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Archives for July, 2009

July 31, 2009

But next term he'll be liberated from politics!

Daniel Radosh

Remember how we were supposed to ignore the fact that Obama was caving on torture, detention, government secrecy and gay rights because he needed to save up all his mojo to get us awesome health care reform. How'd that work out?

July 28, 2009

In which against every fiber of my being I side with Sarah Palin over William Shatner

Daniel Radosh

Before NBC began frantically pulling it off YouTube -- in an apparent attempt to forestall any awareness of its programming among people under 40 -- today's hottest viral video was the clip from last night's Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien of William Shatner reading Sarah Palin's farewell speech. (The clip is still available on the NBC web site so I've embedded it below on the off chance you haven't seen it.) At the risk of offending every one of my Facebook friends who posted it, the bit simply wasn't funny. That's not just my opinion, it's a provable fact, and if the target hadn't been one we're by now completely conditioned to laugh at, everyone would have seen it.

The problem isn't that the punchline doesn't land (though Shatner does seem a bit shaky at times) but rather that the premise is all wrong. Introducing the performance, Conan declares that he's watched the speech a few times and "it suddenly dawned on me this morning: it's a poem! It was always meant to be a poem."

Except that... it really was always meant to be a poem. OK, not a exactly a poem, but definitely poetic.

...with fireweed blooming along the frost heaves and merciless rivers that are rushing and carving and reminding us that here, Mother Nature wins.

What did Conan think that was, a policy speech? All the flowery language that Shatner goofs on is supposed to be flowery. Some of it is literally about flowers. Palin's speech isn't inadvertently poetic the way that Donald Rumsfeld's press conferences or Lindsay Lohan's interviews are. Those gags work because there is a surprising result from presenting ordinary, discombobulated language in verse form. Palin's speech announcing her resignation probably could have been treated the same way effectively. But her actual farewell speech is in itself intentionally poetic.

Sure her imagery is hacky, her construction is inelegant, and her delivery is choppy. And there's the oddity of a politician attempting to speak poetically when she is quitting her job and pretending that it's normal. But to say, "Ha! It sounds like a poem!" when that was the intent makes Conan, not Palin, sound like the dummy.

July 27, 2009

The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #202

Daniel Radosh

Submit the worst possible caption for this New Yorker cartoon.

Last week's results. •Rules and tips.


July 23, 2009

Why not Bil Keane?

Daniel Radosh

Heinz Edelmann, 1934-2009

July 23, 2009

This is a post about theology, not an excuse to show Angelina Jolie in a wet t-shirt

Daniel Radosh

angelina-jolie-in-white-wet-see-through-top.jpg You know how people say things like, "Angelina Jolie is proof that God exists." Well the guy who gets to sleep with her every night disagrees. Guess we can add that to there are no atheists in foxholes on the list of failed pieties.

In a new interview, Brad Pitt says, "I'm probably 20 per cent atheist and 80 per cent agnostic." But his explanation is actually a fairly effective, if crude, description of an ignostic: "You'll either find out or not when you get there, until then there's no point thinking about it."

We've discussed ignosticism before. A more elegant version of Brad's summation comes from Sherwin Wine, who coined the term: "finding the question of God's existence meaningless because it has no verifiable consequences."

Wikipedia outlines the philosophical basis for ignocistism.

A coherent definition of God must be presented before the question of the existence of God can be meaningfully discussed. Furthermore, if that definition cannot be falsified, the ignostic takes the theological noncognitivist position that the question of the existence of God (per that definition) is meaningless. In this case, the concept of God is not considered meaningless; the term "God" is considered meaningless...

Theodore Drange sees atheism and agnosticism as positions which accept "God exists" as a meaningful proposition; atheists judge it to be "false or probably false" and agnostics consider it to be inconclusive until further evidence is met. If Drange's definitions are accepted, ignostics are neither atheists nor agnostics. A simplified maxim on the subject states "An atheist would say, 'I don't believe God exists'; an agnostic would say, 'I don't know whether or not God exists'; and an ignostic would say, 'I don't know what you mean when you say, "God exists" '."

A decent gloss can also be found at The Church of Reality, with the added persuasive factor of graphic design so bad that no compassionate deity would allow it.

