Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Blogiversary III: The Sequel

("I question your choice of metaphor here.")

So, uh, happy blogiversary to me – out of the terrible twos and into the tremulous threes! My blogiversary post last year provided a mini-roundup and the thin blog history. (I also seem to keep linking two posts from that year, since "The Bullshit Matrix" and "False Equivalencies" seem to apply to just about all political coverage.)

Anyway, many thanks to those readers who've stopped by, and to all those bloggers who observe the spirit of Blogroll Amnesty Day. It's been nice, especially as I'm a part-time blogger. It's also been fun to get to know more blogger-type people online and meet some in real life.

For this year's mini-roundup, let me see. I still need to finish up the War Series, but "Day of Shame" and "The Poetry of War" are the most substantial new entries.

Of the many posts on Iraq, "John "100 Years" McCain" is probably the most significant (more on the neocons in "Iraq and Vietnam: Selling the Stab-in-the-Back Myth" and "Brave Cowboys of the Junior High Lunch Room," among others).

Of the many posts on torture (I know, another cheery subject), the most exhaustive is the "Torture Watch" roundup from February.

"A Recap of the Sliming of Graeme Frost" was a similar resource post. Yeah, it's hard to keep up with all the internet scrums.

If mini-manifestos are your thing, here are "Some Reasons I'm a Liberal."

"That Fragrant Horse Race Coverage," "That Damned Liberal Racism," "Richard Cohen and the Fabulous Hair" and "Skippy and the Mystery of the Mystery of the Missing Journalism" covered the silliness of our political coverage (among other posts).

Meanwhile, "A Pox on One of Your Houses," "Somehow, This Seemed Appropriate" and "Post Postmortem Post" chronicled the internecine warfare in the liberal blogosphere as the primary season entered the Thunder Dome stage.

In film, there's the 2007 Film Roundup and an appreciation for the great departed Ingmar Bergman. The poetry category still cries out for more entries.

The International Holocaust Day post this year dealt with Nazi propaganda films and the T4 program (although I wish I could have supplied more clips).

Oh, yeah, there's also a post over at the Campaign for America's Future, "Hogwash," and the Right-Wing Cartoon Watch series over at Blue Herald.

Still, I think I got the strongest reactions from a Valentine's Day rant and a post on creativity, which together sorta capture the silliness I prefer in real life and my philosophy of corrupting the youth of America though art, literature and all that cultural stuff.

And on that note, here's my poem pick for this year, for all fellow travelers:


I died for Beauty - but was scarce
Adjusted in the Tomb
When One who died for Truth, was lain
In an adjoining Room

He questioned softly why I failed?
“For Beauty,” I replied -
“And I - for Truth—Themselves are One
We Brethren, are,” He said

And so, as Kinsmen met a Night,
We talked between the Rooms -
Until the Moss had reached our lips -
And covered up - Our names –

— Emily Dickinson, 1862

(On to next year!)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Eclectic Jukebox 7/24/08

Sonny Landreth

Riffing off the slide guitar earlier this week, here's a double dose of Sonny Landreth, "Uberesso" and "Native Stepson," live from the Crossroads Guitar Festival in 2007. Landreth's got a wild, very impressive technique.

Eclectic Jukebox

Monday, July 21, 2008

Right-Wing Cartoon Watch #31 (6/16/08 - 7/20/08)

The 31st installment of RWCW is here, covering five weeks of newsy goodness. Thrill to the newest mock outrage! Shake at the latest recycled smear! Marvel at the sight of conservatives attacking key parts of the Constitution - except the Second Amendment, of course. Plus, The New Yorker and its critics horn in on our act! (Well, sorta.)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Eclectic Jukebox 7/17/08

Blue Skies for Black Hearts - "Siouxsie Please Come Home"

Eclectic Jukebox

The Onslaught of ABBA

At least out here in L.A., it's impossible to go a half hour watching TV – maybe even 10 minutes – without seeing another goddam Mamma Mia! ad. The counter-programming against The Dark Knight ain't a bad idea, but if this movie fails, it won't because of an anemic ad campaign. Everyone who would want to see this film and watches TV knows it exists at this point. (Plus, they know it must be exciting – it has an exclamation mark right there in the title!) Sure, everyone who wasn’t planning to see it thoroughly hates it at this point, but can that really outweigh the overall draw of repackaged 70s (and early 80s) pop from Scandinavia? True, it may be no ABBA: The Movie (which, holy crap, was directed by Lasse Hallström), but you can't have it all!

Hey, to each their own, Meryl Streep seems to be having fun, and romantic comedies with weddings tend to do well. Still, I'll be very happy when the ads slow down and happier still when they disappear altogether. It's probably worse because there are also so many billboards out here, and this one is right on my block:

Look at that. That's goofy, glowing happy. Still, that can't hold a bronzed, blonde candle to the theatrical billboard that used to be everywhere:

Honestly, have you seen ever a woman in an ad that deliriously happy outside of a tampon commercial? You know what I mean:

I mean, that's practically reaching douche levels of happiness.

In any case, best of luck to Mamma Mia - I mean, Mamma Mia! And also to that film with the guy who dresses up like a bat.

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Stop the Presses!

I was just scanning over Yahoo's top news stories, and saw this:

Wow! The president's going to face war crime charges?!? When did this happen? I mean, there's ample cause, but given the despicable voting on FISA and telecom immunity, and the Democratic leadership's reluctance to bring contempt charges against former Bush officials, what brought on this sudden integrity and backbone? I mean…

…Oh, never mind.

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Irish Reporter Carol Coleman's Interview with Bush in 2004

I think I first read about this interview in Dan Froomkin's column back when it occurred, but Crooks and Liars posted the video. It's really quite remarkable:

I think my favorite part might be when Bush stops speaking, Coleman says something, and then he testily gives another round of "Let me finish!"

Several aspects are striking. It's refreshing to see the sadly rare sight of someone just not buying the bullshit Bush is selling. Bush acts as if Coleman is being rude, when his own behavior is brusque, and his answers are themselves insulting, because they are so simplistic, misleading, non-responsive or flatly false. I think Bush actually believes much of the crap he's shilling here. But it's interesting that he's positively indignant that anyone could possibly view things differently – and that he would have to converse with them. His bubble has always been pretty strong, exactly as he and his handlers have wanted. Most of all, this interview shows a Bush who simply cannot believe that someone would dare ask him to speak as an adult to adults about important matters.

Of course, this is far from the only time we've seen this side of Bush. You may remember the video of then candidate Bush, quizzed on foreign leaders back in 1999:

He doesn't know, it sure seems like he doesn't give a shit that he doesn't know, and he's pissed that anyone expects him to know or has the gall to ask. That, and a number of other incidents, should have made our mainstream journalists sound the alarm bells rather than making excuses for Bush's ignorance. It's not as if Bush has ever hit the books since, either. But then, who needs to know basic facts about a country, even months after one's decided to invade it, or respond to urgent national security threats?

