Thursday, May 20, 2010

This cliche sounds the same regardless of who says it

Just recently it has become trendy to talk about baseball and baseball players in certain ways. For example, a few years ago, if a broadcaster or coach liked a guy, they said he was a "gamer," even if he sucked. Synonyms included "gritty" and, bizarrely, "baseball player." What kind of great game is it when the thing your coach says about you that makes you better than your teammates is "he's a baseball player"? Manny, my regular bus driver on the 55, recently received an award for being, man, you know, just like a...bus driver and shit, OK? That's what makes the difference. Totally.

One of the more annoying things people have been saying this season is that "the ball just sounds different" coming off the bat of Player X, and it's starting to fucking get to me. This all began today, actually, when my fantasy baseball site (yes, I am a loser. And?) sent me the following message about one of my minor league players:

"Marlins OF prospect Michael Stanton is mired in a bit of a cold spell at Double-A Jacksonville. The 2007 second-round pick is hitting just .189 (7 for 37) in his last 10 games and hasn't homered in nine games. Still, with 15 homers and a .299 average in 37 games, the compliments continue to pour in for the 20-year-old outfielder. "He's a man-child," Suns pitcher Jeff Allison told The Miami Herald. "The ball off his bat is a different sound. It's like dropping a huge wooden rocking chair from 200 feet and hearing it crash into the ground. That's the sound the ball makes on his bat. And the ball travels. He can hit the ball over the wall, off the wall, and through the wall."

I love this quote for 2 reasons: 1. Mike Stanton is on my team, and he better be as great as all this, because the ol' Haymarket Bombers have been through some down years recently. 2. "It's like dropping a huge wooden rocking chair from 200 feet..."! Why huge? Why a rocking chair? Why 200 feet?! Marry me, Jeff Allison!!

But really, it also occurred to me that I've heard this quote before. A lot before...but where? So I googled "ball sounds different coming off his bat" and hey, the memory is still like a steel trap (warning, ongoing feature being created):

3/1/10: Hall of Fame manager believes "the ball sounds different coming off the bat" of a super prospect who will start the season with the big club. Who said it, who's the rookie, and (bonus points) what Hall of Famer did he compare the rookie's bat's sound to?

Well, grammar be damned, the answers are, respectively, Bobby Cox, Jason Heyward, and Hank Aaron! about pressure....

3/8/10: On the NY Times' baseball blog (wtf?), washed-up journeyman catcher, Brian Schneider, who knows hitting like Tim McCarver, said of perennially-injured Nick Johnson "the ball just sounds different coming off his bat." Of course, this article could be a farce, since later on, Johnson says he "wouldn't change the way he plays the game for nothing," which sounds like he would change for something, maybe like the $5 million the Yankees gave him to sit on the DL. Plus, Nick Swisher apparently told a reporter "I’m sure Nick and I will become very close. A high on-base guy? That’s right up my alley." Oh no you don't, Nick Swisher! Just because you're both underachieving guys named Nick doesn't give you dibs on him!

4/14/10: Lest you think this is just big league, overpaid gasbags making shit up to amuse themselves, don't forget the downmarket effect: even the kids get corrupted by this shit if it happens often enough at the highest levels - won't someone think of the children?:

"That's a little bit of youth," Verhage said of Ricci, who played full-time varsity as a freshman. "It was a hit-and-run, and he smashed it off the fence. He has a great swing and the ball just sounds different coming off his bat. And he's got great work ethic, so there's nothing but great things in front of him."

...and it doesn't stop there. From 2005: "Tyler Bighames is a 6' 174 pound 2009 infielder from San Diego, California who attends Cathedral Catholic High School....He uses his leverage well and the ball sounds different coming off the bat than others." The kid was 14 years old when that was written.

What is this phrase, where did it come from, and what the hell is it supposed to mean? "The ball sounds different" - like a bag of bullshit being thrown into my ears? Can you quantify that for me? What does sound have to do with baseball, or evaluating baseball talent? Is this just another nice-sounding thing you can say when you really have nothing to say at all? (That last one feels like the answer to me.)

OK, just one more: The Boston Red Sox' top prospect in 2009 was Lars Anderson. Here's what scouts think: "Anderson’s power isn’t elite yet, but it has the potential to get there. He’s always showed the ability to make hard contact and many scouts note the ball makes a different sound off his bat. He’s also adept at using the entire field and many are waiting –and anticipating– his pull power will be soon to come." Yeesh. That sounds like the kid will be a beast, what with the bat sounds and all, and then for good measure the writer compares him explicitly to Mark Teixeira. How's Lars doing in 2010, you ask? Still onomatopoeia-ing it up on his way to the big leagues? Well, not so much. Despite his jibber-jabbering bat, Anderson started the season in AA, looking like he might have to repeat the level where he hit .233 last season with 9 HR in 447 AB, with a very poor .673 OPS. He hit well enough in the first month to move up to AAA, where he's at .250 with 1 HR and a .794 OPS in 16 games. He's also 23, which is a little old for a player who didn't go to college, delaying his development. Sounds like his bat was, if you'll excuse me, talking out its ash.


Two things:

Without a doubt, it's been the overwhelming objectivity and unimpeachable authority displayed by the media that's betrayed the American public over the last several years. You are so fucking smart, gossip columnist lady. All the problems with shitty journalism can be fixed if we just turn it into actual journaling and reporters get paid to just write about their own navels (what, they don't?)! This is why I don't read newspapers and speed up when I see journalists crossing the street.

