Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Final Vegas Phlog

At the Mirage. Insert tasteless Roy joke here...

Treasure Island is trying to rebrand itself as TI (Temptation Island). It's not a family destination any more (again).

When they pose for you... This was a big thing at PMA, having oddly clad models who would just strike a pose whenever they saw a camera pointed at them.

But you got a more telling picture when you caught them unawares.

This is Norman.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Dining and Culture in Las Vegas

Having a bit of free time yesterday morning, I made my way to the lobby of The Venetian, where I'm staying, and laid down my $15 to visit the Renoir to Rothko exhibit at the Guggenheim Hermitage Museum here in the hotel. It's kind of like a junior college survey course in modern art from impressionism to expressionism. Most of the collection are somewhat minor works by major artists. A van Gogh, a Cezanne, a couple of Braques, several Picassos, one Severini, 2 or 3 Legers, a few Kandinskys and a Rothko, accompanied by one of those little speaker phones with a Guggenheim curator explaining Kandinsky's religious symbolism in soothing tones.

Later in the evening we had imitation French food, in the imitation Paris, with an imitation snooty waiter, who I managed to score big with, getting at least a half dozen very good sirs. It was like a scene in a Woody Allen movie where each diner did their utmost to gain the waiter's approval and a jury of judges held up signs, scoring each interaction. "Ahh, sir, the 2000 Pinot, an excellent choice". 8, 7.5, 9, 9. "The sole, very good indeed". 7, 8.5, 9, 8. By the time dessert rolled around I was feeling the pressure. I really only had room for the chocolate mousse, but that seemed too mundane and I knew that I could blow the whole thing with a fall at this juncture. So I took the plunge, "The pear and chocolate crepe, please." A smile and a nod was all I needed to know that I had nailed the triple Lutz.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Friday Phlogging - PMA Vegas Edition

No time for captions. Suggestions welcome.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Just Checkin' In

In Vegas, which always promotes the requisite fear and loathing, rising bile, teethgrinding, etc., but the hotel is very nice.

Thanks to Our Girl in Chicago for her kind link and welcome to our visitors from About Last Night. Hope you find something here of interest.

Tomorrow I'll be working PMA (Photo Marketers Association) Tradeshow. So hopefully there might be some fun gear to blog about. I'll keep you posted.

Your Man in Vegas

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Not so very much poetry

A line from a Charles Bukowski poem I'm fond of...
... but as God said,
crossing his legs,
I see where I have made plenty of poets
but not so very much

Read the entire poem here.
2 Vases

A mid-week photoblog with a bit of image manipulation
Our Girl Discovers Netflix

Over at About Last Night, OGIC has discovered Netflix, the joys of creating a queue, and their fantastic library of classics, foreign films, and the usual Hollywood fare. I've blogged before on the benefits of Netflix, but I thought this a good moment to mention some of the fun and interesting things that Netflix has brought my way recently.

La Cercle Rouge: Jean-Pierre Melville's seminal crime movie defines "cool", or should I say Le Cool.

Thirteen: Don't see this if you have teenagers at home. Too scary.

Quai des Orfevres: Clouzot's tale of murder and ambiguity.

Swimming Pool: Charlotte Rampling... She's still got it.

Grand Illusion: Renoir's POW escape movie.

The West Wing, season 1: Late to the party, but this turned into a major marathon in our house.

A number of these, I would challenge you to find on the shelves of your local Blockbuster. I've also caught up on the available Bunuel films, which are sadly few, and my queue contains Fassbinder's BRD trilogy, some classic Lina Wertmuller films, Godard's "Contempt", Alex Cox's "Repo Man", Paul Verhoeven's "Soldier of Orange" and "The Fourth Man", on top of keeping up to date on new releases.

Unlike Our Girl, I tend to leave Hollywood classics to AMC and Turner Classic. If I want to see Bogart or Cary Grant they are usually on TV often enough, but for foreign movies and indies, Netflix can't be beat.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Coming Events

A couple of excursions this past weekend along with a planned trip should produce some interesting blogging fodder and photos, but other responsibilities may require a bit of patience on your part.

