30 November 2009

Some stereotypes never die, they just flit from minority to minority. This is from Herman Melville's book Benito Cereno:

There is something in the negro which, in a peculiar way, fits him for avocations about one's person. Most negroes are natural valets and hair-dressers; taking to the comb and brush congenially as to the castinets, and flourishing them apparently with almost equal satisfaction. There is, too, a smooth tact about them in this employment, with a marvelous, noiseless, gliding briskness, not ungraceful in its way...

19 November 2009

Hand of Fraud?

And Ireland's Justice Minister wants a rematch. I'm sorry, Ireland, but if we were to insist on playing all games marred by a 'missed handball' again, soccer would not be the world's most popular sport any longer. You lost to the country whose republican institutions, flag, and obsession with linguistic purity you copied wholesale; the least you can do is be graceful.

PS I shudder to think what they would demand if they had lost to England.

18 November 2009

Andrew Sullivan (see this blog's links) wrote today:

This is only the second time in its nearly ten-year history that the Dish has gone silent. The reason now is the same as the reason then. When dealing with a delusional fantasist like Sarah Palin, it takes time to absorb and make sense of the various competing narratives that she tells about her life. There are so many fabrications and delusions in the book, mixed in with facts, that just making sense of it - and comparing it with objective reality as we know it, and the subjective reality she has previously provided - is a bewildering task. She is a deeply disturbed person which makes this work of fiction and fact all the more challenging to read. And the fact that she is now the leader of the Republican party and a potential presidential candidate, makes this process of deconstruction an important civil responsibility. We take this seriously as we always have. We want to be fair to her, and to her family, and to the innocent people she has brought into the spotlight. And we are not reporters. We are merely analysts trying to make sense of evidence already in the public domain, evidence that points in all sorts of directions, only one of which can be true.

Some of Sullivan's readers have criticized him for his 'obsession' with Sarah Palin--I support his work on her, and I can understand his sense of responsibility as a (perhaps lapsed) Republican to investigate her claims. This is the woman, after all, who started the meme about Obama's 'death panels.'

16 November 2009

The Travails of Maine.

According to the lawsuit and local newspaper accounts, some residents opposed the project on grounds that farmworkers’ children overburdened the schools; others predicted it would be a drug haven. The petition, signed by 48 residents, said jobs should be saved for local lobstermen, whose industry is suffering, and not "given out to minorities that may move into these units."

You can make a desert and call it peace, people of Maine. Go ahead, exclude gay families and immigrants (and if you care that much about drug users, a hefty slice of your white population). You can market your lobster to the two percent of America that can afford to eat it, and import massive numbers of robots to take care of your elderly. Surely God will smile upon your commitment to the old ways.

07 November 2009

Bob Dylan's 45-year old song "Times they are a-changing" never gets old. I composed this revision yesterday.

O gather round preachers, saints and the lay
See the closets and walls start to crumble to dust;
Your prejudice, blindness, the old pious ways
Are gasping their last as all folly must;
For the country's youth are raging--
For the times they are a-changing.

Catholics, Mormons, what's with the hate?
The Jesus you follow of that said 'enough'--
To turn back society, too little, too late,
Let each one pledge life to the one he loves,
For the war you are waging is waste;
For the times they are a-changing.

Our republic is grounded in freedom for all;
The state can't enforce the laws of a church.
Our polity flourishes when people stand tall;
It's betrayal to leave our friends in the lurch.
Your Canadian neighbors are saying
For the times they are a-changing.

06 November 2009

I feel I must respond to a review of the film "A Serious Man" found in this week's New Yorker (apparently by David Denby).

I saw this movie a week ago and loved it, as I have loved all the Coen brothers' movies since The Big Lebowski. You have to give props to someone who puts a 20-minute Yiddish-language folktale at the beginning of their movie and try to market it in America. Denby claims the movie is "black, bleak, and belittling....a deadpan farce about middle-class bad taste." Yet the main character's plight (trying to be a mensch, a serious man, against an alternately hostile and indifferent world) is surely universal. Was Hamlet only for the middle class?

Perhaps Denby was traumatized by the wallpaper in the Gopnik household (but it is 1967, what did you expect?), and totally missed the intricate drama unspooling. What other movie in the last decade, the last century, has featured a Jewish family in Minnesota composed of a physics professor, a gay man with an incurable tumor, a wife who initiates divorce, a bitchy daughter, and a nerdy son? Not to mention the three rabbis, each sui generis and Mrs. Simsky the next-door nudist. Maybe you have to live in the Midwest to fully appreciate the story--this is not the Royal Tannenbaums on the prairie.

05 November 2009

It is a significant source of comfort to me that the people who are trying to take away my civil rights can't construct a sentence to save their own lives. A New York Post-reading homophobe writes:

"Homesexuality is wrong no matter where it is. Way to go Cabbie. Tired of free loving liberals who shove their immoral conducts down our throats as if this should be the norm. Well it's not."

"Homesexuality"?? So you want people to take their fucking outside at all times? Please clarify, BlackSheep.

04 November 2009

It looks like Virginia has a new governor.

I know it's so rude to cite his doctoral thesis from 20 years ago--I mean, how dare we dig up these documents from a politician's past and use them against him? But I think we might want to know the deepest thoughts of a man who will be governing the state right across the Potomac from our nation's capital.


  1. The undermining of respect for parental authority in favor of state direction or individual autonomy, and the contemporaneous purging of religious influence in the public schools has impaired the development of healthy family members....

  2. ....the view of marriage as an indissoluble lifelong commitment had been abandoned. In its wake is the perverted notion of liberty that each individual should be able to live out his sexual life in any way he chooses without interference from the state.

  3. [Republicans should] fight any attempts to redefine family by allowing special rights for homosexuals or single-parent unwed mothers.

Finally, this gets first prize in historical kookiness:
"Within this very century, history will record in Russia, Germany, China, Algeria, and other nations, the efforts of rulers to carry the vision of Hobbes, Rousseau, and Marx to fruition: the destruction of the family institution."

Damn that godless family-hating Hobbes...

The thesis is well worth a read-through, not least for the glowing references to Newt Gingrich (who knows so much about lifelong marriage commitments).

02 November 2009

A Journey to Barnes and Noble.

Being a flaming liberal, my chain bookstore of choice is Borders. There, among Asian students, Jewish mothers, and scruffy men with nose piercings, I sip lattes and browse the history and science fiction (and often the travel guides). Today I decided to go to the other place, the huge, concrete-surrounded Barnes and Noble on Madison's West Side.

The bookstore adjoins a plus-size clothing boutique, whose clients I am sure look for books and XXL clothing in the same shopping trip. This branch has a children's corner, walls gaily painted with non-copyrighted cartoon characters. I saw nobody in that area save a janitor scrubbing away at part of the wall.

I entered the store with the intention of looking for Wired magazine. My attention wandered to the fiction shelves, very neatly alphabetized (to its credit). I came to the Z's of fiction and saw some interesting mythology books, and nearly bought a Robert Graves. Then the history shelves beckoned. At least I thought those were history shelves, but coming closer the signs became legible: "Politics," "Christian Spirituality," [a sprawling section], "Gay and Lesbian," [only five feet wide]. Presently I was accosted by a display stand full of Mike Huckabee's latest book, the Huckster's face offensively beaming at me. Now it was only a matter of minutes before I had to leave. I did look for Wired among the magazines (let's see: The Gun, Hunt and Fish, Southern Living, High School Basketball Report....nope, nothing about technology post-1970).