Slavoj Zizek proves once again that he is both the dumbest and dullest motherfucker on the planet. I pray that he will soon be found dead, under his blanket, asphyxiated by his own farts.

Well, fuck.

Back again and still dissatisfied. Comments are off, because I don't have time to read them and, to be frank, I don't give a fuck about what you think. Hi Mom!

This blog is, like Barney Gumble, taking things in a bold new direction. Mostly, that means lots of sports talk and less politics. Everybody does politics, badly. Nobody does sports goodly. I will be no exception.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Scott Adams, Technological Rapist

We here at TCBH, the Too-Cleverians, have had it up to HERE with technocrats insisting that we'll all be machines someday, or that machines will rule us, or that machines are people too, or that, well, machines already rule us:

"Technically, you're already a cyborg. If you keep your cell phone with you most of the time, especially if the earpiece is in place, I think we can call that arrangement an exobrain. Don't protest that your cellphone isn't part of your body just because you can leave it in your other pants. If a cyborg can remove its digital eye and leave it on a shelf as a surveillance device, and I think we all agree that it can, then your cellphone qualifies as part of your body. In fact, one of the benefits of being a cyborg is that you can remove and upgrade parts easily. So don't give me that "It's not attached to me" argument. You're already a cyborg. Deal with it."

Just real briefly, because I have already ranted about these fascistic motherfuckers before, the persistent, all-out push to have humanity acknowledge its dependence on (and hence, subservience to) technology is a sick fucking obsession with these people and their crusade to get everyone to "deal with it" is not unlike a rapist who wants you to admit you "asked for it" and "liked it." A wholly unfair and weird characterization? Maybe. But that's what I thought of, so that's what you have here.

The real question, to quote Diane Rehm, then becomes, not whether we are truly cyborgian, but why in hell's name it's so important to tech-douches for all of us to admit that we are. What is the significance of the admission? Is it psychic payback of some kind?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Matt Taibbi Needs To Clean Out His Fucking Ears

Who is Matt Taibbi and why is he suddenly everywhere? If you've been interviewed on Colbert, you are ubiquitous. And also a really stupid liberal. It's bizarre that a so-called political journalist has his primary gig at Rolling Stone magazine, don't you think? Not to throw stones, because I'm a blogger, but I never tried to convince anyone to take me seriously and...fuck it, let's throw stones.

Taibbi: "'Just look at the timeline of the Citigroup deal,' says one leading Democratic consultant. "Just look at it. It's fucking amazing. Amazing! And nobody said a thing about it." Barack Obama was still just the president-elect when it happened, but the revolting and inexcusable $306 billion bailout that Citigroup received was the first major act of his presidency."

This amazing passage appears in the 5th paragraph of Taibbi's Bible-length jeremiad. He's totally right, too: the Citigroup deal WAS amazing, and it also happened before Obama was president. THAT is real journalism, folks! You just make sure that you give all the facts (no dates, though; just facts) and then go ahead and attribute to the president something that in the absence of a time machine cannot possibly be his fault. You know what fucking pissed me off the most about George W. Bush when he was president? Watergate. Clinton's biggest problem was so totally Iran-Contra. Thomas Jefferson should have had more ammunition and then the Americans would have won at Bunker Hill! Shit, Taibbi, this is fucking awesomely easy! Sweet!

He then proceeds to argue that, because Obama hired people from major financial firms to address the financial state of the country, while simultaneously trying to save those same major firms, the president is some kind of puppet of Wall Street schemers who are using him to enrich themselves "at the expense of everybody else" for...some goddamn reason. Figure it out yourself!

Taibbi seems utterly unaware of the absurdity of his little tantrum. Perhaps he would care to suggest alternative financial advisers Obama could have turned to -- I mean, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers had plenty of great people who were looking for work. Same with Wachovia, Bank of America, AIG...the list goes on. Come on, Taibbi: which of these firms should have staffed-up the Treasury of the United States? Surely, you have some ideas. Let's hear 'em!


Oh, and don't miss the part where Taibbi, presumably in all seriousness, quotes a Republican congressman who is critical of Obama's bailout moves. Oh, the shame! That'll have Democrats rethinking the whole save-the-economy thing! He then talks to some teabaggers, who he says are fuckwits, but useful because they "don't hate Obama for any reasons that make sense" -- whereas a staunch and brilliant liberal like Matt Taibbi, well, as you can see, HE has all kinds of ironclad reasons! Obviously. He went to college, you know, and like, read Howard Zinn and like, yeah.

Matt Taibbi clearly doesn't know what he's talking about and hasn't thought it through. Thank Christ he isn't a real reporter, or his editor would have moved him to the weather beat, or somewhere else where he doesn't have to be right but a small amount of the time, and his facts can be checked by simply opening a window and one eyeball. His conclusion, in case you aren't convinced that he's been laboring under a misapprehension since at least last November, suggests that Obama somehow "changed" in office. The president, apparently, used to be a true "man of the people," who vowed to slay those capitalist pig-dogs and return us all to a state of happy idiocy on the land, or at least overhaul this damn modern economy to make it less hurty and more, I dunno, good-feely. Except, and this is the important thing, he never ever promised or even hinted that he would do any such thing and Matt Taibbi would know that, along with all the other fucking whiny, dumb liberals out there, if they'd just clean out their fucking ears and listen, really listen, to what other people say. Barack Obama ain't your hero and never was, and he does not want to be. He wants to be the president, whereas the closest any of the dumb liberals ever got to that point was...uhhh.... Look, let's be clear: just because you think you love him doesn't mean the reverse is true. So, Matt, you look like a huge asshole when you have a lover's quarrel later, in public, where you're the only one with an issue and the other guy doesn't even know he's supposed to be involved with you.