Over the weekend I visited my favorite bookstore in the South Bay, Kepler's of Menlo Park. Had a nice hike along the baylands, complete with some nice photos. Attended a 7 year old's birthday party at the Chabot Space & Science Center high above my old stomping grounds of Berkeley atop the Oakland Hills. The weather was great and the sky was a clear blue. You could see the entire bay. Pictures to follow.

I will also be heading out to a photographic tradeshow in Las Vegas, which depending on wireless connectivity could mean more or less blogging later in the week.

Stay tuned.

Friday, February 06, 2004

"Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk
into an open sewer and die." -- Mel Brooks

Friedrich Blowhard is Late to the Party, Again as he (re)discovers the comedies of Mel Brooks. As regular readers know, we never stopped loving Mel here at Futurballa.

P.S. Terry Teachout is celebrating a birthday, his 48th I believe. Visit his blog!

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Norah Jones

I must admit that Ravi's daughter is a musical guilty pleasure of mine.

Her new album is out next week and if you want to hear it now, VH1 is kindly streaming the whole thing. Just click on this link...

VH1.com : Norah Jones

Relax and enjoy.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Phlogging Today

Photo-Blogging or Phlogging is a fairly random exercise on my part. I always carry my trusty Canon s400 with me and when I see something that catches my eye, I snap a picture and often post it up here with little more than resizing, a quick lighting adjustment (usually Photoshop CS's powerful Shadows/Highlights adjustment), levels, curves, and maybe an unsharp mask. Sounds like a lot, but it is a pretty quick process. This is not serious photographic work, for that go to my site, futurballa.com, but just fun snaps and experiments that I thought worth phlogging here.

Today's shot were taken on the De Anza campus in Cupertino, California.

Some roots along a wall. A ton of sharpening to create an even more abstact look.

An old building on campus that has seen better days. Converted to black and white to enhance the drama of the sky and the feeling of decay.

Just liked the lines. Also converted to a monchrome image to better emphasize the shape and outlines of the composition.

I like staturary, shapes, and forms. They make interesting compositions.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Producers Central

This does seem to be the place where you come to get your news on Mel Brooks's The Producers. Though I admit to stealing most of it, or "linking" as we say in the blogosphere, from Terry Teachout.

And indeed, Terry has another delightful tidbit today. The Producers might be playing Berlin soon. Now that's irony, and not the "like rain on your wedding day" type.

Click here to read the whole thing.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Pretty Pictures

While I would be loathe, not to mention sadly outgunned in taking on AC Douglas on a question of "what is art"?, I would be willing to put in my 2 pfennigs in on a question of technique. In today's archived post (read it here), he discusses at some length whether color, landscape photographs can be art. He writes, and I quote at some length,
First, and easiest to tell and understand, is that, unless something abstract is intended, by the very fact of the photographs being color photographs of nature subjects, they're incapable of nuanced manipulation, and the color image rendered is just about guaranteed to be hyper-real in both saturation and hue, and therefore just about guaranteed irredeemably vulgar. Color photographs of nature subjects almost always are (I say almost to allow for the unlikely possibility that somewhere, by someone, there exists a color photograph of a nature subject that's not irredeemably vulgar).

Further, the color rendered in the image under any given natural lighting conditions is determined entirely by the manufacturer's "build" of the emulsion and its subsequent absolutely rigid processing, and the results are therefore exactly the same for all users, only extremely limited post-processing alteration of the color image being permitted with negative stock, and none at all with positive. (One can, of course, go to a third-generation print from an internegative made from the positive, in which case the extremely limited post-processing alterations possible using original negative stock would obtain, but with all the deterioration of image quality that third-generation implies).

Also, and perhaps more importantly, brightness ranges in nature are the most extreme of any location, and color stock, both negative and positive, but especially positive, can handle only a very limited portion of that range (as compared with black-and-white stock), brightnesses at the top of the actual scale going very quickly and abruptly to detail-less and texture-less off-color whites in the image, and at the bottom, to detail-less and texture-less blacks.

