November 28, 2003
The Dean/Clark Question
Quite the intriguing ticket. The combination has almost a dramatic potency. Dean, whichever way you slice it, has a record of actually accomplishing his prioritized goals against political odds, rare in recent Democratic observance. And of course his campaign itself is a phenomenon. Clark is, quite simply, an übermensch. Every time I hear his list of honors, achievements, and accolades, I think, "Good Lord, is this a real person?"
It's just kind of exciting. The intellectual capacity to generate big ideas (Clark) combined with the executive tenacity necessary to achieve them (Dean). A doctor's healing paired with a general's might. North and South. Change. Insurgency. Revolution.
Even Andrew Sullivan gets a bit turned on by the idea.
What are the chances? What are the permutations? What are the drawbacks? (Assorted randomness follows.)... Read more ....
November 26, 2003
Howard Hallis has drawn a picture of everything.
Examining just one piece of the 14-foot-long mural, we find: Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger next to Tia and Tamara "Sister, Sister" Mowry next to Tyra Banks; Stan Lee next to R. Crumb next to Blastoise (Pokemon #9); and "My Grandfather, Harry Hallis" next to "Benji" next to (my favorite) "No idea who this is," an anonymous blonde.
This is like one of those crazy conglomerations of naked people organized by Spencer Tunick. Except... there are robots... and... actually, never mind, it's not like one of those at all.
(Hilarious! The villains are all in hell! I could scroll through this thing for days.)
November 25, 2003
Recommended by Robin, who says, Jay Rosen, press critic and chair of NYU's journalism school, is the anti-blogger: He writes long posts filled with original ideas. Topics: Journalism, democracy.
November 23, 2003
Another Sure Sign It's the 21st Century
I was watching "Duck Dodgers" on the Cartoon Network, and Porky Pig said: "C-c-can I put a shirt on? My nipples are getting cold."
Is it possible to make a movie out of someone like Stephen Glass and not glorify him?
My strongest reaction to seeing "Shattered Glass" yesterday is the desire to read all of his fabricated stories from The New Republic. Seeing as how the magazine has removed those articles from its web archives, and my curiosity isn't strong enough to fuel a visit to an actual library to read the articles, I have to satisfy myself with reading the transcript of his 60 Minutes interview, a few of his former associates' takes on his new novel and movie, and his [partially? completely?] fabricated work for Harper's.
"Shattered Glass" anticipates these impulses, and spends its second half punishing me for having them. For thinking that Peter Sarsgaard's two-dimensional Chuck Lane really is humorless and self-righteous. And that even if Hayden Christensen's Stephen Glass is a conniving psychopath, he's also a clever, self-deprecating wunderkind whose imagination only outstripped his conscience. (And besides, the chap had the decency to provide us with a name divinely outfitted for plays-on-words — "Through a Glass Darkly," "Glass Houses," "Stained Glass," etc.)... Read more ....
Like a Bright Light
It's hard not to look away.
At talent shows and open mic nights, when the performer isn't very good, I always look away. I used to do the same thing in college when a classmate was getting grilled by a prof. Or when a guest is floundering on a late-night talk show -- I do it then, too.
Tell me if this is familiar:
You turn your head to the side, maybe squint a little. The response is mostly involuntary, and it's probably rooted in vicarious shame. Somehow another person's embarrassment hurts to look at, like a bright light, whether it's in person, on TV, or in a movie.
I saw "Shattered Glass" (IMDB listing, Rotten Tomatoes page) tonight, and I spent most of the second half of the movie looking away. Whenever Hayden Christensen squirmed across the screen as Stephen Glass, I'd pull my baseball cap down over my eyes in the darkness.
But then I'd think, Wait, I paid six bucks for this. I ought to actually watch it.... Read more ....
November 20, 2003
A Vomitous Sea
From an e-mail interview with Berkeley Breathed on Salon.com:
I think there's both a saturation point and a failure point in events being beyond satire. I started stripping in 1981, the same month that MTV started. Daily satirical comment was either "Doonesbury" or "The Tonight Show." The horizon was clear. We had the whole playing field. You young punks just try to imagine that there wasn't even a World Wide Web. Michael Jackson jokes passed as edgy comedy in "Bloom County."