Finally, judge for yourselves whether Taibbi makes any sense when he offers up interpretations of the White House's economic plans like this: "At one point in the debate, Obama's top economic advisers demanded the power to award future bailouts without even going to Congress for approval — and without providing taxpayers a single dime in equity on the deals." One wonders whether Taibbi really believes that "the public," much less the government, should be making money off the economic recovery. What happens to the government when it becomes a business, or worse, when it becomes an investor? The point was to save the economy from suffering more massive damage, not to make profits -- though the government got plenty of Citigroup stock in the deal that might one day turn out to be useful.

Oh, and let's not mention to Matt the new report that shows that all but a small fraction of the TARP funds will be recovered, or that Citigroup has made a $20 billion payment on its loan, or that only months after the stimulus went into effect, the government was already collecting billions in interest payments and may even show Matt's prized profit on its bank loans. No, that sort of fact-mongering would not do. We're supposed to be waving our pitchforks and storming the Capitol and denouncing our president because, hey, the fucking asshole did what he said he was going to do and did it in a defensible way.

Monday, November 09, 2009

"But, We Used To Be Crypto-Hateful!"

Some crybaby fucktard at Andrew Sullivan's page (one guess which party the fucktard is a member of) whines that it isn't fair to hearken all the way back to 1994, the supposed Republican Revolution, the takeover of American politics by a third-rate history prof from a fourth-rate college, the handover by the libs of all that was sacred and holy and that actually worked so that the GOP could "starve" it and beat the citizenry until it agreed that government was not the answer and they came to this realization all on their own (but the beatings helped); ...anyway where was I, oh yes: it isn't fair to look at 1994 as the beginning of the unmitigated disaster of Republicanism that we now observe. See, the GOP wasn't always crazy, so, uh, give it a break because it now is...? I don't know what the fucktard's point is.

Supposedly, 1994 was built on "positive" feelings and pro-something policies, like welfare reform, ethics reform, and spending reform. And that is true, if we view 1994 the same as a shame-filled Republican donkey who isn't accustomed to thinking deeply or inwardly about anything.

I remember 1994, those halcyon days of my 16th year, as being about demonizing black mothers (that old "welfare reform" bit, you know), poor people ("workfare" will teach them...that it was much better to be under welfare), Democrats (they're all a bunch of philanderers, you know. Right, Henry Hyde? Would you like to ask the president a question? Or you, Newt?), and "starving the beast" so it, the American government, the shining beacon of reason, liberty, and freedom to the entire world, could be "dragged into the bathroom and drowned in the bathtub" by Grover Norquist, a person whose nerd rage undoubtedly stems from the fact that he has never gotten laid ever.

No, that whole grab-bag of demonizing policies isn't hateful or crazy. Just because Republicans chose to call it the "Contract with America," which is meaningless, and chose at that moment to explicitly split the nation into real and fake parts, and roll up the notion of the silent majority into the party's strategic message, heck, that should never be mistaken for loony, divisive, pandering bullshit! It was all about good feelings, y'all, the same ones you have after leaving the hospital where you told your wife you were kicking her and the kids out while she was receiving cancer treatment. I mean, manly, Christian good feelings. The kind all Americans, REAL Americans, can relate to. No connection whatsoever to the present mindset of the GOP.

In all seriousness, in 1994 the Republicans tried to change the paradigm of American politics and succeeded. But they changed it by shoving everything downward, discourse, policies, ideas, everything. They eschewed expertise and shat on the promise and real success of government -- even while they fought tooth-and-nail to control the government (truly they were visionaries. Or hypocrites.). But to say that the seeds of the current insanity were not on full display in the small-minded, crude, culture war-as-political party policies of 1994 is like saying that the craziest GOP reps today must, by deductive reasoning, be 15 years old or younger, because 1994 didn't create them or even influence them. Happy 15th birthday, Sue Myrick!

Historians will write about our age someday. I doubt they will skip over 1994 as Sullivan's reader hopes, roping it off as some kind of sacred period of good feelings that, in its holier-than-thou attitude and effect somehow was unconnected to the batshit crazy level of paranoia and sense of entitlement of Republicans in the new millennium.

Monday, November 02, 2009

The Responsibility to Boo

Last weekend, the Carolina Hurricanes played back-to-back games against the Flyers and the Sharks. Carolina, which had 97 points last season and beat both New Jersey and Eastern Conference top seed Boston in consecutive seven-game series, on the road both times, brought back the young core of that team with good, economical contracts and also revamped a shaky defense and got bigger and tougher in the offseason.

After 13 games, Carolina has 2 wins. 7 points. A league-worst 50 goals allowed, against just 28 for. The Hurricanes were outscored 11-2 by Philly and San Jose on Saturday and Sunday, extending a losing streak to 9 (count 'em) games and prompting the GM to publicly talk about making changes so early into the season that the team has absolutely no leverage but is in full-on panic mode.

Through it all, though, the home fans have been, well, great. Huh. They keep coming to the games and filling seats. They cheer when the team is down. They don't even seem to mind that Carolina has taken the most penalties in the NHL, an amazing 22 minutes per game on average, which means the Hurricanes are theoretically short-handed for one third, a whole fucking period, of the game. And then some.