And so the image color and capturable brightness range are, ultimately, rigidly determined by the manufacturer of the film (and of the paper as well in the case of color prints), the putative artist being entirely at the mercy of the emulsions he uses, and therefore having to accept whatever color image those emulsions and their rigid processing produce, unless he chooses to go a manifestly abstract route, in which case the nature photograph becomes not a nature photograph at all, but something quite different.

Less easy to understand for many is the fact that a color photograph, unless manifestly intended as an abstraction, pretends to reality; that is, it pretends to render with fidelity things in the natural world as seen normally by the eyes of Homo sapiens, and it's due that very fact that the messing about with the color image is so severely limited. Go beyond that narrow limit and the color rendering is perceived instantly as in some way "wrong" or, worse, inept.

This problem, as well as the others noted above, is not a problem when working with black-and-white materials, negative and print, as a black-and-white print is instantly perceived as an abstraction from the get-go, and therefore the range and degree of manipulation of the image for expressive purpose -- both in- and out-of-camera, and at just about every stage of production -- is, at bottom, and within widely separated boundaries, limited only by the expressive gift and technical skill of the photographer.

The upshot of all this is that any color photograph of a nature subject, except in the rarest of instances (I'm again covering my ass here; I've never actually encountered such an instance), is just about guaranteed to have about it a sense of sameness with other such color photographs, and have about it as well a sense of the mechanically constrained, both of which are art-destroying at the most fundamental level.

I am certainly not going to offer up one of my own works on the alter of deconstruction, and I share much of his view that black and white photography lends itself better to the abstraction required to create art. And by limiting the discussion to landscapes, perhaps he makes his argument by not allowing for more specific compositions that can create some puzzle in the viewers eye.

However, I would argue that even with landscapes, the photographer has several artistic tools at his hand. While color positives do have very little latitude in processing and the photographer has limited control over the actual color reproduction, by the very choice of a specific emulsion, the photographer can exert a level of control. Saturation levels and color behavior are very specific from brand to brand and from film type to film type. Secondly control of lighting is in the hands of the artist. So much of landscape photography is about capturing a moment in time, a specific point in time when the light is just right. Further, the use of filters can create a level of abstraction that can make a landscape something other than a gaudy reproduction of a scene, better suited to Sunset Magazine than MoMa. And finally the landscape photographer creates his composition by picking his point of view and his choice of lens.

These factors can combine to create images that pass the "jabberwocky" test. I would perhaps suggest the work of William Eggleston and some of the other artists of the new topography school, a number of whom worked in color as well as black and white. These are not pretty pictures of Yosemite or Scotland, but images of our suburban landscape. I guess it is what the meaning of landscape is. And if you insist on categorizing landscape as scenery, I might offer up the work of Cole Weston (youngest son of Edward).

[Update: Mr. Douglas replies.]
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Alive and Well and Living in Paris

George Wallace, posting from his secret compound in Hiatus-port has a delilghtful double dactyl that reduces Hamlet to eight lines of verse. Click here.
We apologize for the wardrobe malfunction

From this AP story, it looks like MTV, Justin, Janet and CBS are all engaged in damage control.

Now, not to flog an expired equine, but does she always wear a pasty?

Sunday, February 01, 2004

What is this blogging thing?

Terry Teachout offers up a 15 point plan for bloggers. He makes some excellent points and even dares to stick his neck out here and there. For instance, number 9, "Within a decade, blogs will replace op-ed pages."

And I totally agree with the first two,

"1. It's almost impossible to explain what a blog is to someone who's never seen one. That's the mark of a true innovation.

"2. I know very few people over fifty, and scarcely any over sixty, who "get" blogging." Heck, it's hard enough to explain blogging to my wife.

Read it here.

Terry and Our Girl have also revamped their blogrolls, of which I am proud to be a part. Check it out.

I should be so organized.

Friday, January 30, 2004

Friday Phlogging

My Office Toys. My pride and joy is the Sigmund Freud Action Figure. Does anyone know where I can get a My Dinner With Andre Action Figure?

