Friday, May 16, 2003
Bush Is Too Artsy For Me
Both Kevin Drum and Sue and Not U are bringing the pain today, concerning the Bush team's extraordinary efforts to doctor Bush's image at all times. From the NYT article both of them are citing, Sue points out that Bush's image team have to work especially hard in comparison to Clinton's image team, because Clinton didn't naturally present himself as a buffoon; and Kevin focuses on the travelling backdrop sets designed by Scott Sforza.
I'd like to say that I accept that presidents tightly control their image, and that kissing babies and photo-ops are part and parcel to the job. Every time I hear these kinds of reports, though, it highlights for me the need for balanced media coverage, and now, regulation. Some media outlets will not report the numbers or efforts involved with a carrier landing, but I don't think they have the right to box out those reports controlling local coverage. For NYC, a city with three successful dailies, local competition will survive even in the face of extreme deregulation, and it's not so important; but for, say, San Angelo, Texas, owning three basic news channels means you own the news. What do we have then when all three of those channels refuse to air Democratic commercials critical of Bush in 2004?
posted by kriston at 1:27 PM........
Daniel at Trivial Pursuits has not one, not two, but three substantial posts on the martial art/self-defense style, Krav Maga. He had mentioned it a few times and I'd also read about it other places; a few others and I asked him to write up a review, and he coureously obliged.
I was interested in it because I'd like to try a martial art once I move and have a chance to better organize my time, reinvent, all that stuff. I've felt averse to the more traditional martial arts because of their emphasis on spirituality, for the same reason I'm repulsed by Yoga. (Don't doubt the limits of my aspirituality. I guess you could say I'm a real asoul.) From Daniel's description, it sounds like it's grounded in real survival defense, which is fine, but not a way to harnass energies or anything like that. Good for me. It seems that Daniel feels an exceptional connection to his Jewish heritage and person when he practices Krav Maga, which is equally good for him, and comments well on Krav Maga (different strokes for different folks.) I'd want to do it for the workout, of course, and because I find something noble in the idea of practising your body (which I don't really do) like you practise your mind (which I try to do.) Not so much because I've ever felt much in danger--though I'd like to see some Russian police try to mug me after a year or two.
Anyhow - I highly recommend these posts (and Daniel's weblog in general, which I'm adding to the roll call), and all apologies if I've butchered your explanations on KM, Daniel.
posted by kriston at 12:20 PM........
Thursday, May 15, 2003
Killer Ds Ain't Nothin' to F*ck with
Ya heard me.
Whether they're sending state troopers to harass nurses in a neonatal unit or engaging a Homeland Security agency to track a state legislator's airplane, the Republican response to the Killer D Walkout shows a disturbing willingness to misuse state and federal law enforcement authorities, said Molly Beth Malcolm, Texas Democratic Party Chairwoman.
PG says (and probably rightly) that the worst is over. I'll just add that, though the redistricting bill dies tonight, and the Dems aren't a-comin' home til tomorrow, a special session for a number of issues could be called as early as June 3rd (the day after the regular session ends.) Gov. Perry hasn't really said one way or the other:
The boycott has prompted speculation that a special session would be called soon after the regular meeting ends, but the governor said a special session was "not even on the radar screen" right now. He sidestepped a question about whether he would call a special session to consider a new redistricting bill.
But gloom-and-doom NPR made a big deal of it this morning, I remember, saying that one Texas House Republican has pledged to bring it back in a special session. (Which would be different from reviving the bill, if I understand correctly. Reviving the bill after the deadline would require a 2/3 vote; and redistricting can't be tagged onto a Senate bill, either.) I can't imagine the Republicans would try this, considering the fairly good reviews the Dems received, and especially when questions linger about propriety on behalf of the Republicans.
The best part of all: NPR reported this morning that Willie Nelson sent the Killer Ds red bandanas and whiskey. How the hell are you gonna lose with Willie Nelson on your side? The Republicans can keep Toby Keith.
posted by kriston at 5:36 PM........