Well people, I hate to tell you: good fans boo when their team plays like a bunch of retards.

Some examples of poor decisions that would not be tolerated by fans with a little more anger: Carolina spends a lot of time when it rarely gets a powerplay stuck in its own zone. Boos rain down like Don Cherry's spittle in other arenas when the home team, with 5 skaters, is being pushed around by a team with only 4. If the Canes actually manage to get into the opponent's zone with the advantage, they almost always pass the puck back and forth at the blueline or try to cycle behind the net, which is like saying, "I don't want this scoring chance, you have it!" And that's pretty much the whole plan; Carolina sometimes doesn't even get 1 shot on net in a 2 minute powerplay.

There are many other problems, too. Star goalie Cam Ward has completely forgotten how to move laterally, surrendering at least 5 goals that I can remember this season to opponents who lobbed a shot at his side from the goal line. That's so weak, it's boo-worthy. Ward has also begun diving on his face when a shooter goes glove side on a breakaway -- why? How does that cut off the net? Boo! Line changes have been glacially slow; passes are all behind the targets; Carolina insists on dumping the puck in even with manpower; no one is intentionally blocking shots; and every goddamn offensive and defensive movement is to the back of the net -- I have had it up to here with the misbegotten idea, only still in favor in Carolina, by the way -- that you can run plays from behind a net. You can't. You can get bottled-up back there, since it's the smallest area on the ice, though, and the other team can take the puck away from you. Figure it out! No matter the circumstances, the Hurricanes are too deep whenever there's a puck around the net; they're also like tee ball kids when it comes to pursuit -- everyone, a forward, a defenseman, just chases the puck together, in a big, clumsy pack. What's the point?

Hurricanes players are quite frank in their assessments of the play so far. They admit they have sucked. But they replay the same game again the next night; Saturday's and Sunday's games were almost identical numbnuts festivals from my perspective.

When an athlete tries to do a job and not only fails, but miserably so, and in the process aids in his own failure to the extent that almost any other behavior would be preferable to what he's doing, it's time to boo.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

This One's For The Boys

This place (link) cuts men's hair (supposedly). All I know is, first, I will never set foot in this place; and b., check out the website!

The highlights (pun, ha!):

*Services: (brace yourself):

Haircut - includes "facework" and "mini facial." Just for you, Greg!

Rest Facial - "cleanser, moisturizer, conditioner, and steam towel"'s like describing a four-person blowbang to your grandmother!

Get Zen for this one: "Trimwork - Hair, neck and face maintenance." That's what she said!

Personal Services - "Shoe care, tailoring, dry cleaning and house cleaning." ?

No, really, ?

All services come with "complimentary beverages and concierge support" -- what the hell is that? Dry cleaning comes with a beverage? Is "concierge support" the same as "turn your head and cough"? (I don't speak the French, you know, but I'm learning pidgen Gay.)

Hand and Foot Care:

Hand Treatment - "For the gentleman who gets it on a regular" (sic) "...finish with a high gloss buff or matte polish."

OK. What the fuck does that mean? The "polish" part I've got; it means manicures are an abomination, or else they're offering me a hot dog -- it's hard to tell in written form. But "for the gentleman who gets it on a regular" -- gets what? Manicures? Pussy? My mind, she is bent!

Foot Treatment - all you need to know is that it ends with a "chillaxing massage." In a time machine. Set to 2007.

"Rough Around the Edges Hand Treatment - For the hard working hand...neglected the callous buildup, cut someone with a handshake, or left a welt on your mate..." Left a welt on your mate...oh, I get it. Manicures: the solution for domestic abusers who are tired of using a rolled-up magazine! But "cut someone with a handshake"? I think you're doing it wrong if that's the case. The complementary foot treatment frees you from "foot shame," which I mean, come on, we all know about that, am I right? It ends with "the rubdown of champions," which I must assume is a variant, by request, of either the Filipino Flogging, the Nanking Nutroll, or the South Carolina Gribble (also known locally as the "Sandlap"). Pretty sure.

Finally, let it be noted and forever remembered that the Signature Foot Treatment includes a "diamond chip foot file," which makes baby Jesus and starving orphans everywhere cry.

On to Products!

The line of purported men's products at this salon is fairly limited, but through careful review I have determined that it is exactly right for whatever you may be expecting, be it face cream, upper-lip foam, spoogy gel, cheek wash, stubble stick, or any of noted practitioner F. Ella Tio's worked-up lathers.

Let's begin with "Jack Black"'s line of squeezy tubes. These include "Face Buff," a movie I also saw, and "Beard Lube," as well as "Hand Healer," which was an unreleased Marvin Gaye track from the sessions with Columbia Records in '82. Beard Lube comes in a 16 oz. pump bottle, because hey, "you asked." But, does it numb and lubricate, or am I still going to feel some pressure...there? The best part of the site is "Ask Jack," where fake people ask made-up questions of the wise Mr. Black, or at least his underpaid intern-slash-webmaster: "What is the difference between Beard Lube Conditioning Shave and Supreme Cream Triple Cushion Shave Lather?" What a fucking great question! The answer is, "nothing! They're both jizz-based!" And, because I'm sure you are as bored with this totally jizz-based paragraph, we're moving on!

aMENity (what? I don't get it.) is another fine, retarded company supplying products to whats-its-name salon that I almost forgot about because this post has gone on way past long enough. Here's a testimonial:
"When I go out, I like to look good. That mean's doing what fits my own personal style. I like Amenity because it feels good on my head. It works better than any product on the market and I've tried them all." Can you count the things wrong with that statement? If not, really, go check out the pictures. This must be a joke, right?