Bush also got very testy with NBC's Richard Engel earlier this year when Engel pushed him. Dan Froomkin has a very good rundown on the interview and the White House's attempted retribution in "The President vs. the Peacock" (we covered this interview and Bush's denials earlier in "Brave Cowboys of the Junior High Lunch Room").

Here's the full, unedited 15 minute interview:

Via Froomkin's piece, here's the edited version NBC aired, the same unedited version NBC posted on their own website for viewers, and the White House's transcript. I'll also throw in Engel's teaser piece and Keith Olbermann on Countdown evaluating the White House's attacks on Engel and NBC over the piece. (I'm also reminded of journalist Nir Rosen discussing "the surge" with persistent hawk Frederick Kagan.)

As Froomkin observed:

It doesn't take a trained psychologist to observe that Bush got angrier and angrier as the Engel interview went on. That obviously had nothing to do with the editing; it had to do with Engel's questions.

Bush typically sits down with interviewers from Fox News -- or, more recently, Politico-- where he can count on more than his share of ingratiating softballs. But Engel, a fluent Arabic speaker who has logged more time in Iraq than any other television correspondent, assertively confronted Bush with the ramifications of his actions in the Middle East.

When Bush doesn't get petulant over serious questions, his other chief dodge is to joke his way out. For just one example, here's a college student asking Bush whether the Uniform Code of Military Justice applies to military contractors in Iraq back in 2006.

Bush is entitled to his views, of course. But the public is entitled to serious answers. If Bush wants to make the case for war, or continued occupation, fine, but let him make it honestly. Let him do it seriously. Let him actually address realities rather than painting rosy fantasies and offering trite slogans. It's a grave problem that Bush, his administration and his allies have implemented such dangerous and disastrous policies, and it's a grave problem they've offered so much bullshit in their rhetoric. Bush leaving office can't come soon enough. But we still have the media to deal with regardless. Kudos to those like Engel and Coleman, but as a whole journalists in America have not followed their lead. They have not made Bush and his allies ever have to make a honest and serious case for virtually anything. Bullshit, even when it cost hundreds of thousands of lives, depletes our resources and devastates our economy, is still perfectly acceptable to them.

(A typical hard-hitting MSM interview of our serious preznit.)

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Eclectic Jukebox 7/10/08

Iron and Wine - "Flightless Bird, American Mouth" (Live)

Eclectic Jukebox


(Pablo Picasso, "Woman with Fan." Oil on canvas. 1909. The Pushkin Museum of Fine Art, Moscow, Russia.)

"Whatever creativity is, it is in part a solution to a problem." - Brian Aldiss

In "This is why I blog every. single. day." the indefatigable Blue Gal posts a great video clip (via 43 Folders) of Ira Glass of This American Life on being creative and refining one's craft. It's great stuff:

Glass really spurs many thoughts. A tiny rhyming dictionary for songwriters I own has a great line in the preface about everyone having one hundred bad songs in them. I used to joke about getting the hundred bad songs out of the way to write the good ones. Whatever the art or craft, practice is essential, and not everything's for public consumption. Similarly, in Russia, the word for a play rehearsal is repeteetsiya, repetition.

There's a reason it's called a play, though — and most serious Russian theater tries to use repetition to become more honest, not more rote. But one of Stanislavski's last observations on theater was that it should be "Higher, lighter, simpler, more joyful." That goes well with actor Michael Chekhov's imperative, Zdyes, ceychas, civodnya, "Here, now, today," or the Zen principles to "Pay Attention" and "Be Here Now."

I had a particular writing teacher who firmly believed you needed to put in the time, which I appreciated, but he subscribed to a very mechanistic model of writing, where the more time you spent on something, the better it got. Inspiration was pretty much a foreign concept to him. I believe it was screenwriter David Koepp who observed that after the fourth major rewrite of a script, it either changes completely or it gets worse. If one's writing for hire, that's one thing, but if it's an extensive piece and more personal, there's nothing wrong with putting it aside for a time and working on something else. Everyone has his or her own best process, and it may involve grinding through a rough patch, especially if one has a deadline, or showing respect for an idea by leaving it alone for a while, or recognizing a piece is done and that one shouldn't meddle with it further.

The character Flan, an art dealer, in John Guare's play Six Degrees of Separation, has a great monologue which includes this passage:

When the kids were little, we went to a parent's meeting at their school and I asked the teacher why all her children were geniuses in the second grade? Look at the first grade. Blotches of green and black. Look at the third grade. Camouflage. But the second grade — your grade. Matisses everyone. You've made my child a Matisse. Let me study with you. Let me into the second grade! What is your secret? And this is what she said: "Secret? I don't have a secret. I just know when to take their drawings away from them."

I've always felt that there was something a bit sad, and creepy, about that story. Who the hell takes a drawing away from a kid? Shouldn't the kid decide when a picture is "done"? Still, that's about the teacher. Flan's perspective is about being open to seeing beauty where he wasn't expecting it, how it startles him and stirs something vital inside.

I once heard that, as a writer, if you read something you wrote several years ago and you're completely satisfied, you're in trouble. There are exceptions to this rule, and there's such a thing as being too neurotic or too much of a perfectionist, but there is a sweet spot of healthy dissatisfaction, or at least a zeal for pushing forward and not resting on one's laurels. Ravi Shankar reportedly said "One does learn to play the sitar. One studies it." The most accomplished musicians typically practice several hours every day, partially for joy, partially just to stay sharp, partially to learn something new. It's the same for all the arts. The process never ends, and that is an exciting thing.

It can be very helpful to seek out good teachers, especially for specialized skills, certain disciplines, or when beginning a pursuit. However, being to some degree self-taught, or taking over one's own education or craft or artistry, is also essential. Some of this depends on how serious one is about a pursuit, or to cite Aaron Copeland, which of his three levels of listening to music one is employing. There are disciplines where a basic or detailed knowledge of the history is pretty crucial. But innovation requires the courage not to hide behind tradition when it's a hindrance. Picasso supposedly was asked once by a woman, 'Why, when you can draw so beautifully, do you make such pieces?' to which he supposedly replied, 'That's why.'

When it comes to the studying of history and cultures, or cooking, or some arts and crafts, I find people who are in some significant way self-taught are often the most fascinating. They're typically less afraid of experimenting and less bound by convention. They're more aware of their abilities and deficiencies. They're more excited, and exciting. It goes along with the old educational axiom: I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand. There also comes a point where one must trust one's own basic judgment and instincts.

I remember a class where the book we were assigned on directing actors started by listing things not to do as a director. I really didn't like that negative slant, and had to put it aside. It wasn't that bad a book actually, and had at least one good piece of advice later on, but it was a book designed for people who had never acted, or done theater, or worked with an actor. That wasn't me — not that I thought I'd mastered the craft or anything. But at that point, I'd done enough plays to have full faith in the rehearsal process and the joy of discovery. I knew by then the best move was to plunge into that process, to give myself over to it, similar to what Peter Brook speaks of in The Empty Space (a phenomenal book), and that second-guessing myself, thinking about "not" doing something was precisely the wrong approach — for me, at least.