Via Calpundit and pretty much every other liberal with a pulse and working fingers, comes a terrible Weekly Standard rant by "assistant managing editor" (read: piss-ant. trust me.) David Skinner, about an article he read in the Washington Post. The article concerns a school ma'am's niggling grammar point on a PSAT sentence, which read,
"Toni Morrison's genius enables her to create novels that arise from and express the injustices African Americans have endured."
The usage of "her" is incorrect by Fowler's standards (in other words, it's kind of an old rule), because "her" refers to "Toni Morrison's genius," which isn't exactly "her." (Toni Morrison is in the genitive case, which can't be an antecedent for a pronoun. Like I said, pretty niggling.) Still, grammar is not what set Skinner off: his blustery column basically holds Morrison to task for being considered great for writing about her experiences as a black woman--clearly an overdone, rote, tired avenue in Skinner's estimation. His vague, general treatment of her work, with only a passing and unspecific reference to Beloved (he acknowledges it is her best-selling, but not the Pulitzer Prize it earned), has me seriously doubting he's ever read her at all. I mean, for Chrissake, he calls her work "incoherent" and "impenetrable," probably as accurate as calling Shaq a "pushover" or "sickly." Gravity's Rainbow even passes "impenetrable".
Then why'd he say it? Cause he's a racialist asshole. I'm probably splitting hairs by not just crowning him a racist, but in all honesty I don't know that he hates black people. All I see is that he reserves the right to tell African-Americans when they're done writing about their experiences, their culture, and that what passes now as "ethnic" writing is drivel as far as Mr. David Skinner, Assistant Managing Editor at that hallmark of literary goings-on, The Weekly Standard, is concerned, and everyone should stop harping about black writing cause it's all been done, I mean Jesus, persecution of blacks ended the day Lincoln emancipated the slaves so I wish they'd just get over all this affirmative action crap. Who is David Skinner? He's a small man, as far as I'm concerned, and though I don't really like Toni Morrison's writing either, I know for a fact she could eat Mr. Skinner alive.
I mean it, I'm no fan of Morrison, but certainly not because she chooses to say something personally about slavery. Few writers do I dislike because of the subject they choose to write about (Eggers and Pollack - but those guys always top my write-spite lists.) I guess Mr. Skinner will be added to that list, if he ever ends up as anything more than a prig.
posted by kriston at 3:20 PM........
'Wrap it up - I'll take it!'
A nice deal at Half-Price Books landed me with a great, cheap retrospective on Christo and Jean-Claude, the postmodernist artist team famous for wrapping everything from the Reichstag to a section of coastline. That purchase coincided nicely today with some local news, spurring me to write a short on public art.
Our fair city of Austin recently sponsored the installment of the city's first public-art piece. The piece is a series of 6-foot tall reflective blue rectangles installed along Lamar Boulevard, which will reflect solar-powered lights at night, giving Lamar a blue hue. (Sounds like an excellent project to me, though the Statesman's editorial board sounds pretty grumpy over it: the editorial is titled, WHAT'S UP WITH THAT? Art Project Hinders Traffic on Lamar.) The report indicates that the installation will be completed this weekend. About time - for the most eagerly liberal city in Texas, I'd set Austin far behind the more cosmopolitan Dallas and gallery-heavy Houston when it comes to art showing. Considering that Austin's best architectural aspirations were dashed by the University of Texas (whose Board of Regents, led by the artless efforts of Rita Clements and Tony "Dirty" Sanchez, snubbed the architectural giants Herzog and de Meuron), the city itself may be the best candidate for artistic fora.
Public art addresses some interesting conceptual questions regarding the museum: think of the difference between seeing an exhibit in the Smithsonian and driving by a nasty pile-up on the highway, and you see how a "spectacle" takes on different connotations under different circumstances. (Imagine even that the museum piece was some installation of a car wreck, and you would still get different responses.) Without getting pedantic, the museum-semiotic aspect is one good frame of reference for accessing Christo and JC's work. By wrapping familiar objects and locales, Christo/JC introduce an element of observation that changes the referents by which you might normally relate to the object. I personally believe that this is most successful outside of the sphere of the museum, where you're encouraged to check your referents at the door, particularly after the successes of Damien Hurst, Jeff Koonz, and Andre Serrano. Leaving the museum for the public arena introduces new semiotic "baggage," but I think Christo/JC usually do a good job of predicting and assimilating these difficulties into their work.