Thursday, January 29, 2004

McGovern '72

Via Buzzflash.com today is an interview with former Senator and Presidential candidate George McGovern. I met Mr. McGovern once. I was thirteen years old, and had volunteered for his campaign, spending hours after school stuffing envelopes. The LA headquarters office was invited to attend one of those couple of hundred a dollar a plate fundraisers for the cost of the food. It was at one of the older, classier LA Hotels like the Biltmore, and a good portion of Hollywood had turned out. I was certainly starstruck to be rubbing elbows with many movie and TV stars. I remember seeing Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, and Dennis Weaver, among others. Being 13 I was just as impressed to see the guy who played McCloud as I was to see Warren Beatty.

Towards the end of the evening a line formed to shake hands with the candidate, and the campaign office manager pushed me to join the queue. When it was my turn, I was pretty well speechless at meeting the candidates, but he smiled down at me and shook my young hand.

George McGovern did not win that year, but he was right about Vietnam and would have saved the country the shame of Watergate. He was a good man and a thinker who continues to express himself intelligently on issues of war and peace.

Read the interview here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004


Magnificent Union of Digitally Downloading Artists
Brian Eno and Peter Gabriel have joined forces to produce a manifesto for musicians. Artist manifestos seem somehow something out of the 1920s that you would expect from Giacomo Balla or Tristan Tzara, but if anyone today has the creds to be writing manifestos, these are your guys. Call it perhaps Discreet Strategies for the new century.
Their pamphlet lists ideas for artists to explore once they're freed from the confines of the CD format. One might decide to release a minute of music every day for a month. Another could post several recorded variations of the same song and ask fans what they like best.
Click here to read the whole thing.

The Passion
Salon (subscription or daypass required) has an interview with the Reverend Mark Stanger of San Francisco's Grace Cathedral, who had the opportunity to view Mel Gibson's The Passion. He has some interesting viewpoints on the theological accuracy, and why Jews, Arabs and Christians should be concerned about the message of the film. Read it here.

Adams at 102
Friedrich Blowhard analyzes Ansel Adams' composition and offers some thoughts on Adams the artist. This is why I visit the Blowhards on a daily basis. A gem of a posting.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Kurt's Rejoinder

Looking through a book of Man Ray photographs yesterday, I came across a series of portraits of Dadaist artist and composer Kurt Schwitters. Schwitters is probably best known for his collages, but he is also the composer of the Ur Sonata, which was immortalized in Brian Eno's, Kurt's Rejoinder, from the album Before and After Science. The song features samples of a recording of the Ur Sonata in Schwitters' own voice.

I couldn't find the same images online, but I found this image that I believe was taken by his son.

It is very similar to the images in the Man Ray book. Notice his mouth. Could he be performing the Ur Sonata? In the images in the book, there were four, he had his lips pursed in a different shape in each image.

And Here is a Schwitters collage that is typical of his work.

Cabin Fever

As regular readers may be aware, I have a soft spot for horror and zombie movies. There was a time when George Romero, Tobe Hooper, David Cronenburg, John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Sam Raimi et. al. were churning out top quality genre pix that were both fun and intelligent. But as with all things Hollywood, the execs take over and Jeepers Creepers 2 is the result.

Once in a while though, and usually from the indie/arthouse circuit comes a little film that harks back to the heyday of 70s and 80s horror. Cabin Fever is just such a movie.

An interesting homage to seventies and 80s horror films. An astute eye will pick up bits of Evil Dead, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, (a lot of) Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Rabid. Director Eli Roth hauls out every cliche in the book, but still manages to make a highly enjoyable film. Because of, more than in spite of the self-referential style.

It is a movie that cares about the details, and gets them right. Starting with the soundtrack, the "Mike Curb" pastiche of the generic pop music that these horror movie college kids listen too, is perhaps the first sign that this movie is extremely aware of itself. Spice that up with the fact that the "Hills Have Eyes" types party to folk music, and some John Carpenter style title music, and to add to the general eerieness of the whole thing, a number of themes by David Lynch collaborator, Angelo Badalamenti.