There is eShave, which I firmly believe is a computer program that shaves men through instant messaging (I confess that I cut myself shaving just this morning, quite severely actually, so I'm not going to throw too much shit on eShave. But I will point out that, just like half the restrooms in Wisconsin, eShave has a section about "Badger Hair."

Finally, we come to balla. You read that right. I encourage everyone to check this out, now! Under "where to buy," there is a picture of a hand holding $60. Serious. Sixty whole motherfucking US dollars, yo! Balla!

Also, balla has testimonials. From. Three. People. Did I mention this is a product you sprinkle on your balls to keep them dry? Read the disarmingly nonsensical customer reviews and marvel. Do not miss the press releases, either, which go to great lengths to describe what the product does, why it does it, and why everyone loves the "subtle, manly scent" you can only get from balla nut sugar -- or, you know, from my balls, which have the subtle, manly scent of, well, balls. Like most things genital, if it smells like something else, you fucked up and nobody likes fucked up genitals!

Marvel at this picture and the text beside it. For, truly, nothing (nothing!) on this earth says both "dry" AND "comfortable" like sitting in the ocean wearing only socks and a button-down while reading the newspaper.

Enjoy "how to apply" (you really are a dimwit, huh?), especially the advice that it's nigh impossible to dump scrote powder into your boxers without getting a bunch of it on your shoes. Because you wear boxer shorts, no pants, AND SHOES so fucking often! I am dying over here! Stop it! Please! ...Europe! (sound of me peeing on my balla-dusted boxers and shoes.)

Balla is not going to try to get in your pants. Balla WILL get in there. Balla is the Nazis of taint-glazing and balla is coming for your lady friends' tongues and nasal comfort! Balla has a language barrier but balla totally overcame that shizz and now is much to being on your nether regions and minds! Balla sometimes clumps on pubic hair and WILL coat the roof of your mouth and prevent normal intimacy as well as second dates. Balla has a sports car. Balla quite fortunately rubs off as fast as the douchebags who buy balla. Balla!

Balla will make clammy sacks a thing of the past and will put bat wings on the endangered species list.

"He Was Not A Bigoted Man"

Fergus M. Bordewich, of whom I had never heard and from whom I never expect to hear again, writes in Smithsonian magazine (Oct. 2009) that John Brown, abolitionist, was effectively a living saint who straddled modernity and age-old vengeance traditions and led the United States into the only just war in its history through the deft use of language, symbolism, action, and his own personal, god-like powers. Perhaps I overstate Bordewich's case somewhat. However, he quotes liberally David S. Reynolds, whose biography of John Brown is still the most asinine thing ever put to paper by a cultural studies nitwit, and so I don't trust Bordewich to tell me anything about Brown that I couldn't get from the slurrings of an idiot.

To take Brown as a revolutionary figure is fine. He was certainly that; but in a nation that rather frowns upon revolutionaries outside Washington & Friends, it is curious how often we are asked to re-examine John Brown's insane actions and lend them our approval.

In Bordewich's hands, you might almost believe that Brown was our greatest orator (Reynolds thinks the functionally illiterate Brown was our greatest author!) and hero, the symbolic leader of the free nation.

Or, you can go to the historical record.

The raid on Harper's Ferry was not Brown's signature moment, though his harebrained fans seem to think so. This is because Harper's Ferry was two debacles in one, the second being the ineptitude of the attempt by a young Robert E. Lee to dislodge Brown and his supporters from the armory. This comedy of violence masks the utter bankruptcy of Brown's "plan," to raise a slave army, and his own use of barbaric violence against anyone he believe to be his ideological opponent. "Ideological opposition" is, in fact, the key to understanding Brown. He didn't so much challenge slavery or wage war on the institution, as he did on people who agreed with the institution -- quite literally doing what I have threatened to do many times: take a club and go out in the streets and beat the other side's supporters to death. I understand the impulse, but I also know that Republicans (in my case) aren't solely defined by the things about the GOP that piss me off. Do I think Republicans are bad people? Sure. Do I think they waste their brains and talents on abortive political efforts? You bet. But do I hold the rank-and-file responsible for the leadership and traditions of the entire party, or do I hold the leaders and traditions of the party responsible? In other words, am I an intelligent political actor operating within a culture or am I a barbarian?

The visceral, disorienting experiences that can dislodge a subject from his place within a polity make for interesting studies. Brown's experiences are no exception. But don't make him the hero he cannot be; murderers aren't "controversial," their places in history aren't so "disputed" that we have to make fools of ourselves pretending to weigh the "cause" against what really happened. John Brown was a crackpot -- a perfect analog for Conrad's Kurtz, gone seemingly "mad" in his clumsy lunge at primitivity and a certain kind of freedom; truly mad, though, in all the terms that matter to thinking, political beings. A little off-point, of course, as an observation since (and Conrad's readers, Coppola's viewers, and Brown's acolytes always forget this) Kurtz/Brown isn't the most important, or even interesting, character in the story. The Africans are the objects of fascination and the impetus for madness.

"What are they going to say when he's gone, that he was a kind man? That he was a wise man?" They wouldn't say it about Kurtz and no one should be saying it about Brown, another man without a country intellectually, morally, and by his choice.