Anway - their newest project, officially sanctioned for NYC by Mayor Bloomberg last January, has been a long time in the works. The Gates involves literally 7,500 gold, 7-foot high gates installed along 23 miles of footpaths through Central Park. The project, like all of their works, will be entirely funded by the sale of preliminary sketches, scale models, and the like--NYC contributes zero. In fact, The Gates even gives a little cash to NYC: a localist social factor has always been a component of their work, and they will be providing jobs for manufacturers, maintenance teams, and removal teams. (I can't remember where I read it, but I remember seeing that Christo/JC will focus on providing opportunities for NYC's indigent population.) I think that with the focus on the City since September 11th, the piece will be a crowning celebration following several artistic triumphs (the 9/11 Memorial, still at contest, and the new World Trade Center), and the project will be of a scale unseen yet in even ultracosmo NYC. That scale will create a lot of levels for the piece: I didn't consider, for example, that the piece can be experienced not only by walking around and under them along the footpaths, but by viewing them from afar, where they will seem like a long, contiguous golden line weaving through the park.
February, 2005, is when you want to plan your next trip to the Big Apple. With any luck I'll already be there working with Christo and Jean-Claude.
posted by kriston at 1:02 PM........
It seems that proceedings are underway to free the Tulia 13, four years after their initial conviction. That gross oversight aside, assuming that Gov. Perry signs the unanimously approved Senate Bill 1948, this is a huge victory for Texas justice. Sounds as if cop Tom Coleman was a pretty nasty guy, and he's now being indicted for perjury, so I hate to overly praise state leaders for doing what was moral and necessary. Still, it's a rarity to see judicial, administrative, legislative, and beuracratic forces working in tandem to make something right. Encouraging. I'm hesitant to say that this will amount to real change further down the road for our notorious justice system--we still have too many legit avenues for overconvicting poor, drug-addled minorities--but everyone gets to have this victory for the meantime.
posted by kriston at 10:10 AM........
Tuesday, May 13, 2003
Big Media Ascendant
Michael Powell will have his way with a strong new media deregulation proposal. The FCC is now clearly in the throes of an anti-regulation seizure of a spazmoticism that we haven't seen since the rise of Reagan. Really, Nixon-era regulation, draconian by anyone's standards, put the permanent heebie-jeebies into the Republican party--so much so that even when conservatives are given charge over a regulatory commission, they still tirelessly pursue the dismantling of regulation. In this case, when Powell talks about the market, he is allowing for the potential for one media company to reach 90% of television viewers and own other mediums as well--and he can do so, with a straight face, while chairing the media regulatory committee, whose job it is to ensure that competition and localism are sanctioned. Reasoned expectations, anyone?
Paul Krugman summarizes the move succinctly:
The issue was a proposal by Michael Powell, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, to relax regulations on media ownership. The proposal, formally presented yesterday, may be summarized as a plan to let the bigger fish eat more of the smaller fish.
It is a good choice of words; the big fish are already eating the smaller fish, and the FCC's maneuver would be the equivalent of removing the natural restriction of a limited appetite. In a lecture on the proposed direction of the FCC, commissioner Michael Copps outlined his concerns:
Why am I concerned? I don’t believe that we have the foggiest idea right now about the potential consequences of our actions. We have a model to look at for what eliminating concentration protections might do to the media – the radio industry.
Bringing us full circle in the cycle of evil to Clear Channel, who provide a timely example of how important concentration restriction is. (Clear Channel, having thoroughly affronted the English language, would like to try their hand at Spanish. Pending FCC approval, Hispanic Broadcasting Corporation and Univision will merge, creating una fuerza destructora; Clear Channel is the majority shareholder of HBC. In the big markets, Univision already picks up more viewers nightly than any English news station.)
A few resources for further consideration:
- DIYMedia FCC Watch +
- Eric Boehlert's Clear Channel series for Salon +
- More recent Eric Boehlert on Michael Powell, FCC, and Clear Channel +
posted by kriston at 10:46 AM........