Still, the thing about creativity that always concerns me the most is how easy it can be for any of us to crush our own spirits or allow others to crush them. There's a short piece that Robert Fulghum ( All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten) wrote back around 1992 or so (I cited it a few times back during my brief teaching stints).

Fulghum speaks of visiting a kindergarten and asking, who can sing? Everyone raises their hands. Who can draw? A forest of hands. Who can dance? Again, everyone. Everyone can do anything and everything.

As Fulghum points out, when he asks the same questions of a college audience, the response is quite different — only a few hands go up, and almost always with qualifications. I can draw, but only stick figures. I can dance, but not very well. I sing — but only in the shower.

Somewhere in between college and kindergarten, many of us lose part or all of our belief in our ability to sing, to have a vision, or possess a dream. We do not always view ourselves as artistic or creative beings.

One of the places I studied, the National Theater Institute at the Eugene O'Neill Center, adopted a great axiom: Take a risk. Fail. Take another risk. The best educational and artistic communities support exactly that attitude, with excitement and enthusiasm.

I do think many people are creative in small ways they may not even recognize or value. The arts, or more generally creativity, is something vital, and it's one of many reasons, if I had my druthers, I'd give at least a few billion apiece to the National Endowments for the Arts and for the Humanities. I guarantee it would have a very positive effect that would ripple outward.

I could go on to cite Roger von Oech, Annie Dillard, Natalie Goldberg, or any of a number of artists and writers who inspire me, including Orwell, Bulgakov, Brecht, Molière, Dostoyevsky, Kurosawa, Bergman, Peter Shaffer, more comedians and comic writers than I could name, and that Shakespeare fella. But let me end with a passage from The Personal Life Deeply Lived, a lecture by Anaïs Nin:

Tonight I was asked to talk about writing, not writing as literature, but writing as intimately connected with our lives — I would even say as necessary to our lives... And now I want to tell you, from the very beginning, how this writing happened to become for me so linked with life and how it was a necessary part of living. When I as nine years old a doctor made an erroneous diagnosis and said I would never walk again. My first reaction then was to ask for pencil and paper and to start making portraits of the members of my family. Then this continued in the forms of notes which I gathered into a little notebook and even wrote on it "Member of the French Academy." Quite obviously there was then a turning to writing as a way of life because I thought I was going to be deprived of the normal activities of a child or an adolescent. But I'm trying to use this as an example of the importance of writing as a way of learning to live; for when I was able to walk again and there was no question of the impediment, the writing remained a source of contact with myself and with others.

It's also very symbolic that when I was asked once to go to a masquerade in which we had to dress as our madness I put my head in a bird cage. And coming out of the bird cage was a sort of ticker tape of the unconscious, long strips of paper on which I had copied a great deal of writing. This was, of course, a very clear symbol of how I hoped to escape from my cage.

You might say, however, when you are reading the Diary now: "Oh well, it was easy for you, you could write well." But I want you to know that at twenty I wrote very badly, and I purposely gave my first novel to the library of Northwestern University so that students could see the difference between the writing I did at twenty and the writing I do now. The mistake we make when we choose a model is that we choose the point of arrival. We are unaware of the things that have been overcome, like shyness, or not being able to speak in public (I couldn't speak to the people I knew). The final achievements are what we notice and then say: "Well it's no use modeling ourselves after this or that writer because we don't have those particular gifts." I didn't have any particular gift in my twenties. I didn't have any exceptional qualities. It was the persistence and the great love of my craft which finally became a discipline, which finally made me a craftsman and a writer.

The only reason I finally was able to say exactly what I felt was because, like a pianist practising, I wrote every day. There was no more than that. There was no studying of writing, there was no literary discipline, there was only the reading and receiving of experience. And I had to be open because I had to write it in the diary.

So I would like to remove from everyone the feeling that writing is something that is only done by a few gifted people. I want to eliminate this instantly... You shouldn't think that someone who achieves fulfillment in writing and a certain art in writing is necessarily a person with unusual gifts. I always said that it was an unusual stubbornness. Nothing prevented me from doing it every night, after every day's happenings.

It's not only the people with unusual gifts who will write their life in an interesting way. It has nothing to do really with the literary value of the work. What is important is that in the doing of it you begin to penetrate much deeper into the layers of consciousness and the unconscious. I registered everything. I registered intuitions, prophesies; I would be looking into the future or looking back and re-examining the past.

I don't want to make writers of all of you, but I do want you to become very aware of your orientation. First of all, of how much contact you have with yourself. If you remember, in the early diaries I spoke of my feeling that I was playing all the roles demanded of woman, which I had been programmed to play. But I knew also that there was a part of myself that stood apart from that and wanted some other kind of life, some other kind of authenticity. R. D. Laing describes this authenticity as a process of constant peeling off the false selves. You can do this in many ways, but you can begin by looking at it, for there is so much that we don't want to look at. I didn't want to see exactly where I was in Louveciennes before I made friends, before I entered the literary life, before I wrote my first book. I didn't want to see that I was nowhere, but wanting to see is terribly important to our direction. And to find this direction I used every possible means. Not only friendship and psychology and therapy, but also a tremendous amount of reading, exploration, listening to others — all these things contributed to my discovering who I really was. It wasn't as final or definite as it might sound now, because it doesn't happen in one day and it doesn't happen finally. It's a continuum, it's something that goes on all your life. But once I was at least on the track of what I could do, then the obstacles began to move away. It was not something that anybody could give me, it was something that I had to find inside myself.

So I'm speaking now of the diary not as a work of literature but as something necessary to living, as a way of orienting ourselves to our inner lives. It doesn't matter in what form you do it, whether it's meditation, whether it's writing or whether it's just a moment of thoughtfulness about the trend, the current, of your life. It's a moment of stopping life in order to become aware of it. And it's this kind of awareness which is threatened in our world today, with its acceleration and with its mechanization.

(Henri Matisse. "Blue Nude IV." 1952. Gouache on paper cut out. Musée Henri Matisse, Nice, France.)

Skippy and the Mystery of the Missing Journalism

(A strange but familiar tale - with pictures!)

(AP photo)

Economic issues remain a top concern for voters this year, unsurprisingly enough. Back on Friday, June 20th, Barack Obama held an economic roundtable with 16 Democratic governors. It received some straightforward write-ups, such as one by Ann E. Kornblut of The Washington Post for their campaign blog, The Trail. The short piece reported:

"You deserve and you need a partner in the White House and a president who understands our prosperity doesn't come from Wall Street or Washington," Obama told the group, with whom he also had dinner the night before. "We should be investing in the skills, the human capital, the education and well-being of your constituents."

The group complained widely about President Bush's stewardship of the economy and treatment of their states. Granholm [of Michigan] said 400,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost in her state since he took office. Strickland [of Ohio] said that, last week alone, he took calls from companies in his state informing him that up to 12,000 jobs are about to be lost. And Freudenthal [of Wyoming] said that, on environmental issues important to his state, he was looking forward to having a "partner for a change, as opposed to a dictator."