Roth also doesn't shy away from the requistie teen sex and nudity that was never missing from many of the seventies classic slasher and horror pix. Recent horror films seem to hug the PG13 rating for dear life, while pushing the envelope in violence and missing the boat in real scares.

It's got a fair bit of gore, no one will win an Oscar for their performance, it definitely looks low budget, and it is not for everybody, but for fans of the "classics" of the genre, it fills a need. The ending does haul out about five variations on classic horror movie endings. Could be a bit tighter. And the tounge is occasionally too firmly in cheek. Comic relief yes, make it into a borderline comedy, no.

It also stars "Boy Meets World's" Rider Strong, who has the best pornstar name in the business.

Update: After posting this I discovered that Polly Frost also had something to say about Cabin Fever. Broadly speaking, we agree. Read her review here.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

A New Gallery

I took these pictures on a trip down to the Big Sur and Point Lobos areas along the Monterey Coast on Highway 1 about a month ago. A photographically inclined friend and I headed out before sunrise to capture the morning light. It was a day of odd and changeable weather, but we had a few opportunities that involved perilous U-turns and screeching into turnoffs along the highway to catch a good view.

These images were shot in Kodak Ektachrome Transparency Film and scanned into Photoshop CS.

Click here to visit Futurballa Photography and then click on the Big Sur & Point Lobos Gallery link.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Goodbye Captain

Bad day in the obit column, we lost Ann Miller and I just read that Captain Kangaroo, Bob Keeshan has passed away (here). The Captain, along with Romper Room, was the kid's show of my generation. A bit too young for Howdy Doody, and too old for Sesame Street, us Forty-Somethings were entertained and babysat by Captain Kangaroo and his pal Mr. Green Jeans, along with Dancing Bear, Bunny Rabbit and Mr. Moose. He was the surrogate grandfather of my generation.

Interesting factoid, Keeshan also played Clarabell the Clown on "The Howdy Doody Show" for five years.
Friday Phlogging

Looking through an iron turtle.

And staying on the theme. Looking through a....

Glass Onion

I told you about strawberry fields
You know the place where nothing is real
Well here's another place you can go
Where everything flows
Looking through the bent backed tulips
To see how the other half live
Looking through a glass onion

I told you about the walrus and me, man
You know that we're as close as can be, man
Well here's another clue for you all
The walrus is Paul
Standing on the cast iron shore, yeah
Lady Madonna trying to make ends meet, yeah
Looking through a glass onion
Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah
Looking through a glass onion

I told you about the fool on the hill
I tell you man he's living there still
Well here's another place you can be
Listen to me
Fixing a hole in the ocean
Tryin' to make a dovetail joint
Looking through a glass onion

- Lennon and McCartney

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Once, Twice, Three Times a Classic

Aaron Haspel posted A Critic's Dictionary several days ago, but it took me until this morning to have a minor epiphany about what it is I disagree with. The salient paragraph, which I would take a (small amount) of issue with is this...
Surprise! Nothing is worth seeing or reading that isn't worth seeing or reading twice, and the second time you know how it turns out. Dickens wrote three endings for Great Expectations; Hollywood tests movies with alternate endings all the time. What happens in the last two pages or the last thirty seconds just cannot make that great a difference. The chick in The Crying Game is really a dude, and Kevin Spacey's Keyser Soze, OK? If you're watching a movie or reading a book to find out what's going to happen, I suggest, with all due respect, a more productive use of time, like filing your corns or catching up on the details of Britney's annulment.

While I agree with the basic premise that nothing is worth seeing that isn't worth seeing twice, I would, in fact, go Aaron one better and say that nothing is worth calling a classic (especially in terms of cinema) that isn't worth seeing thrice.

A couple of case studies.

The Usual Suspects: Kevin Spacey is Keyser Soze. In the initial viewing we are in suspense, it's a puzzle to solve, we have the "ah hah" moment at the end. Second viewing we can watch to see how the director left clues for us, we can enjoy the irony of being in on the joke. Third viewing it remains a sharply written, well acted film, and even though we are familiar with the twist, it remains fun.