Brown was compelled to launch his bloody career as a terrorist by the "sacking of Lawrence, Kansas," an event where perhaps a thousand supporters of slavery in the territory attacked Lawrence, destroyed the anti-slavery newspapers, burned down the governor's house, and almost got away without killing anyone, until a piece of falling stone struck and killed an anti-slavery man who was apparently standing right next to a collapsing building.

The fact that no pro-slavery person had actually killed anyone in Lawrence made no difference to Brown, who became further enraged when Preston Brooks beat Charles Sumner (though recent work suggests strongly that Sumner, no fool at political theater, exaggerated his injuries for months in order to keep abolitionists at a fever pitch) and assembled his own small posse, including four of his sons, to get revenge on...well, somebody.

During the late night of May 24, 1856, the lynching party made its way to the Pottawatomie creek area, forced its way into the homes of three known or suspected advocates of slavery (not slave owners, mind you, just people who agreed with the totally legal practice of owning slaves), removed five adult men, and hacked them to death with swords, in at least one case in full view of the man's family. Just swell! For this brave action, as David S. Reynolds and Fergus Bordewich, among many Brown cheerleaders, will tell you, our hero was vilified and treated like a common criminal! Jesus wept!

Becoming a posthumous American hero apparently depends entirely upon the declining intelligence of historians and pop writers approximately 150 years after one's demise. You need not be consistent, or even rational. Your cause need not have focus, structure, or bear any resemblance to the accepted norms of protest -- even extreme protest -- of the dominant culture. One may apparently absent oneself from that culture, at any time, declare oneself a prodigy and literally hack one's opponents to death for espousing an idea in support of a lawful behavior, regardless of whether said victims -- I mean, opponents -- act on that support, and one will be transformed into a crusader for the justice of God and man, the inducer of any subsequent event (like a Civil War) that settles the issue that, in hindsight, clearly justified murder, and the originator of all good things remotely related (like the Civil Rights Movement). Basically, everyone since John Brown has done jack shit. It was him all along!

Or, reasonable people might wish to begin drawing some boundaries with the worship of America's most historical terrorist. John Brown's cause, as ragged and sloppy as it was in his hands, was just. But he was not. He was a murderer and a psychopath whose hate for something too big for his mind to comprehend was so debilitating that he attacked only its most junior, albeit accessible, minions. Brown was a crazed hunter whose psychic breakup not only drove him into the mouth of a tiger, but caused him to hold human life so cheaply that he ensured all his followers were eaten up, too.

And yet, the editor of Smithsonian: "For his part, Bordewich came away from the story surprised by Brown's personal tolerance: 'That is to say, he had among his friends and followers people of various religious persuasions, as well as atheists and agnostics. He hated slavery, but he was not a bigoted man.'" But naturally, one is always driven to cold-blooded murder by something other than bigotry. Great fucking God.

Because Yankees Fans are Masters of Reality

My favorite post-FJM baseball blog advises the millions of followers of a certain pinstriped Microsoft-with-balls "not to panic."

Yeah, because Yankees fans are smart, realistic, observers, known for their patience, calm, and respect for the game and especially for other teams and players who beat them.

I'm sure Yankees fans across the world are saying, right now, things like "Heck, that Cliff Lee sure was good last night! But, we still have a payroll bigger than the GDP of several nations, so we have all the talent necessary to stage a comeback. One game at a time, I always say!" Or, perhaps in the reality-based world, Yankees fans are completely disregarding this piece of nonsensical "made just for you" advice, however well meaning, and are instead all like, "Yankees RULE! You SUCK! Yankees RULE!!" while also losing their shit emotionally and crying out to Jesus because, Fuck! How the hell can the highest-paid team NOT win an American sports competition? That's communism or somethingYankeesRULE!!

Monday, September 28, 2009

I'm Quite Savvy

Been a while, I know. Really wasn't planning to ever return, but man, sometimes you've got to pile on and you just don't have any other venue.

Please go check out this shit on Andrew Sullivan's blog:

"I have seven guinea pigs."

"I pay for pet health insurance for them."

"The costs run into the thousands."

"I'm quite savvy."

Oh, mercy. Stop it, you're killing me! "I'm quite savvy..." in what fucking way? No, how -- fuck, wh...oh, man. Jesu -- you poor idiot, do you realize what you fucking said? I'm reduced to writing like the transcript of GW Bush speech here, I'm laughing so hard. It's like, look, is our children learning responsible spending habits, budgeting, or how to balance wants and necessities?

Go broke and then eat those damn things! Fool!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The last Time...

...I read about a straw man this big, it was a review of the awesome Dark Night of the Scarecrow. Everyone should do as my parents did and show it to their kids in the middle of the afternoon at a time of year when it cannot even remotely be played off as Halloween preparation.

But I digress. I read Andrew Sullivan's blog on The Atlantic online (though if one has 2 other people contributing to a blog that's hosted by a magazine, does one still get paid to be a writer for the website? Isn't that a bit like farming out a dissertation to a bunch of research assistants?), and while he is sometimes a queen for drama (not like John Aravosis, that irritating fucktard), he's a solid reasoner. Sometime, though, he and his RAs will forget to comment much on what they are posting, thus making the "blog" a lot more like a news and opinion aggregator than a commentary site. We're all guilty of that, but about none of the other blogs on the internet have the traffic of Sullivan, so we can hold him and his research assistants to a higher standard.

So what is this? "I share Andrew's fears"?