Also on June 20th, the AP's Nedra Pickler wrote "Play of the Day: Obama Debuts New Seal," a short piece about the modified presidential seal the Obama campaign put on the podium. Pickler's piece was widely picked up by newspapers and of course, the Drudge Report. Coverage of the seal the same day on the CNN, USA Today and Tribune sites was fairly neutral or light in tone. Meanwhile, The New York Daily News actually sought out comment from both campaigns, not on the economic roundtable itself or economic issues, but on the seal:

Asked to explain the new seal, Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, "It's a mix of presidential politics and a call for hope and change."

Snarked John McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds, "I think we can all agree that we need presidential candidates that are serious enough not to play make-believe on the campaign trail."

"It's laughable, ridiculous, preposterous and revealing all at the same time," Bounds said.

Over at neocon outlet Weekly Standard, also on June 20th, John McCormack asked, "Is Obama's Great Seal Illegal?"

(Viewers of The West Wing may recall that, in fact, official seals must be altered (as Obama's was) or permission must be sought for their use, lest one risk trouble. Still, anyone passing the many merchandise carts near the National Mall in D.C. can guess that strict enforcement may not exactly be a top law enforcement priority.)

The "illegality" issue was actually brought up as well by McCain campaign blogger Michael Goldfarb. (If the timestamps for both sites are Eastern Standard Time, Goldfarb beat McCormack by 40 minutes on this angle. Neither links the other. Perhaps they came up with this angle independently, although more likely, it's a case of pass-the-meme.)

Some other outlets picked up the story, with a few right-wing blogs linking the Weekly Standard piece.

On Saturday, June 21st, Mike Allen at Politico ran a piece titled "Cindy on Newsweek cover -- Obama’s presidential seal, plus his 15-point lead over McCain … Playbook weddings." Obama's seal was not Allen's lead item, although on the subject, he wrote:

Politico’s Ben Smith says it’s for “events meant to feel presidential.”

ABC’s Jake Tapper is waiting for “a remix of ‘Hail to the Chief.’ ”

National Review’s Greg Pollowitz: “Audacity defined: Changing the seal of the United States of America and inserting the ‘O’ logo for the American flag.”

Rich Lowry, channeling Jonathan Martin: “Obama's own presidential seal. With its own Latin slogan. You can't make this stuff up.”

Tapper's brief piece was actually titled "An Audacity of Hype." On Los Angeles Times blog Top of the Ticket, Andrew Malcolm wrote "Barack Obama gets his own nifty Great Seal; all he needs now is votes," a pretty snide piece taking Obama to task for the seal, but also raising money and foregoing public funds. This is probably the standout passage:

Plus [the seal's] got Obama's website right up there too. Lord knows, he needs more donations because the poor White Sox fan from Chicago's impoverished South Side has only raised a little under $290 million so far.

(Interestingly enough, if you look at the top of the Malcolm post, you'll see a menu link to one of his previous posts that day, "John McCain may lag in money, but RNC out-raises DNC by 5 times." Ah, context.)

Also on June 21st, The Washington Post reported a tidbit, that in its entirety read:

Sen. Barack Obama's campaign raised a good deal of curiosity yesterday when it used a campaign seal that looked an awful lot like the presidential seal. Spokesman Bill Burton said the campaign wanted to give an event with Democratic governors a more formal flavor. "It seemed appropriate today," Burton said. "We'll see if it does in the future."

On Sunday, June 22nd, Democratic blogger Mark Nickolas exposed the hypocrisy of the Weekly Standard's accusations about the "illegality" of Obama's seal.

Well, it took me about 15 minutes on Google Images to discover that John McCain's (R) own caucus -- the National Republican Senatorial Committee -- uses three different likenesses of the official seal...for fundraising purposes:

(Click for a larger view.)
Nickolas closed by remarking:

Of course, the right-wing never lets their own hypocrisy get in the way of another shameless political attack. But will the media even take notice, or are they too excited about the latest game of 'gotcha' to even pay attention?

Hmm, tough one there.

On Monday, June 23rd, CNN and many other news organizations and blogs, including the AP, noted that the Obama campaign said they were dropping the seal: "That was a one time thing for a one time event." CNN's ending line was a classic of non-attribution and passing on "allegations" without evaluating them:

Many wondered whether a seal – with Latin phrasing no less - was the best idea for a candidate fighting for the working class vote and trying to fend off allegations of elitism.

Also on June 23rd, highly-trafficked site Crooks and Liars posted "Republicans Whine About Legality of New Obama Logo. Their Use of Similar Logos Doesn’t Bother Them," linking the Nickolas piece. In an update, they noted that Obama had dropped the seal.

Over at ABC, Jake Tapper wrote:

We've all had some fun at Sen. Barack Obama's "Audacity of Hype" ersatz presidential seal from last week.

And apparently the folks at Obama HQ got the message.

Tapper reported the seal being dropped, and also reported the National Republican Senatorial Committee's use of similar seals. However, he didn't credit Nickolas. (Hmm. Where did he get this?)

At Salon, Alex Koppelman covered the seal being dropped, the mockery over it that weekend, Goldfarb's illegality accusation, and Tapper's piece about the GOP seals, "an item Obama spokesman Bill Burton brought to my attention."

Over at the LA Times' Top of the Ticket, Malcolm's colleague Don Frederick reported the dropped seal and recapped some of the mockery, as did Mark Silva at The Tribune's blog The Swamp. Both linked Tapper's earlier post, "The Audacity of Hype," but missed Tapper's more recent piece mentioning the GOP seals (both Frederick and Silva appear to have posted before that Tapper post was up, and did not mention it later).

Virtually everybody, including Reuters, linked Marc Ambinder's post at The Atlantic on the affair:

I've had my fun with the Obama campaign's seal, and now that fun ends. I'm told that Obama recognizes that it was a silly mistake, that the universal reaction at Wacker and Michigan was, "Boy, was that dumb," and that they don't think the seal staging will matter to actual voters.

Does the press think Obama is arrogant? Yes. Does the seal represent arrogance? Only tangentially, actually. The worry for Obama's image managers is that it gives the press a pretext to call Obama arrogant, an example for them to add to a list of arrogant moments, and a way to distract them from what Obama is saying.

Wonkette also took a "the seal was stupid, but all this fuss is, too" attitude in "Obama Nixes Stupid ‘Great Seal’ Remake":

The national press corps is not used to covering a “confident” Democratic presidential candidate, at least in this decade. So much confidence, in fact, that the candidate won’t always bend over backwards to talk to the press, or to leak internal drama to the press! Ergo, the press has decided that Obama is arrogant. And when they saw Obama speak behind this new “great seal” of his on Friday — definitely the lamest stunt we can remember from Hopey — this confirmed to the press that Obama is too arrogant. Obama arrogantly got the message and arrogantly ditched the great seal and did some other arrogant stuff, like believe he might actually win this thing.

Whew. All right, we had our fun, but now surely that would be the end of this silly story!

(Bill Sammon)

Alas, no. Even in writing about the seal's demise, some scribes were hitting the "arrogance" theme harder than others. On June 23rd as well, Bill Sammon (background on the Bush-friendly Sammon here) wrote a piece for The Examiner, "Obama campaign drops seal on podium," notable for its snideness. In its entirety:

After days of media mockery, Barack Obama has decided to stop using a presidential-looking seal that his campaign designed and affixed to his podium on Friday.