Now. Lord, now. The din of public snarkiness is stupefying. We're awash in a vomitous sea of caustic humorous comment. I hope to occasionally wade near the black hole of pop references only obliquely without getting sucked in with everyone else. Full disclosure: I'll admit that I had a momentary lapse and recently inked a strip where Opus' mom sees a picture of Michael Jackson in 1983, proclaims Jacko's old nose irresistible and voices an urgent wish to nibble it off down to the nub.
Wait, if we're lost at sea... then we need a (snark)master and commander! Arr, mateys, I nominate Ma--
Oh wait, the position is taken.
Lofty Presidential Discourse
OK, I'm not going to agree that this is anything resembling a "must-read" article, as the Note pegged it, but hee! John Edwards made a your-mother joke to Joe Lieberman!
The short version of this post: Marriage is about responsibility, not reproduction.
I intend to disembowl Jeffrey Rosen's straw-man-laden, equivocating ghettoric from yesterday's TNR Digital with a dull machete in due time. But first off, let's define one term central to this debate:
Procreation. You will hear many, many times in the near-future the argument that gay unions aren't entitled to state protection, because of the state's "compelling interest in fostering procreation."
Savor that little statement for a moment. Let it tiptoe on your tongue. Chew it gently. Spit it out.
What, exactly, could the state's interest in fostering procreation look like? I picture official State Department broadcasts featuring Colin Powell crooning "Feelin' On Yo' Booty" while Katherine Harris twerks it on the White House lawn in a "Capitol Hill Is For Lovers" baby tee.... Read more ....
November 19, 2003
The MA Ruling:
What did the court actually do?: The Massachusetts Supreme Court court said to the state legislature, and I quote, "This whole only-straight-people-get-the-pretty-cake business is a load of bull-honky." They gave the legislature 180 days to create a civil marriage status for gays with the exact same legal rights and privileges as heterosexual marriage.
What could happen next?: The Mass. legislature has two choices — 1) Suck it up and do what the court told them to. 2) Create a constitutional amendment codifying marriage as being between a man and a woman, nullifying the court's ruling.
What happens if they choose Door #1?: Gay people in Massachusetts get married, they move elsewhere, and immediately begin testing the other states' bans on gay marriage, through the Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution.
What's the Full Faith and Credit clause?: It says that every state must recognize the "public acts, records, and judicial proceedings" of every other, but that Congress is free to make "general laws" regarding the "effect" of these acts.
What does that mean?: In 1996, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA, or as one wonderful law professor nicknamed it: Dumb and DOMA), which said that no state has to recognize the "effect" of another state's gay marriages.
I am a huge fan of the daily Nightline preview from ABCNews.com, and I think you'll understand why if you read today's message. Here it is:... Read more ....
Sure, sure, we journalists talk a good game about the importance of engaging stories and evocative pictures... but come on, people really just want more contests!
Nicholas Kristof is soliciting better names for last spring's war in Iraq. He writes: "I'll report the top five suggestions and give those writers Iraqi 250-dinar notes with Saddam's portrait."
Here's my entry: Saddam Entanglement. It's like quantum entanglement, get it? That's when two particles mysteriously affect one another even when separated by a huge distance (the 6,000 miles from Washington to Baghdad, say). Wikipedia says: "Einstein famously derided entanglement as 'spooky action at a distance.'"
Hmm, maybe I should have made Spooky Action at a Distance my backup entry...
Anyway, Saddam Entanglement is also apt because let's face it, quantum physics is almost -- almost -- as confusing as the situation in Iraq right now.
File under: Gleeful Miscellany, Journalism
November 18, 2003
The Ghost of Democracy Speaks
Jay Rosen is running the smartest and most provocative blog around these days. His most recent post confirms it.