Of course we don't know how much of this Brad has thought out, and it's possible that his position is closer to apathetic agnosticism, with which ignosticism arguably overlaps.

PS. Hey, ladies! Sleeping with Brad Pitt won't convince you there's a God either.

July 21, 2009

Pretty soon we're talking about real money

Daniel Radosh

hot-girl-or-money.jpg For years on this blog I've been crying foul over the media's bogus claim that pornography is a $10 billion a year business. Well, finally that made-up figure has fallen by the wayside. Now, we're told, porn is actually a $13 billion a year business. The new number has recently appeared most prominently in a buzzy CNBC special. In fairness, I didn't actually watch the show (too much pixilation hurts my eyes) so maybe at some point it gives a source for that figure. But I couldn't find one in the web version, or in any other report that also cites it. (Revealingly, the CNBC slideshow titled Pornographic Profits offers lots of semi-nude photos but few actual numbers and zero sources for those numbers).

So why the jump? More than likely, someone just thought, Porn used to be worth $10 billion and we kept saying that it was a growing industry, so surely now it's worth $13 billion. Which would be at least common sense (if not, you know, statistics) were it not for the fact that a centerpiece of the CNBC story is that "porn profits are under assault" and "DVD sales are down 50% from last year."

But wait! That report first aired almost a whole week ago and since then porn profits have apparently skyrocketed again. In response to advertiser criticisms that the porn show was too porny, a CNBC spokesperson defended it as "a fantastic documentary which will give CNBC viewers insight into a $15 billion industry" (emphasis mine).

That's an extra $2 billion dirty movies just earned in a matter of days! Tell me again why we can't afford universal health care?

[h/t Steven]

July 20, 2009

The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #201

Daniel Radosh

Submit the worst possible caption for this New Yorker cartoon.

Last week's results. •Rules and tips.


First place
"That's a load of horseshit, Greg. If the firm thinks I'm so stupid, why don't they fire me instead of moving me to the roof? Because they NEED me, that's why. Tell them I'm pissed. And send someone to hook up my phone." —Damon

Second place
"Fiddler on the roof? I barely even know 'er, outside of fiddling her on the roof. Why do you think my secretary and I relocated to the roof? Anyway, honey, I don't see what that has to do with the school play. Sorry, I'm having trouble hearing you, I'm on the roof." — t.a.m.s.y.

Third place
"I'll get that report to you as soon as possible." —Harry

July 19, 2009

Why not almost any other famous person?

Daniel Radosh

McCourtyearbook.jpg It would be an exaggeration to say that Frank McCourt is the reason I'm a writer, but to the extent that I'm not a terrible writer, he deserves a lot of the credit. McCourt was my high school English teacher. I took several classes with him — anybody who took one always pulled whatever strings they could to get more. It was from him that I learned to listen for "the poetry of everyday language." He despised ornament in writing, vastly preferring elegance. If he heard a word in an essay that wouldn't have come out of your mouth, he'd ask who was supposed to be speaking. And while I can't fully agree with him that no writer should ever use the word "trudge" for that reason, I know that I've never used it. He squeezed out my teenage tendency toward melodrama and clichéd romanticism and drew out gimlet-eyed honesty. He would not like that I just said "gimlet-eyed."

As you can imagine, McCourt's teaching method was largely storytelling. And singing. I will never hear Wild Mountain Thyme without thinking of him. He retired the same year I graduated, and by then he knew he was an inspiring figure. He used to say that when we went on to use his advice to write a book, he'd want 10 percent. Of course, by the time my first book came out, I could have given him 90 percent and it wouldn't have begun to approach 10 percent of what his made. Never has anyone deserved success more completely.

Over the years I'd run into McCourt periodically and he was always warm and friendly. I last saw him a few months ago at an event he did in Woodstock and when I gave him a copy of Rapture Ready! he held it up for the crowd and beamed, "Former student!" It was perhaps the most rewarding response I've had.