The Sixth Sense: First viewing, same as above. Second viewing, similarly, not too bad, because it is enjoyable to see where clues had been placed. Third viewing, don't bother, it's a bore.

Of these two, I would argue that The Usual Suspects is the really good movie, and that it takes the third viewing to establish that. Even a mediocre movie might deserve a second look, just to figure out where the mirrors were hidden, but there does have to be something beyond a twist to sustain a third viewing. Whether it be great dialog (see yesterday's post, here, for a snippet), great direction (Citizen Kane, it is of little consequence that you know what Rosebud is), or great acting. There are also movies, such as The Crying Game, or Memento that are all about the twist or the gimmick and hardly rate even a second viewing. However, in the case of The Sixth Sense, which is a clever movie but not a great movie, a lesser film may deserve, or at least remain enjoyable, for a second viewing.

Terry Teachout also had something to say on this (here), and thanks to Terry for a mention yesterday. Futurballa had a record (for this humble blog) number of hits. Welcome to our visitors from About Last Night. Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004


Terry Teachout taunts me with a clue to the source of his favorite film scene in the update to this posting. The scene in question is indeed a doozy. It is definitely noir. I thought at first Chandler, but then thought possibly James M. Cain, maybe the The Postman Always Rings Twice, but after a little sleuthing on my part (with a bit of help from Terry's cryptic clue) found out I wasn't far off.

Double Indemnity.

And here is the scene in question...

There's a speed limit in this state, Mr. Neff, 45 miles an hour.

How fast was I going, Officer?

I'd say around 90.

Suppose you get down off your motorcycle and give me a ticket.

Suppose I let you off with a warning this time.

Suppose it doesn't take.

Suppose I have to whack you over the knuckles.

Suppose I bust out crying and put my head on your shoulder.

Suppose you try putting it on my husband's shoulder.
Blue Skies Again

It's been a bit gray here lately, so when a bit of clear blue peaks out, I must grab the trusty s400 from my jacket pocket where it lives and take a quick snap.
The Agony, The Agony

I hope for Terry Teachout's sake that Amazon is treating him better than Barnes and Noble is treating me. Shipping of The Rules of the Game has been delayed.

Heavens to Murgatroid!

And for the cinephiles among us Terry opines on Casablanca. And then gives his favorite bit of movie dialog, but I can't for the life of me place it. Terry, help me out here?

Tuesday, January 20, 2004


A Mac, iMovie, a couple hundred bucks, and off to Sundance. Amazing what you can do with a computer and free software these days. From Wired.com.

Ever get the feeling you've been cheated? I have.

Lisztomania... AC Douglas puts on his trenchcoat to solve a musical mystery. Here.

Couple of nice postings by Terry Teachout. Commenting on Lileks love of 60's opening credits here. On how a compulsive dogearer could never tear a page out of a book, here (and Terry, I'm with you 100% on this one). And on why blogs are the place for slightly late book reviews and it's ok to promote yourself, here.

And speaking of promoting yourself, shop at futurballa, here.

What Happened?

We will stay on politics for another posting because something great happened last night. Conventional Wisdom got a kick in the pants, and I always enjoy that. After weeks of listening to cable pundits (and I probably watch way too much cable news) say that Dean was unstoppable and the rest of the Dem candidates could just go home, things turned out very different in Iowa. John Kerry took 38%, John Edwards 32%, Dean came in a distant third with 18%, and Dick Gephardt is scheduled to drop out of the race today after garnering only 11%.

No one knows now what will happen in New Hampshire next week, where Wes Clark is added to the mix and the momentum from Iowa will certainly give a boost to Kerry and Edwards' campaigns.

Personally I could live with Kerry, Clark or Edwards as the party candidate. I am leaning Clark, but think Kerry or Edwards would make fine candidates. The problem with Dean is not his politics or his positions, but his ear. Last night I watched the speeches, concession and otherwise. Dean's triumphalism in the jaws of defeat did not come over well to me in comparison to the graciousness fest that the other candidates were taking part in. And personally, in spite of the pronoucements by the media in recent weeks, I don't think the math adds up for Dean.