Journalists said the seal, which features an eagle clutching arrows and an olive branch, smacks of arrogance. John McCain's camp had a field day, calling the seal “laughable, ridiculous, preposterous and revealing - all at the same time.”

The seal was conspicuously missing from Obama's lectern when he spoke to a group of women in Albuquerque on Monday. Not surprising, given how much grief Obama took from a normally laudatory press corps after unveiling the seal at an appearance in Chicago on Friday.

“What a bizarre and dumb idea,” railed NBC political director Chuck Todd. “It really feeds the arrogance narrative.”

The oversized blue seal was emblazoned with the Latin phrase “Vero Possumus,” which roughly translates into “yes, we can.” It also featured a plug for the candidate's website.

“The Audacity of Hype,” cracked ABC's Jake Tapper. “No word on whether they played a remix of 'Hail to the Chief' as Obama walked in.”

Andrew Malcolm of the Los Angeles Times observed that Obama “has decided not to wait for any of the formalities like a presidential election, an inauguration or even a nomination, which he still hasn't actually officially won yet.”

Marc Ambinder of the Atlantic magazine was the first to note that Obama would deep-six the seal.

“I'm told that Obama recognizes that it was a silly mistake,” Ambinder said. “Does the press think Obama is arrogant? Yes.”

Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, said the episode reinforces this media perception of Obama.

“The press corps adopts a subtext for each candidate,” Sabato told The Examiner. “Daddy Bush was 'a nice guy but out of touch.' Bill Clinton was 'smart but randy.' Bob Dole was 'heroic but too old.' Gore was 'brilliant but a fibber and a bore.' Dubya was 'pleasant but dumb.'”

He added: “Obama's subtext is rapidly becoming 'charismatic but arrogant.'”

The Obama campaign declined to comment.

It's very interesting to note what Sammon chose to clip and obscure here, isn't it, and the overall narrative he's selling? (Also, the Obama campaign had already commented to CNN. What exactly did Sammon or a staffer ask? "How do you respond to the accusation that you're arrogant?")

Ever timely, on Thursday, June 26th, high-profile Republican operative Karl Rove saw his latest Obama-bashing piece, "It's All About Obama," run in the Wall Street Journal. Rove accused Obama once again of arrogance, using the seal as his point of attack. His second graf:

His seal featured an eagle emblazoned with his logo, and included a Latin version of his campaign slogan. This was an attempt by Sen. Obama to make himself appear more presidential. But most people saw in the seal something else – chutzpah – and he's stopped using it. Such arrogance – even self-centeredness – have featured often in the Obama campaign.

(Reportedly not an actual photograph)

Enter at last our intrepid pal, skippy. In a June 26th post, "quote of the day," skippy linked a Jesse Taylor post at Pandagon on Rove's piece. As skippy noted, "the only attack the gop can muster seems to be to discuss something that obama has already abandoned." In an addendum, skippy linked Mark Nickolas' post about the GOP presidential seals.

In " the audacity of "the audacity of hype" - action alert," skippy linked the Sammon piece and posted the letter he'd written to Chuck Todd, Jake Tapper and Andrew Malcolm over their remarks. Follow the link to read the entire letter, but in it, skippy linked the Nickolas post, and asked:

as you are most certainly aware, john mccain's own caucus, the national republican senatorial committee, uses at least three different permutations of the presidential seal for their campaigns (granted they are senatorial campaigns and not presidential campaigns)…

my question to you, sir, is two-fold:

why would you characterize sen. obama as "arrogant" (or "hype") and yet not say anything about the republicans' similar use of the presidential seal, and any implied arrogance on their part?

and, do you not feel it is your duty as a journalist to report to the public this same usage of the seal by the republicans, thus providing context to events, as opposed to letting a narrative get fed into, when there is, at least in this case, no basis for that narrative to exist?

Tapper had actually covered this angle by this time (although it sure seems he or whoever tipped him off didn't credit Nickolas). However, even Tapper ran with the Obama slam first without considering, and certainly without bothering to check, the hypocrisy angle. How big a deal any of this was or is remains a matter of judgment. Still, surely skippy's letter was polite and its questions legitimate.

In "mainstream media bites roo," skippy posted the really snotty reply he received from Andrew Malcolm:

your apology is accepted. we are a political blog that writes around-the-clock about all aspects of the campaigns with attitude and hopefully some insights. apparently millions of readers are getting something from the ticket as our global ranking has surged to #133 in one year out of 100+ million. what’s yours, skippy? since there was almost universal derision over the premature presidential seal of sen. obama and his staff has been quoted as saying it was a mistake, it’s curious you defensively only ask us about it. we’re delighted to receive such attention. but if the seal was such a good idea, why isn’t he still using it?

people laughing and snickering at the seal detracts from the messages he wants to deliver, which is the professional measure of such tools.

haven’t come across sen. mccain’s pretend presidential seal yet. in fact, from our inquiries, we understand he doesn’t really like podiums, which might explain his poor deliveries at them. but if we do, you’ll see it roundly humorized on the ticket with a huge photo, especially if he attaches some faux latin motto. for now, we’re stuck with criticizing his crummy fundraising and policy inconsistencies. thanks for reading, though hope you do also get around to scanning our items not on your candidate.

(Actual reporter Andrew Malcolm, on the case)

Follow the link to read all of skippy's response, but in addition to addressing Malcolm's dismissive tone, he pointed out that Malcolm hadn't addressed the question:

what i asked was, why did you so quickly fit obama's use of the presidential seal as a prototype for a campaign logo into a narrative about obama's arrogance when mccain's own caucus uses the same seal as a prototype for a campaign logo, and yet you don't mention that.

if it is because you don't know about mccain's caucus logos, i respectfully suggest that you read the link i sent you, do some research and then publish a follow up pointing out that the republicans are doing the exact same thing the democrats are doing (though, as i said in my original letter, for senatorial campaigns and not presidential campaigns).

again, when you say "people, [are laughing]" what you really mean is "the press corps." it is my contention that the press corps should not be the final arbiter of what a candidate offers to the public, especially when the opposing candidate is offering the same sort of thing, but the press corps ignores it.

please follow the link i provided, though, again, it's for senatorial campaigns, and not presidential campaigns. but the link does provide republican faux seals based on the presidential seal.

obama is not my candidate, thank you very much. as i have said on my blog post concerning your coverage of the seal, i'm not after a fair shake for obama, i'm after a fair press corps.

(Mike Finnigan's response to Malcolm's reply deserves a gander, too.)

The pattern here should be familiar to readers of the liberal blogosphere. As when CNN's John King responded to Glenn Greenwald, to cite just one other example, when a blogger raises a concern with a mainstream media journalist, the response often is:

1) An accusation of bias, ascribing a request for accuracy, context or quality to partisanship. Responding on the merits is thus (somehow) unnecessary.

2) An authoritarian power move attacking the questioner personally, asserting a privileged position and challenging the very act of questioning the journalist. (Who are you to question me?)