Here's the cited quote, by Michael J. Totten:

"The United States has basically won the war in Iraq. No insurgent or terrorist group can declare victory or claim Americans are evacuating Iraq's cities because they were beaten. America's most modest foreign policy objectives there have been largely secured. Saddam Hussein's toxic regime has been replaced with a more or less consensual government. I doubt very much that Iraq will seriously threaten the United States or its neighbors any time soon. It isn't likely to be ruled by terrorists as it probably would have been if the United States left between 2004 and 2007. It's a relief. A few years ago, I was all but certain the U.S. would withdraw under fire and leave Iraq in the hands of militias. Even so, many have a hard time feeling optimistic about the future. Iraq remains, in some ways, a threat to itself."

There is a question I want to ask that isn't fair, doesn't engage with the reporting from the original article, and is based on a view that discounts all that has happened in Iraq since 2003. This denial of time and circumstances is decidedly problematic and rooted in a need to reiterate a stark, moral point. For, whatever the case at this moment, why even contemplate that the thing to take away from Iraq is that "we won," when doing so would be to forget the first and most searingly important fact of our presence there: it was brought about by obvious and treacherous lies? Lies that still have power, obviously, as Totten obliquely bases his favorable view of the occupation upon them.

"America's most modest foreign policy objectives (in Iraq) have been largely secured."

America never had any "modest" foreign policy goals in Iraq. If Totten could name one, that would be extraordinary, since none exists. Military occupation is not "modest;" the overthrow of political states is not "modest;" strong-arming other nations into supporting unilateral actions is not "modest;" enacting a neoconservative wet-dream is the opposite of "modest." What was the "modest" goal?

"Saddam Hussein's toxic regime has been replaced with a more or less consensual government."

That's some modesty right there, folks! We overthrew a dictator and then stood by while he was murdered in brutal fashion, while the country went straight to clan-warfare-hell, and then imposed a foreign political system that has resulted in another would-be dictator, Maliki, seizing power while, outside the few major cities, God only knows who is in charge. Why, it's floor-length skirts and high collars-level modesty! It's like a political burqa, it's so modest!

"I doubt very much that Iraq will seriously threaten the United States or its neighbors any time soon."

Here is that part about believing the lies. When did Iraq threaten the United States? I am unaware of even a single factual threat. Can someone help me out here? And in terms of threatening its neighbors, what? Iran: not threatened. Kuwait: there was that one time, but that lasted all of a week or so. Israel: has a nuclear weapon. Threatened? More like a threat -- not just to Iraq, either.

"It isn't likely to be ruled by terrorists as it probably would have been if the United States left between 2004 and 2007."

Where to begin. It also isn't likely to be ruled by outlaw bikers or carnival folk. Or, to put this ridiculous counter-factual speculation another way, it is still possible that Iraq will be taken over by time-traveling Ottoman Turks, because you cannot prove otherwise. All hail Osman!

"A few years ago, I was all but certain the U.S. would withdraw under fire and leave Iraq in the hands of militias."

Right, now we'll withdraw by agreement with the "government," under only sporadic fire and in-between IED detonations, and leave Iraq in the hands of the militias. Much better.

"No insurgent or terrorist group can declare victory or claim Americans are evacuating Iraq's cities because they were beaten."

Because, never forget, all wars in which the United States is engaged can only be judged in terms of what the United States thinks of as "victory" and what the United States has decided its enemies want. In this case, "terrorist group(s)" clearly wanted a pitched battle and final victory, and because they didn't get either one, and we left with some shred of our reputation intact (though no one, not even Michael Totten, surely, would argue that the US is even remotely as respected as it was prior to 2003), we won. We won the "war" that only we were fighting, and the made-up goals we ascribed to our opponents have not been achieved, and so totalvictoryinyourfacemotherfuckers! Yeah!! You know who you are! I hope!

Nothing like taking an impotent, secular, easily controlled, easily thwarted regime and replacing it with a patchwork of ethnic clan-states in perpetual conflict with one another who all now have a bone to pick with Americans while handing over political recognition (even if somewhat illusory) to a new dictatorial regime. It's so much easier to come to favorable conclusions when you write off everything that happened prior to the sea-change, which is why when we look at Iraq, we should ignore everything except what's happening right now. I think I've heard that somewhere before, perhaps coming from the mouths of Republicans.


The most wonderful of today's ironic surprises is that you can read the most inane, drivelous (I hope that's a word) tripe in something called "American Thinker."

One wants only to smile. With every profession of not only idiocy, but misguided and scatterbrained idiocy, one feels reassured that, unlike Sarah Palin and, apparently, God, those with such inscrutable views will not "be back" on top anytime soon.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Bad Press

To paraphrase the New York Times (if its writers were time-warped to the 1940s):

"Where did all of Europe's Jews go? They seem to be missing. Some wonder what happened, and why, and who or what is responsible. But not us! We don't know anything about it. What do you want us to do -- ask? Who cares? It's a goddamn mystery, OK? Time will tell...or not. Whatever. Buy our paper!"

The United States' paper of record wants you to know that, whatever might happen and for whatever reasons, it's none of your fucking business.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Unless It's a Real Thing

People spend time thinking about the economics of giving shit away for free? Whack!

I'll tell you this: if you list any item on Craiglist and ask for $10, you get one set of respondents. If you list the same thing for free, you get the pushiest, most inane, most hateful set of people on earth coming after you and wanting not just the thing itself, but also your couch and your daughter. It's fucking insane. Buy a gun first and then try it.

So, yeah, I guess giving things away is cool...unless it's a real thing, and then Katy bar the door!