Dean seems to have energized a base in the party and have a pretty solid support in the area of 20%. But what happens when other candidates start dropping out, who does their support go to? Will Lieberman supporters go to Dean? I doubt it, they will want someone with a more centrist reputation. I say reputation because I think most of the Democratic candidates, at least the ones I've mentioned, are centrist, but reputation and how the media paints them is equally important as reality. Now that Gephardt is out of the race will his supporters rally around Dean? I think not, much more likely to go to Kerry or Clark. I think you get the point. I just don't see Dean being the last man standing when the field starts thinning out.

Just a quick note to end this posting about yesterday's rant. I just want to say that I admire Michael Blowhard's writing and more often find his postings on culture and the arts to reflect my views than not. I merely took issue with how he framed the argument. In fairness I've read Michael's responses in the comments of his blog and read his interview with Jim Kalb this morning. It seems to me that both Michael and Jim are reasonable people who came to a personal political philosophy that is positive and well thought out. The problem with these sorts of discussions is we all define the argument in our own way. Michael and Jim define the terms conservative and liberal and build an argument that supports those definitions. Myself I am a more pragmatic and less philosophical type. I define the terms by the actions of those who label themselves conservative and liberal. I see people calling themselves conservatives pushing the country into war, giving tax breaks to the very rich, and participating in corporate cronyism. I see progressive and liberal voices for a multilateral foreign policy, helping the middle class find jobs, giving tax incentives to the poor, and protecting our environment. I form my worldview based on what I can see, not on abstract philosophy.

Monday, January 19, 2004

In Honor of Iowa

It seems that it is a day for culture bloggers to foray into politics, as Michael Blowhard, here, explains his evolution to the right and George Wallace waxes poetical over caucuses (cauci?), here.

First Mssr. Blowhard, describing what drove him from lefty to righty, writes, "But something kept nagging at me. It was the voluptuous pleasure so many of the lefties I knew took in demonizing something they called "the right." They'd get this gleam in their eyes; they'd start muttering about racism and sexism; they'd start feeling all rabid and charged-up ... It seemed like the behavior of lunatics; what it reminded me of most was the way depressed people try to raise their spirits. (Interesting how many lefties -- so pleased with themselves for being so liberated -- turn out to struggle with bad, long-term depression.)"

Anyway, it bugged me. I started paying attention, and I started noticing something else dismaying: the righties who were being denounced, ripped apart, and cursed were often my people -- "my people" in the sense of my family, my childhood neighbors, my friends from public school: the kind of people I grew up among, Republicans almost to a soul. People I love, in other words, and who (whatever their faults) are among the kindest, most pleasant and generous people I've known. I've never seen them not wish other people well; whatever voting lever they pull, on a person-to-person level they're far more human and welcoming than many of the vain, cockatoo lefties I now live among."

While I would not question his politics or his good intentions, and have no doubt that many of his arty/lefty friends took delight in demonizing the right, I think he is guilty of making some specious comparisons here. To say that the right is not capable of demonizing the left is to ignore the 90's and all of talk radio, much of the internet, Fox News, Ed Gillespie, Pat Robertson, Tom Delay, and Trent Lott, to name a few demonizers. And to say the attitudes of urbanite, artistic lefties is not as down home friendly as suburban middle America Republicans ignores that there are down home, suburban lefties outside the arts that are just as friendly and real and generous as the people he grew up with.

If Michael wants to broaden his horizons, fair enough, broaden them from the middle out in all directions. But it would seem that he is more concerned with justifying his political evolution than in truly spreading his wings. I lean left, no question, but I will not argue that the left is incapable of demonizing their opponents and political correctness is the bane of intelligent discourse, but to ignore the abuses of the right is to ignore reality.

Mr. Wallace who is one of the nicest, right-leaning people I know offers a double dactyl on Iowa. Which I'm sure he will not object to my reprinting here...

All Have Won, and All Must Have Prizes

Caucus race, caucus race:
Iowa Democrats,
Gathered in living rooms,
Diners and gyms,

Listen attentively,
Ponder their options, then
Follow their whims.

The Fool is becoming double dactyl central.