It's a bullying move, and while even good journalists do field their share of undue criticism and even abusive comments, Malcolm's reply was rude, unwarranted, and unresponsive to skippy's substantive points. Not all mainstream media journalists behave this way, of course, but sadly, there's still a significant number who do.

(Howard Kurtz)

We're not quite done. On Friday, June 27th, Howard Kurtz' Washington Post column "Pretzel Logic" consisted mostly of Obama-bashing pieces, as has been the case for the past four weeks or so. Kurtz, who professes independence but typically frames issues from a right-wing perspective, included three paragraphs from Rove's piece attacking Obama for arrogance and self-centeredness.

Unsurprisingly, Kurtz did not challenge Rove's premise, nor did he note that the Obama campaign had dropped the seal after one use back on Monday, nor did he note the hypocrisy angle of Republicans using modified seals themselves for similar meetings. Kurtz did quote a James Moore piece questioning whether Rove should be a pundit at all.

Still, I've lost count of how many times Kurtz has run with a right-wing smear days after it's been already debunked or at least substantially challenged by major (normally liberal) blogs. In this case, I guess Kurtz missed the Crooks and Liars piece, Jake Tapper's second piece with the GOP seals, or posts criticizing Rove's op-ed by two prominent bloggers Kurtz often features, Andrew Sullivan and Kos. On rare occasions Kurtz calls bullshit, but more often, like Mark Halperin, he spreads it.

(For more on Kurtz' hackery, see these posts on Iraq and his response to the Malkin-lead campaign against Graeme Frost. Also see Eric Boehlert on Kurtz and Malkin. I hope to have more on Kurtz in a while, but in the past two weeks alone, he's accused Wesley Clark of attacking McCain's military service and affirmed a National Review piece accusing Obama of starting the flag lapel pin nonsense himself. Both of these are questionable charges if not outright falsehoods, in addition to being colossally unimportant even if they were true. But it sure is funny how Kurtz almost always starts by quoting right-wing furor over something, and then so often agrees with it.)

(Contemplating the state of the media today,
he found himself less than enthused.)

Never underestimate the dangers of a slow news day – or week. Personally, I see nothing inherently wrong with silly side stories, or mocking candidates for foolishness. The problem is that with our mostly vapid news corps, almost all we get is gossipy bullshit. As Bob Somerby's observed, sports writers love discussing sports, but many prominent political reporters hate discussing politics. TV talking heads are the worst, taking about gamesmanship all the time, but avoiding discussion of the actual policies and their consequences. As I've written before, I think this is due to three factors. One, laziness. It's far less work, requiring no research, only a reaction and an opinion. Two, it allows journalists to stay on a "he said-she said" level that gives them cover that they're "balanced," while avoiding the fact-checking and qualitative analysis that's more work but also more likely to draw ire from at least one camp. Three, they think it's fun. Most of the Beltway crowd amount to a shallow, gossipy high school clique. I don't begrudge the idea of having fun, and some side tidbits can be enlightening or entertaining, but it's all a matter of time, place, subject and proportion. When most or all substantive discussion is shoved aside in favor of an unrelenting onslaught of crap that's both trivial and misleading, our democracy kinda suffers.

In this specific case, I don't see any problem with poking fun at Obama over the seal (a fair number of liberals did too, after all). It was an appropriate subject for a side piece or a short item, but it's fluff. Harping on it endlessly or imputing some great significance to it was ridiculous. Using it to accuse Obama of "arrogance" while ignoring that the GOP's done the same thing is negligent journalism. The bigger question is whether the press should be obsessing about a candidate's supposed "arrogance" in the first place, and in this case – as has often been the case – the press is repeating right-wing smears. If they're going to do that, at the very least, it might be nice if they identified who originated this line of attack. It's not exactly a secret that Karl Rove, Bill Kristol and other prominent Republicans have been trying to tag Obama as an arrogant elitist for several months now. But the press has repeated all of that, mostly uncritically. As we covered before over Obama's "bitter" comments, it was absurd to see millionaire pundits and millionaire candidates decrying another millionaire candidate for lacking "the common touch" (and while Obama is rich now, he lived in extreme poverty for parts of his life). But as Somerby also points out constantly, it's extremely rare for any journalist to call out the media's own culpability in this whole sideshow. Nor, as skippy's experience shows yet again, are they all particularly eager to respond to the very 'commoners' they supposedly represent when they attack politicians Democrats for being snobby elitists.

What about those pesky economic issues, anyway? There's the "dollar's 41 percent drop against the euro during Bush's term," for one example. The general rule when it comes to the corporate media is that the consequences of competing economic policies are rarely discussed, and when they are, it's rarely accurate, with bullshit going unchallenged or spread by reporters themselves. The coverage by CNN and NPR on Obama and McCain's competing tax plans was actually surprisingly good, but sadly, that's more the exception than the rule. Earlier this year in Democratic debates, both Charlie Gibson and Wolf Blitzer posed misleading or inaccurate questions about Democratic tax policies. Millionaire journalists working for corporate media never do seem terribly eager to mention the growing inequity of wealth in America and the real class warfare going on. It's a subject most Americans rarely hear anything about between the bread and circuses.

I'll hawk Paul Krugman's book The Conscience of a Liberal yet again, but an honest and accurate discussion of policies, perhaps most of all on economics and budgetary matters, will almost always favor liberals. This presidential race is no exception. Yet for every good piece in the MSM on the candidates' competing economic plans, there's several bad ones. Blogs frequently use MSM pieces as launching points, but the best liberal blogs often bring a higher level of scrutiny and a much greater willingness to call bullshit . This week alone, we have Bob Somerby examining lies by McCain and his surrogates on Social Security and taxes, and dissecting a weak Washington Post article on Social Security. Jonathan Schwarz and DDay have looked at a recent bizarre, revealing claim by McCain on Social Security. From Obsidian Wings alone this week, there's been detailed analysis of McCain's policies and statements on economics and budgetary matters: " Lie To Me, Baby," "Lie to Me Some More," "Candidates Diverge," "McCain: Deceptive Or Stone Cold Ignorant," "The "Disgrace" of Social Security," "Even More McCain" and "McCain's Economists." We'll see how much of McCain's imprudent and confused policies - and deceptive or confused rhetoric - gets covered by the mainstream press. But surely, the press should be able to muster some energy to cover McCain's plan to balance the budget:

The McCain administration would reserve all savings from victory in the Iraq and Afghanistan operations in the fight against Islamic extremists for reducing the deficit. Since all their costs were financed with deficit spending, all their savings must go to deficit reduction.

That's so preposterous I'd say it's either delusional, or insulting to the intelligence of voters, which is mighty – what's the word? – arrogant. Surely some ridicule can be spared for that. At minimum, it certainly warrants some coverage and tough questions for McCain, since it cuts to the core of two key campaign issues for him (Iraq and the economy), and its consequences are a helluva lot more dire than a friggin' podium decoration.