Fuckin' Right

Chad LaRose signed.

Fuck Pop Economists

Picture a man standing high above the ground on a tree limb. This man has a saw in one hand and $5 in his pocket, and he's busily cutting away the wood beneath his feet. Someone passing by sees him and yells up, "Hey, what are you doing? Can't you see that you're going to fall?" To which the man replies, "Sure, but I got paid $5 to chop this limb off, and anyway, I'm not convinced that ground down there is as hard as it looks!"

This, it seems to me, is the perfect encapsulation of the economic argument against environmental protection. Any person who would attempt to justify environmental degradation because there is money to be made is not just a fool, but a sociopath.

It's also very likely that, markets and economies being what we might call "man-made," and the natural world being what we might call "not man-made," or "real," that putting economics before environment is exactly backwards; it seems like trying to pay a cyclone to change course, or hoping that, if you get rich enough, you can buy the ocean and fill it in with concrete and that'll fix that problem. Or not.

This guy, in fact, sums it all up nicely.

Bwa-ha-ha? Ha ha? Mwa-ha-ha??

How do you type laughter?

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Stupid Sarah Palin

Maybe it's the internet culture of "firsties" or something, but I feel compelled to place my bet on the motive for Palin's abrupt and seemingly idiotic -- even for her -- resignation. In a nutshell: she is currently under investigation, she has already been deemed unethical as a public official, she and her husband are deeply weird and dishonest, and she has an apparently unlimited supply of skeletons and closets and a penchant for combining the two and then displaying them herself for all to see. Right now (that being the key) she is a cancer and, aside from the crazy base of the GOP that will salute in the Third Reich style just about anything that repulses 70% of the rest of the voting public, Sarah Palin could not get elected dog catcher in 2012 on the path she's headed. She tried to stay low, that didn't work. Then she came back, all "remember me? I'm back atcha!" and that flopped, too. Then she basically went nutso on David Letterman and never came to the point -- look, the last few months have been a fun stroll down last year's memory lane, but Palin has just reminded us all why we hated her so much and confirmed that, yes, we still hate her and wish her harm. Immediate and permanent harm.

So, today. Did she sound stupid? Check. Was the whole thing a little more than very crazy? Oh yeah it was. Did she manage that most daring of political-crazy feats, the so-stupid-it-turned-into-positive-exposure stunt? No. No, in fact, most of us are still chuckling at her and tossing out random guesses as to her real motive. So strike three!

But let's say she just disappears from politics for two years, starting now. What would happen in 2012 in the run-up to the campaign? I will go ahead and go all in on "GOP candidate X asks Palin to be an advisor and then, if nominated, makes her his VP choice." The outcry won't be nearly so loud or large then. She'll have already been there once. What's more, for a dumb dickhead like Mitt Romney, say, Palin is hillbilly heroin he can flood the South with and, like McCain but without all the pesky "is he crazy?" stories (because nobody thinks that highly of Romney), get an instant boost with that ol' crazy GOP base (unless it inbreeds itself out of existence by then, but I consider that unlikely). The general idea sounds plausible to me.

Probably sounded plausible to Sarah Palin, too. She doesn't like to work, is what it boils down to. She didn't have to do very much to become governor of Shitsville, USA, AKA Alaska, and then Old Man McCain plucked her out of Dog Patch to be his running mate and she didn't do much work on that, either. And now she'd like to be president or close to it but she hasn't ever actually done anything difficult in her life. So, time to retire! 2012 is still coming. All she has to do is wait. She has the name and, in fact, if you think about it she's basically freezing whatever is left of that name now, before it erodes further under the spotlight of an investigation of a sitting governor. Now she has a year or two to settle everything and then, I think, some Republican clown virtually has got to come begging for her endorsement.

I don't think she or her circle are very intelligent. But I think they understand that she can only go downhill between now and 2012 unless she gets out of office, Now she has. My guess is she gets a reality show or some other harmless, ridiculous gig to pay the bills, does her book tour, and surreptitiously works on growing her legend as a gone-too-soon leader in exile in advance of her return in a few years. The Republicans will be begging her to come back! Oh, and it'll destroy whatever vomitous dregs are left of the GOP, and blah blah blah whatever.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Best, Worst, and First

This remains my all-time favorite answer from an undergraduate history exam. It comes from the first batch of tests I ever graded from the US history survey (American history from 1877) and is a student's attempt to identify and explain the historical significance of "The Birth of a Nation" (the question did not identify it as a film, though we watched it in class). This is verbatim:

"Birth? Defined, 'birth' is an origin, a new beginning, a starting point. Nation? Defined, 'nation' is a place implying a sense of community, group, a sort of social unity. 'The Birth of a Nation' is the origin, the beginning of a community, social unity in the United States, particularly in Chicago where urbanization, industrialization, and immigration played a huge role in the success of the nation. Immigration begins the progress of industrialization with foreign people coming to the states in search of labor, freedom, and equality. Their labor enhances the workload, increases production, forcing industrialization to boom. Land laborers and factory workers are used frequently and is necessary for such success. Increase of population in small areas where work is nearby causes urbanization. Urbanization increases as production increases and immigration continues. Sometimes segregating certain groups of people, workers and bosses, or even certain races, for example Little Italy, Little Village, Cabrini Green, Greektown, Chinatown, etc....The movement of people from fields to the city originates a new social unity, 'The Birth of a Nation.'"

If you read it again with the cadence of a piece of slam poetry, it gets even better.