tiny bit? Be honest.
Alas. Now it is I who am disappointed. You see, my response to your “test” was actually a test in and of itself. You got a 91. Nice work.
I am a fan of the anti-caption contest. One of my favorite anti-winners was "I'm going to lick my balls now.” I think I’m drawn to that particular caption because it’s exactly what a lion would do after he finished his meal!
Nearly three years ago on this site, I introduced Rapture Ready! with a panel from a 1970s comic book showing pert Christian chicks being lifted into the air to meet Jesus. I've finally stumbled on the source of that image, a Spire comic based on the crackpot eschatology of Hal Lindsey. And there's this even better panel that really makes me wonder if the artists and writers weren't having a bit of a laugh.
And look, our very own commenter Therblig is in the running with this rhyme:
Thus the World Wide Web was born
For Nigerian Diplomats and porn.
He's currently well ahead in the voting, but feel free to stuff the ballot box for him anyway. There's a copy of Best American Poetry 2007 at stake! I actually like the Thomas Edison Clerihew myself, but I'm loyal to my readers. Pus he said "porn."
And since I saw what some of you did to poor Kevin Shay when he originally posted about this, I'll just warn you that it's pronounced Ray-dosh, and no one calls me "Dan."
I'm all for cheering a bloodless hostage rescue, but doesn't it seem a little bit strange that not a single news organization is raising an objection to military commandos impersonating journalists and aid workers? As one aid worker writes,
By having soldiers pose as journalists and aid workers in order to gain access to the hostages, the Colombian government has increased the already high risks faced by legitimate reporters and NGO workers. In a country that is already one of the most dangerous places in the world in which to work as a journalist or a defender of human rights, the armed actors will now be even more suspicious of anyone claiming to work in those fields.
The Committee to Protect Journalists testified in 2002 that "intelligence operatives should never pose as journalists," noting that "Journalists reporting from dangerous areas around the world... rely on their perceived neutrality to keep them safe."
The news organizations reporting on the Colombian rescue operation are aware of these principles, yet none that I've seen have even bothered to mention their violation, even in an aside or an editorial. Where's the Poynter Institute? I guess I wasn't the only one on vacation last week.
Mr. Moncayo said his hopes for a negotiated release of his son and other captives had dimmed in recent days. “The humanitarian effort will be made harder because this operation generates distrust,” he said. “How are we going to ask international groups to collaborate with us and for the FARC to accept them when they have been fooled?”
Hi again. I've got a bunch of things stored up to talk about now that I'm back, but first let me thank guest bloggers Kevin and Harry for maintaining Radosh.net's high standards in my absence. They posted just about as often as I do!
Let's start with a couple of anti-caption issues. What does everyone think of Harry's inadvertent innovation of posting results as a separate entry? Looks like it generated some response. Should I do it that way from now on so you can all second guess me?
Also, Scott alerts me that there's a new New Yorker cartoonists blog and that our friend Farley Katz has an interesting post there this week. Farley is the cartoon assistant who filters the contest entries. A while ago he offered to answer some questions for us, but then never did, possibly because he's busy and possibly because our queries crossed the line from probing into obnoxious. In any case, he now introduces a concept he calls the Crazy Caption Award or "Crazer." You may know it as the anti-caption (which, btw, I regret not initially spelling without a hyphen. It looks so uncool). And not even a tip o' the hat to this site. At least the example he gives is a pretty good one. Contest #150 (guy shooting himself) was a particularly difficult one for us for some reason, and Farley's pick is arguably better than anything we came up with. I don't know if he plans to do this often, but just think of it as raising the bar for your own entries.
Here Amid the Pyramid Schemes: Quixtar's "OMG GFE" Moment
There's a pitfall inherent in writing novels whose characters get caught up in kooky subcultures. Namely, hopping online to explore the underbelly of a kooky subculture tends to be much easier and more enjoyable than, say, actually writing prose. So the temptation is always to prolong the research phase far beyond what's strictly necessary for the actual piece you're working on.
All of which is by way of saying that in the course of writing and rewriting a single chapter of The End as I Know It, I delved somewhat deeply into the world of Amway and its e-commerce arm, Quixtar (although I didn't actually mention Quixtar, which was launched in 1999, because my chapter took place in 1998; for such historical rigor are fiction writers justly renowned).
Quixtar was pretty explicitly conceived as the non-Amway Amway. In entering the online marketplace, the company spun off a business with a different name because "Amway" was known and reviled, a punchline; you don't toss away near-universal brand recognition unless your brand is irrevocably tainted. An important part of the training undergone by early Quixtar IBOs (Independent Business Owners) was learning how to finesse the answer when a potential customer asked "Is this Amway?" In short, the first rule of Quixtar was: you do not talk about Amway.
Which is why I was intrigued to see this TV spot last month (more here):
So what happened? To me, the impetus for Quixtar's decision to proudly wear the Amway nametag (literally) in 2008 seems as clear as the impetus for Quixtar's creation in 1999: at some point last year, someone in Amway's upper management must have had a GFE moment.
GFE stands for Google Fucking Exists. (Dan Savage coined this unjustly neglected acronym in a memorable column I'll leave it to you to Google.) The new Quixtar campaign is called "Now You Know," but a more accurate name would be "Yeah, You Knew." Nine years ago, it was still possible to get away with hiding behind a different name and logo; sure, it was easy enough back then to go to a search engine and discover that Quixtar was essentially Amway, but plenty of peoplespecifically, plenty of the type of people who are likely to sign on to MLM schemesdid not have the wherewithal or inclination to do.
In the computer industry, "security through obscurity" means assuming that you can keep your software or hardware's vulnerabilities from being exploited simply by concealing their existence; it's generally held to be an untenable strategy. In Quixtar's case, "brand purity through obscurity" may have worked for a few years, but no longer. Anyone who's "shown the plan" for Quixtar can, and will, discover the Amway connection within seconds of sitting down at a computer, and certainly before signing on the dotted line.
How this new approach of wholeheartedly embracing the Amway name and lineage will affect Quixtar's fortunes remains to be seen. But the existence of Google, and more generally the transparency the Internet affords consumers, left them no choice in the matter.
How high is the price of gas? It's so high, the local newsradio hacks are accompanying stories about it with... "Don't Fear the Reaper."
Meanwhile, the same media outlet and many others have been running with this story as some sort of illustration of the effects of rising oil prices.
Which, of course, makes no sense whatsoeverhow is selling yourself for a $100 gas card any different from, or more newsworthy than, selling yourself for $100 and eventually using that cash to refuel your vehicle? Or, in fact, selling yourself for a $100 Starbucks card, then trading that to a yuppie for an American Express gift card, then using that to buy groceries, thereby freeing up $100 from your next paycheck for gas? The cost of fuel really has no bearing on the medium of exchange, or vice-versa.
Still, it's the hot button of the moment, so I expect radosh.net to be debunking the "middle-class teens sold into slavery for diesel" pandemic in the near future.