Within the past few days, Top of the Ticket has covered McCain's joke about killing Iranians with cigarettes, and did at least link pieces on economic proposals in a post about Obama and McCain trying to appear as "regular folks" (I'd say the economic pieces they link are very cursory, but it's not surprising they're linking stories in their own paper). Jake Tapper showed some initiative and asked the McCain campaign about what currently made Social Security a "disgrace." (See the blogs linked above for more on this.) Most MSM outlets do have their moments.

Still, I'm reminded of John Dickerson's observation once again:

One of the healthiest things about the left-wing blogosphere is its confrontational dislike of the mainstream media. There's a distinction here with the media's critics on the right. At some level, the right doesn't much like that the press exists. They don't want to fix it, they want to drive a stake through its heart. The left, on the other hand, just wishes the establishment press would do a better job. The Kos-type critique of the media is intertwined with its passion about politics. When the press gets it wrong, left-wing bloggers believe, the people are ill-informed and democracy suffers. There's respect in that anger, though you wouldn't always know it if you're the target of one of their flaming arrows. (Sometimes they apologize.)

Howard Kurtz (among others) refuses to acknowledge this difference publicly. And he, and many of his cohorts mentioned above, would be far better informed if they read (among others) the Daily Howler, Crooks and Liars, Hullabaloo, Obsidian Wings, A Tiny Revolution and Skippy the Bush Kangaroo regularly.

Friday, July 04, 2008

"In Their World, Iraq is Okay."

Seymour Hersh's latest New Yorker piece "Preparing the Battlefield," about the Bush administration's "secret moves against Iran," has justifiably gotten a fair amount of attention. Read the article if you haven't. Meanwhile, here's some of Hersh on CNN, on NPR's Fresh Air and Democracy Now! Meanwhile, via Dan Froomkin, there's this gem caught by ThinkProgress (they have the video, too) from Hersh's conversation with Andrea Mitchell, after she asked Hersh about the possibility of the U.S. attacking (or supporting an attack on) Iran:

Hersh: "Oh, you know, how the hell do I know? . . . What I can tell you is we're loaded for bear. And we've been looking at it for three years... If Israel goes -- I'll tell you what Cheney says privately. . . . What he says privately is, 'We can't let Israel go because, first of all, they don't have the firepower, we do. We have much more firepower. And secondly, if they go, we'll be blamed anyway.'"

Froomkin cited others' opinions on the likelihood of an attack on Iran in his online discussion yesterday, as well as in his column today. I'll also pass on thoughts by Jill, Steve Audio and DDay.

While we definitely shouldn't stop scrutinizing the Bush administration on Iran (not to mention Iran itself), Iraq also bears watching. Not only do the administration's views on Iraq shape their attitudes toward Iran, their policy and rhetoric on Iraq is closely tied in as well. One section of Hersh's interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air really leapt out at me. You can find it about 35 minutes in. Here's my transcription (with some verbal stutters omitted):

Terry Gross: I can't help but wonder, if Cheney or whoever else is considering a military strike against Iran, what they make of how things have turned out in Iraq, because some of the justifications and some of the tactics we've used so far in Iran seem to parallel Iraq, and I can't think of a lot of people who are happy with the outcome so far in Iraq. Plus, we've spent so much money, and have deployed so much of our military resources, including lots of the National Guard in Iraq, could we even afford to tie up more in Iran? But anyways, I can't help but wonder how Iraq is influencing people like Vice President Cheney now?

Seymour Hersh: You just have to listen to what they say. Because what they say is fascinating. We're actually winning. We're turning the corner. And we got rid of Saddam Hussein, and by any chance, that's a plus. Just listen to what they say. Because in their world, Iraq is okay. They've done something useful. And it's gonna be great. We're turning the corner, we're gonna solve the problems. The surge, quote unquote, worked. Never mind that the country is completely destroyed physically, and that ethnic cleansing… If you just read and listen to what they say, it's upbeat. So they don't see this mess they've created as a mess.

So the argument that why would they expand the war, we're not doing so well, into yet another country, they're not sure we're not doing so well.

Hersh goes on to mention one of the key elements of his article, how Cheney and others in the Bush administration kept Admiral Fallon in the dark about covert operations in the Middle East, despite that Fallon was slotted to oversee military operations there. There's also the recurring theme of Cheney micromanaging, and thinking he's a military genius. Oh, and a Democratic Congress giving Bush pretty much everything he wants.

Currently, the Bush administration and its allies – including Tony Blankley, David Brooks and Joe Lieberman are trying to sell the dangerous horseshit that Iraq is doing well and Bush's ongoing adventure was and is all worth it. We’ve already seen key members of the press eager to run with this, even though it's a shameless falsehood. As we’ve gone over many times, any decrease in violence, however momentary, is of course welcome, but the Iraq-is-getting-better crowd never discuss the 4-5 million displaced Iraqis, and rarely mention that the stated purpose of the "surge" was to buy time for political reconciliation that just hasn't come, and is by no means imminent. Bush's embassy staff in Iraq are claiming big progress, but those claims are highly suspect at best, and directly contradicted by the more independent Government Accountability Office.

For a more accurate picture of Iraq, one could check out a recent Tom Dispatch piece, "The Good News in Iraq (Don't Count on It)" or Juan Cole's "The Real State of Iraq" (this latter piece previously linked by QuestionGirl, and a more detailed examination of themes explored in our March piece, "The Surge is Still Not Working"). Then there's the McClatchy page for Iraq news, as well as our humble efforts in the BH and VS Iraq categories. Needless to say, Iraq is not okay. Nor are any Bush officials or their pundit supporters to be trusted for a moment and taken at face value when they claim otherwise. To sell a new war, they need to convince people that their previous, ongoing one is a success, the truth be damned. As for the press, besides wanted a new headline besides "Iraq is still in horrible straits," some of them probably want validation for being so disastrously wrong before. (Certainly unrepentant hawks such as Michael O'Hanlon fall in that camp.)

One of many freedoms in America has been the First Amendment, which includes freedom of speech and freedom of the press. There's a responsibility that comes with that freedom, especially when coupled with power. Thomas Jefferson once said that "If I had to choose between government without newspapers, and newspapers without government, I wouldn't hesitate to choose the latter." As a whole, it's hard to argue that the press justify Jefferson's faith. But while David Broder, Richard Cohen and Charlie Gibson, among many others, fail miserably in that respect, there are other journalists, including Helen Thomas, Dana Priest, Lara Logan, Daniel Schorr and Seymour Hersh (among others) who exemplify how it should be done. As DDay put it in the post linked above:

…It's clear to me, as we approach July 4th, that there's no better patriot in this country than Seymour Hersh, taking on the job of 236 Democrats in the House and 50 in the Senate, trying to hold off this insanity for a few more months before transitioning into a new Adminstration which will hopefully recognize the broad consensus for negotiation and diplomacy with the Islamic Republic as opposed to the folly of war.

Indeed. Happy Independence Day, especially to the true patriots.

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Original Version of Metropolis Found

The AP piece by Nicholas Kusnetz reports:

Lost scenes from the sci-fi classic "Metropolis," recently discovered in the archives of a Buenos Aires museum, were shown to journalists for the first time in decades on Thursday.