It's an argument against political realism -- the calculation that says only a handful of swing districts matter in elections -- and the news industry's tacit agreement with it. Rosen writes:
It cannot be the case that 95 percent of the country must be ignored so that campaign rationality can prevail. (In fact, though every step in that system is rational, the final result is crazy.)
It cannot be the case that the "savvy" style of journalism, which accepts this system under the law of realism, is the only style possible or practical. (Indeed, I would bet that most journalists are sick of it by now.)
And he takes on realism again in a comment posted to another blog that cites his original item (follow that?):
Now about this: "You can't lead if you don't win... Bucking the system, even one dumber than spam, is a sure route to loss of leadership -- a form of political death. That's dumb!"
There is one outstanding example in American politics that confounds this wisdom, which I would place in the "realism" category. That example is Barry Goldwater. He bucked the system. He lost. But with his insurgent campaign began the rise of the conservative Right based in the South and West; and that party is now triumphant. Those he inspired have won big in the 40 years following his candidacy. Goldwater led. He just didn't head the government but in the longer term he won.
Political realism is a form of persuasion; and it does not have absolute validity.
I think this comment is connected, somehow, to an idea expressed in a recent e-mail from my favorite college professor:
No one doubts that the news is constructed, but few notice that it is constructed around a model of public action which makes D.C. the center of politics. ... Turner's great insight was to move the news to Atlanta, but in effect that has failed given that they feel they must cover what everyone else does.
So, here are the questions I'm asking myself now:
- If the national media choose not to follow the candidates' swing-state schematics, then where do they focus their resources? The most populous states? The most interesting? The, er, warmest?
- Is Washington, D.C. just inevitably the center of political gravity in this country? How do we find people who are going to be a big deal in a few years, but have no legislative or executive power now?
- Is it far-sighted or foolish to talk about political trends that unfold over decades instead of years? Does our public discourse truly need a longer time-scale, or is the future too unpredictable to even bother with?
I hope you've heard the good news. The Massachusetts Supreme Court has finally handed down their long-anticipated ruling that denying gay couples the privileges of marriage violates the state Constitution.
And now comes the hard part.... Read more ....
November 17, 2003
A Deal Delayed
Blast! Gore's plan to buy Newsworld is running behind schedule.
(Yes, I realize no one else is as interested in this as I am.)
Sheila Lennon blogs this from the Online News Association's 2003 conference:
I just asked Esther Dyson publicly, as an unaffiliated futurist, how she thinks news and information will enter our lives after the quantum leap, the watershed. She said she thinks Wall Street is poisonous, and that (wealthy) citizens will have to step up to insure news can still be gathered.
"News philanthropy?" I asked.
"Yes," she said, "if necessary."
You could feel the ripple go through the room.
Maybe that's what Joan Kroc was thinking, too?
Attention, cable TV channels, especially those not yet launched: It's not enough to park a pleasant face in front of a camera and let it blab. The words matter.
I am spurred on to this statement by a recent New York Times article, which I shall now excerpt at ridiculous length.
November 14, 2003
This Is Not a Washington Post Article
Is it, do you think, that The Washington Post is attempting to eradicate its image as one of the austere Grey Ladies with this substanceless black hole of absence parading as a column, complete with a paragraph-long paean to Wesley Clark's nose? Are they trying to take the A out of "staid" and replace it with a big ol' U.P.?
Is it not a sign of the end times that this report appeared on a section front page?
Bet you didn't realize Snarkmarket was running on one of these, did you?
Actually, it's funny, there's a line in that article -- about IBM's Blue Gene/L supercomputer -- that goes "it will use no more power than the average home," and I expected the next word to be "computer" or "refrigerator" or something. But no. It will use no more power than the average home, period.
But that's the kind of power we need. Snarkmarket's brand of ten-dimensional political and social analysis makes protein folding look like frickin' Pong.
November 13, 2003
That Damned Dean
I understand the establishment Democrats (registration req'd.) are frightened about Howard Dean possibly becoming the Democratic nominee in 2004. And I agree, there's a very real chance he could be nominated and get completely Punk'd by Karl Rove, Destroyer of Worlds, eventually dying friendless and alone in a Shaker commune, clutching his Joe Trippi doll.