Beyond the practical lessons I learned in Frank McCourt's class, I'll always remember him as a model for how to be cynical without being jaded and sarcastic without being inhumane. I'm pretty sure he did not believe in God or an afterlife, but he had to believe that there is an immortality in living so that your words and actions transform the world around you in ways that will continue to reverberate forever. No one with so much life in him can ever truly die. And if there were an afterlife, I can guarantee you that somewhere right now, Frank McCourt would be mightily pissed off that he's not around for what's sure to be a hell of a wake.

July 17, 2009

Why not Bil Keane?

Daniel Radosh

Of course, I wanted to use this clip but it's embedding disabled. At least it's a nice parallel, although for some reason in this case the most trusted man in America would continue to be ignored for another 15 years and counting.

[Not to piggyback on a man's obituary, but if you recently read the NYT anecdote-driven horror story about "new more-potent pot", here's a handily prewritten story about everything that's wrong with it.

July 17, 2009

It fakes a village

Daniel Radosh


Wondering what to get the U.S. Marines for its birthday? Here's the latest addition to its Amazon wish list Federal Business Opportunities site: a mock Afghanistan Village (Relocatable & Portable).

Of course, real Afghanistan villages can be relocated in all directions with a single strike from a Predator drone, but this one needs to usable after the Marines are finished with it so it "must be easily assembled/disassembled by 2-4 persons using minimal hand tools." Furthermore, "Each door must be 'breachable' and replaceable at low cost" and units "Must have a hidden compartment for a weapons cache." Note to potential vendors from Manhattan: A hidden compartment for a weapons cache is like a one-bedroom studio, but a little larger.

The outdoor areas of Village Al-Potemkin must be equally well-furnished, with "Fruit Stands with merchandise" (because vehicle crashes aren't nearly as comical without them) and "miscellaneous Vendor Stands (CD, DVD, Rolex, etc)." Can't believe Omega got outbid on that product placement. And how backward are these Afghans anyway? Don't they have MP3s and BitTorrent yet? How are we gonna bomb them back to the stone age when they're already still using CDs?

So why do the Marines want a play village? Well, they're telling Mrs. Marines that it will be really useful and educational and not at all like that PS3, which you were totally right about. But really they're just envious because all their friends have one already.

[h/t Martin Kaminer]

July 13, 2009

The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #200

Daniel Radosh

Submit the worst possible caption for this New Yorker cartoon.

Last week's results. •Rules and tips.


First place
"Yes, we can schedule a session for you same time next Tuesday Mr. Johnson. To be honest, you don't even have to ask anymore. As sexual role-playing businesses go, this has turned out to be a much more limited market than we anticipated. Don't forget to leave your suit to be dry-cleaned."—v

Second place
"I was 9 when I died, thanks for asking." —Brian L

Third place
"The greatest trick I ever pulled was convincing the world I didn't just steal the four-month old copy of Newsweek sitting on your waiting room coffee table." —bunsen

Continue reading "The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #200" »

July 12, 2009

This obituary is a mess

Daniel Radosh

"John Bachar, a rock climber who inspired awe as a daredevil, condescension as an anachronism and eventually respect as a legend, fell to his death Sunday from a rock formation near his home in California.... Bachar left his mark across the Yosemite Valley." — The New York Times

[Part 2 in a series?]

July 12, 2009

Today in "The Family Circus"

David F


July 8, 2009

Bring Back the Clerihew


Okay, no one has posted about Sarah Palin yet, so I encourage you to do so now. Post your best or worst Sarah Palin clerihew here. See here for the definition of a clerihew. And what rhymes with Palin? Flailin', trailin', sailin' . . . the possibilities are endless.

July 6, 2009

Why not... no, wait, this one's about damn time.

Daniel Radosh


July 4, 2009

Today in "The Family Circus"

Daniel Radosh

Guest Bloggers: David F / Deborah


July 3, 2009

Happy 4th!



From 1941 – 1943, Theodor Seuss Geisel worked as the chief editorial cartoonist for the New York newspaper PM. During this time he drew over 400 political cartoons. The cartoons are displayed on this site in chronological order.
Some of the drawings will look surprisingly Seussish. Others… will not.

July 2, 2009

I don't understand how this slippery slope works

John Tabin

This happened more than a year and a half before this? Weird.

July 1, 2009

Why Not Bil Keane?

Jesse Lansner

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