A long-lost original cut of the 1927 silent film sat for 80 years in a private collection and then in the Museum of Cinema in Buenos Aires, where it was discovered in April with scratched images that hadn't been seen before.

Museum director Paula Felix-Didier said theirs is the only copy of German director Fritz Lang's complete film.

"This is the version Fritz Lang intended," said Martin Koerber, a curator at the Deutsche Kinemathek film museum in Berlin, Germany.

"Metropolis," written by Lang and his actress wife Thea von Harbou, depicts a 21st century world divided between a class of underworld workers and the "thinkers" above who control them.

Soon after its initial release at the height of Germany's Weimar Republic, distributors cut Lang's three-and-a-half-hour masterpiece into the shorter version since viewed by millions worldwide.

But a private collector carried an original version to Argentina in 1928, where it has stayed, Felix-Didier said.

In the 1980s, Argentine film fanatic Fernando Pena heard about a man who had propped up a broken projector for "hours" to screen "Metropolis" in the 1960s. But the version of the film he knew was only one-and-a-half hours long. For years, he begged Buenos Aires' museum to check their archives for the man's longer version.

This year, museum researchers finally agreed and in April uncovered the reels in the museum's archive.

In June, Felix-Didier flew with a DVD to the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation in Wiesbaden, Germany, which owns the rights to "Metropolis." Researchers there confirmed that the scenes were original.

News of the find excited film enthusiasts worldwide.

"This is a movie that millions and millions of people have seen since its release and yet, in many ways, we've never seen the true film," said Mike Mashon, head of the Moving Image section of the U.S. Library of Congress in Washington.

"Metropolis" was reissued in the U.S. in 2002 by Kino International Corp., which owns the rights to distribute the film domestically, Kino's general manager Gary Palmucci said.

Kino may rerelease the new, complete version of the film, although Palmucci said it is too soon for details.

Meanwhile, Buenos Aires' Museum of Cinema is holding its treasure tight.

"The film hasn't left the museum and it won't leave until the city government and the Murnau Foundation decide what to do," Felix-Didier said.

This is tremendous. The original versions of Greed, The Red Badge of Courage and The Magnificent Ambersons are lost, in addition to many lesser known films (especially silents). This could be a rare happy ending to that pattern. Lang was very daring and innovative. Here's hoping for a first-rate restoration and good DVD copy.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Eclectic Jukebox 7/3/08

Simon and Garfunkel - "America" (Live)

Eclectic Jukebox


Blue Girl won one of the scholarships to attend Netroots Nation in Austin, starting July 17th. Congratulations to her yet again! My favorite of her many endorsements came from her mother: "She woke up one morning a pleasant toddler, then some time in the mid-morning, had a temper tantrum. It has never gone away."

Meanwhile, a stand-up comic I know, Adam Hunter, is on NBC's Last Comic Standing, which airs on Thursday nights. It's great exposure and a fantastic opportunity. Assuming he continues to progress, apparently viewer votes will play a factor. The show seems to slice up sets somewhat for broadcast, especially in the earlier rounds with so many contestants, which can hurt the rhythm of a routine. Still, I think enough comes through that you can judge his material and delivery for yourself. Here's his site, MySpace page, and last week's segment:

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


Time for another poem. Here's the Wiki entry on James Wright, and the PoemHunter entry (a site with good content, but has annoying pop-ups and can be cantankerous).

By James Wright

I was only a young man
In those days. On that evening
The cold was so God damned
Bitter there was nothing.
Nothing. I was in trouble
With a woman, and there was nothing
There but me and dead snow.

I stood on the street corner
In Minneapolis, lashed
This way and that.
Wind rose from some pit,
Hunting me.
Another bus to Saint Paul
Would arrive in three hours,
If I was lucky.

Then the young Sioux
Loomed beside me, his scars
Were just my age.

Ain't got no bus here
A long time, he said.
You got enough money
To get home on?

What did they do
To your hand? I answered.
He raised up his hook into the terrible starlight
And slashed the wind.

Oh, that? he said.
I had a bad time with a woman. Here,
You take this.

Did you ever feel a man hold
Sixty-five cents
In a hook,
And place it
In your freezing hand?

I took it.
It wasn't the money I needed.
But I took it.

Homophobic Group Makes Olympic Athlete Homosexual!

That's intentionally misleading, but let's turn this tale over to Steve Benen:

Auto-correct can be a very helpful feature of any word-processing program. But when conservatives use it, they run the risk of embarrassing themselves.

Some far-right sites that subscribe to the Associated Press feed, for example, will use auto-correct to change “Democratic Party” to “Democrat Party.” This, of course, is because they have the temperament of children.

But the American Family Association’s OneNewsNow website takes the phenomenon one step further with its AP articles. The far-right fundamentalist group replaces the word “gay” in the articles with the word “homosexual.” I’m not entirely sure why, but it seems to make the AFA happy. The group is, after all, pretty far out there.

The problem, of course, is that “gay” does not always mean what the AFA wants it to mean. My friend Kyle reported this morning that sprinter Tyson Gay won the 100 meters at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials over the weekend. The AFA ran the story, but only after the auto-correct had “fixed” the article.

That means — you guessed it — the track star was renamed “Tyson Homosexual.” The headline on the piece read, “Homosexual eases into 100 final at Olympic trials.” Readers learned:

Tyson Homosexual easily won his semifinal for the 100 meters at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials and seemed to save something for the final later Sunday.

His wind-aided 9.85 seconds was a fairly cut-and-dry performance compared to what happened a day earlier. On Saturday, Homosexual misjudged the finish in his opening heat and had to scramble to finish fourth, then in his quarterfinal a couple of hours later, ran 9.77 to break the American record that had stood since 1999. […]

Homosexual didn’t get off to a particularly strong start in the first semifinal, but by the halfway mark he had established a comfortable lead. He slowed somewhat over the final 10 meters-nothing like the way-too-soon complete shutdown that almost cost him Saturday. Asked how he felt, Homosexual said: “A little fatigued.”

Now, the AFA has since changed the article back to the way it was originally written by the AP reporter, but don’t worry, Kyle got the screen-grab before the AFA edited the piece back.

(Click for a larger image.)

Homophobes turning an Olympic athlete homosexual! Heavens! Perhaps that Ted Haggard program will work for them.

Washington Post blogger Mary Ann Akers picked up the story as well.

Besides providing a good laugh, this story made me think of two things. One, this is basically the reverse technique of right-wing hate site Little Green Footballs, where proprietor Charles Johnson implemented a filter to clean up some comments – "raghead" was changed to "Arab," for instance. Both sites cater to bigots, but one is trying to hide it a little bit. Two, I had a student who liked to pepper his papers with what he thought were impressive words, using Microsoft Word's synonym function to help him (a George Will in training, perhaps). The thing was, he chose these words without concern for syntax, precision or eloquence, and often didn't know what they really meant. My favorite was the essay where, in mentioning one of the plagues of Egypt from Exodus, the frogs didn't ravage the land; he wrote that they ravished it.

But then, those frogs were probably filthy homosexuals, too.

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)