But come now.
Marvel at the rhetorical contortionism some columnists demonstrate in portraying Howard Dean as the True Emerging Evil of the 2004 elections.... Read more ....
November 11, 2003
Three Things Gore TV Must Get Right
This post has been an age in the making, so let's get to it. Gore TV: a new cable news channel for young people. I think it has potential. But how to make sure it doesn't suck?
So glad you asked.
I offer three guidelines gleaned from my extensive experience as a young person disappointed again and again by cable news channels.
Read on, Gore & Co. -- get this right.... Read more ....
November 5, 2003
Recommended by Matt, who says, A weblog authored by a group of liberal academics. One place where you really don't have to feel bad if you have no idea what anyone's talking about. Topics: Academia, culture.
Recommended by Matt, who says, You won't get it at first. Don't let that scare you away. It's a blog, it's a society, it's a chronicle of our times. Just click some of the greenish-yellow words for a little while, and see how it grabs you. Topics: Weblogs, miscellany.
Recommended by Matt, who says, Scholars of life have posited that extreme love and extreme hatred diverge so completely on the scale of human emotion as to be almost indistinguishable. Does Fametracker love celebrities, or hate them? Who cares? It's hilarious. Topic: Meditations on fame.
Old-School Howard Dean
OK, say you're the average not-from-Vermonter. Four years ago, Howard Dean completely did not exist. I mean, honestly, had someone approached you four years ago talking about "Howard Dean," could your face have been anything but blank at that moment?
Today, if you don't know who Howard Dean is, you pretty much need to put down Snarkmarket and pick up a newspaper clue.
And your cred is dodgy at best if you've never heard of Zephyr Teachout.
Well, so, my eventual point is that we ostensibly know all about Howard Dean, the presidential candidate. But most of us know precious little about Howard Dean, actual former governor of Vermont. And there's a way to change all that, if you're interested.... Read more ....
An Aging Audience
Little did I realize what a dramatic distinction Gore & Co. are making by aiming a news channel at young people.
In an Atlanta Journal-Constitution story about last night's Democratic debate on CNN, Caroline Wilbert notes that the median age of CNN's audience is... 61! Furthermore:
CNN is not the only cable network with gray hair. The median age of Fox News' viewers is 60. And MSNBC, despite launching with a slick techie style during the dot-com boom, isn't much different. The average age is 58.
Well, this completely freaks me out. It suddenly seems like the news channels are all operating in a parallel dimension. A dimension... where everyone is old.
Speaking of the Democratic debate: Anderson Cooper is clearly a synthetic newsdroid sent from the future to change the past. Whether it's for good or for ill remains to be seen.
File under: Election 2004, Gore TV, Journalism
November 3, 2003
Recommended by Robin, who says, Journalist Clive Thompson collects weird links and writes them up. Okay, yes, this sounds like every other blog in the world, but the difference is that Thompson is a really good, funny writer. Topics: Science, technology, culture.
Present at the Creation
Al Gore wants to start a hip, newsy cable channel. He's got some impressive people on board. Judging from all that I've read, this thing could be wicked cool.
But only... if... done... right.
Let's review our intel to date.... Read more ....
Two months ago, Matt appeared before me and said: "Let's start a blog."
So, finally, here it is: Snarkmarket.
On Snarkmarket, we define snark in the broadest possible terms. Because really, why pigeonhole yourself from the beginning? That's what happens when you call your blog ForeignPolicyPost.com or AllAboutEggplants.org. Well, we're not falling for it. We're beating that rap from the beginning, man. Snarkmarket is anythingmarket!
But here's what you can expect for starters:
Original reporting, not just links.(Still working on this one)
- Perspectives on the 2004 election.
- Reviews of movies and video games.
- Ideas about journalism.
- A gallimaufry of other things.
More info on Robin here.
Matt is apparently not cool enough to have a web site.