One on-topic note, and then bed
My roommate's right--he said that people use the word 'random' too often, and often misuse it at that. I agree, especially when it comes to weblogs. I think Matthew Yglesias noted a while back that people writing weblogs use 'rant' quite often, and he complained that a proper 'rant' is typically to be avoided. My dictionary gives a few meanings for 'random,' including 'without method or conscious choice' and 'given by a random process.' Doesn't apply to the mainly concise, subject- or politically focused writing of weblogs.
That said, I'd describe The Locust as sci-fi terror-core, and Christo and Jean Claude's work fails at the museum level, unless the work is the wrapped museum itself, and typing Christo is hard for me to do without putting an -n on the end, because it is very close to Kriston. On the way to the airport there are two signs bearing my last name, Capps.
posted by kriston at 1:20 AM........
Monday, May 12, 2003
New Texas Dem Motto: Ever'body, scram!
Seeeriously, folks. Our Dems are looking bad. The contest is turning into one between the Republican Empire and the Rebellion, because some legislatures our so dismally cornered by aggressive Repugnican majorities that they'd cheerfully enlist the support of the Ewoks. The Jedi Filibuster notwithstanding, some Democratic tactics reveal the signs of imbalanced warfare: for instance, the Texas legislature Democrats are all hiding. I'm not kidding. 59 of 62 Texas House Democrats are missing, and the Texas Rangers have been ordered to arrest them and return them to the legislature. The guerillas are trying to prevent quorum (100/150) so that the legislature will be unable to hack the state's spending or slash Austin--the single liberal oasis from Mass to San Fran--into three Republican districts.
Texas has an interesting record on, um, reticent politicians. During Reconstruction, a carpetbagger junta led by Gov. Edmund Davis ruled Texas; when a Southern Democrat, Richard Coke, walloped him in the governor's race of 1873, the incumbent requested federal troops from President Grant so that he could rebut the incoming Coke. Davis turned the governor's mansion into a fort and holed up for several days. It didn't turn violent, but the last bit of pure Civil War fighting was seen in Texas in 1888, under circumstances I can't remember. Actually, this 'Out Yonder' editorial from the San Angelo Standard Times's own Ross McSwain has the details. (Hey, if the NYT's going to lie to you, you gotta go somewhere for your news....)
Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin's district)--if you're out there, if you're listening, you'll find refuge here. We've got RC cola and old Nintendo, Hulk Hogan's Greatest Matches--and I'll even make country breakfast....
UPDATE: FOX News reports that the number missing was 58, and that some number of them were found late Monday in Ardmore, OK. They set up shop in a Holiday Inn conference room, discussing school finance among other issues. I heard this morning on NPR that the Dems said they'd flee each day that Republicans planned on putting forth redistricting legislation; since the Repubs in Texas have said they don't have time left in the session to address education or the budget, and I don't know what beyond the redistricting they're discussing, I foresee a lot of Democratic vacation time.
FOX News also had this bit of trivia:
The walkout came 24 years to the month since a group of 12 Texas state senators defied then-Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby by refusing to show up at the Capitol. Some of the "Killer Bees," as the 12 Democrats came to be known, hid out in a west Austin garage apartment while troopers, Texas Rangers and legislative sergeants-at-arms unsuccessfully combed the state for them.
It could be my house....
posted by kriston at 10:59 PM........
The weekend was solid--I had a blast with Sue. I was exhausted today, making it a perfect Monday for my boss to suggest that I actually do work. Considering that there wasn't an hour from Wednesday through Sunday that didn't find a beer poured into my gizzards, I'm going to take tonight easy. I have some points to make tomorrow about the FCC and the new Iraqi proconsulate (Barbara Bodine got shut down!), but I have an ethical question: on internet-y questionnaires and registration forms, when they ask for occupation, am I obligated to answer truthfully?
O Dedicated to promoting statistical accuracy
&c. The question is one of the most defeating I've heard after college (So what are you doing now?) and I hate that my computer is committed to throwing it in my face every time I socialize, consume, or engage anyone or anything online. My question is, for how long after college can you still lay claim to as-yet-unfulfilled college aspirations?
posted by kriston at 9:17 PM........