Thursday, November 20, 2003
Aloha, DCBusy day—there were a few noteworthy news items I felt like mentioning, but occasionally work interferes with my blogging schedule. (Lots of work, lately: I put in 40+ hours just between Monday and Wednesday.) Won't be getting to any articles this weekend either, because I'm heading to Boston tomorrow morning to see if this liver of mine can still give it the ol' college try. The friend whom I'm visiting swears that Boston is chock-full of historical points of interest, and that sounds good to me, so long as by historical points of interest he means cheap beer.
Anyway, feel free to say witty things that will amuse me greatly upon my return. I'd think up a good open-topic point of discussion, but there's an open-tab happy hour starting upstairs in three minutes, so... uh, what do you want for X-mas?
I'm waiting for this fabled economic up-swing to set in before I buy anyone presents.
posted by kriston at 4:27 PM........
Turkey AttackedAnother terrible attack in Turkey. With all my design blatherskite this morning I didn't see this story until now. The Guardian reports that "[a] group calling itself the Islamic Great Eastern Raiders Front told Turkey's Anatolia news agency that it had carried out the attack in the name of al-Qaida." I'm not sure if that's different from the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades, the group that claimed responsibility for the previous Turkish attacks and is purportedly a branch of al-Qaida—equally unsure if performing terrorism in the name of al-Qaida is the same as being al-Qaida, which I would think would imply some structural tie to Osama bin Laden and that hierarchy.
These attacks—along with a NYT report that foreign infiltration accounts for an absolutely marginal number of fighters in Iraq—are proof enough that the flypaper theory is not sound. Iraq has no WMD, the flypaper theory is not being realized, and terrorists are operating at will. We seem to be losing the war on terror....
MORE: Courtesy of Sue and Not U, the bad news continues to flood in, with a car bomb explosion in Kirkuk, Iraq, killing an as-yet undetermined number of people. US authorities are reporting 12 dead.
...and we really need to be fighting it.
posted by kriston at 11:38 AM........
The Dead Kennedys ft. Paul KrugmanI don't imagine that Paul Krugman has much to do with graphics decisions about his books, but the people who are saying that the UK cover of The Great Unraveling is shrill... well, it is awful. Go ahead, click the link... don't you think it's a bit below a man of Paul Krugman's stature? Economic Nobel prize-nominees don't need trashy, splash covers to sell their books, do they? That cover would make Reagan Youth blush.
It almost makes you wonder if the British just don't like Bush or something.
posted by kriston at 10:49 AM........
If It's Not Baroque......then build it. Herbert Muschamp, NYT art critic, calls the WTC memorial design finalists "baroque," and I'm in agreement.
I've been making a less-sophisticated criticism of contemporary design as being "Macintized." We're in a 50s era aesthetic: An incredible influx of new technologies has changed both products and processes, and it's trickled up from iBooks and Jettas to the way art/design is conceived. Sounds overcritical, but don't get me wrong. I love my iBook, and I'm all about translucent speakers, sleek can-openers, and cost-efficient contemporary office supplies—the products don't bother me. I'll even admit to browsing the online IKEA catalogue, which makes me feel guiltier than downloading porn.
But product design as an umbrella aesthetic—which Virginia Postrel argues is wonderful in her book, The Substance of Style—is the wrong path. I think DC's art star Dan Steinhilber is making a significant point by employing coat hangers and trashbags in arrays reminiscent of the sleek, minimalist style dominating the market. It's time for a return to the dirty: Sign me up for "shabby chic" or whatever and pass me a copy of Grant Morrison's The Filth.
But back to Muschamp's article. He describes how the entire September 11th memorial design selection process has been substantially removed from the politics that compromised Daniel Libeskind's World Trade Center design—a real testament to Anita Contini, the chair of the selection process. Nevertheless, all of the submissions were designed with politics in mind: shopping-mall inclusive, "overburdened with features," belled and whistled, Baroque. Designed to win instead of designed to memorialize, and that reflects poorly on the art world. To a great extent, compromise is the nature of public commissions, but, then, constratst these designs with the Vietnam Memorial. (Maya Lin, designer of that powerful piece—and really, I mean, it is moving—is one of the judges of the contest.) Muschamp explains that "[a]ll of us, it seems, are merely passengers on this super-fast-track express that our public officials have devised for our mourning experience," which is insightful—but a more general diagnosis might find a more pervasive bug in the state of design and aesthetics.
I'll still pick my favorite of the bunch and update the post below, once I've had a moment to sit down with them.
posted by kriston at 9:53 AM........
Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Choosy Art Fans Choose KellyIt's like Christmas Day! The WTC Memorial design finalists have been announced. You can use the NYT links for the video slideshows, or if your computer hates you, check out pictures and notes here. The jury that narrowed the extraordinary amount of entries down to eight will also choose the winner. Encouragingly all of the entries incorporate the slurry wall—anyway, you can read the article.
Exciting stuff—it's going to take a bit to pour over them, but just from a quick scan none stacks up to Ellsworth Kelly's unofficial offering.
Take a moment and cast your vote—very rarely do we see art debates here at G.p, or, well, in real life either.
posted by kriston at 2:51 PM........
Sully, Meet Bush. Bush, Oppress SullyI just don't get Andrew Sullivan. He just flies right over my head. Re the Massachusetts decision, he writes, "Freedom in America takes another exhilerating step," which is as joyous and celebratory a statement as any I've heard. 'Over my dead body,' says the President:
Marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman. Today's decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court violates this important principle. I will work with congressional leaders and others to do what is legally necessary to defend the sanctity of marriage.I know Sullivan doesn't speak only to his homosexuality, and it's tempting to dismiss him as incomprehensibly contradictory. He may very well be a more nuanced voter than I give him credit for—maybe Bush's foreign policy or the Republican domestic agenda is more pertinent than marriage, which may not loom in Sully's near future. Still, 9 of his 12 latest posts have focused on the Massachusetts decision, so even if the subject of gay marriage is only important to him in the abstract it's a very near and dear abstract. Vocally gay, vocally Republican: The cognitive dissonance must be overwhelming.
Not in the mood for the mental gymnastics? Check out Agenda Bender. They want us all to play nice-like with The Corner, 'cause those guys are seriously losing their shit over this.
Classy: "Let us tempt the world with our grace in partial victory." That's Agenda Bender.
Ignorant: "In many jurisdictions, a marriage can be annulled if it has not been consummated. What, exactly, constitutes 'consummation' of a gay marriage?" John Derbyshire of The Corner.
Stumped? Me too. The best I've been able to come up with is "IKEA."
posted by kriston at 2:24 PM........
An Apt AnalogyMy friends might tell you (probably with due frustration) that I'm a big stickler for careful analogies, and lately I've needled people who compare the recent homosexual rights docket to the Civil Rights era. That analogy chafes me by a few measures: 1) by political correctness, because analogies cut both ways and can water down the original point (a la the Holocaust, "Orwellian"); 2) by implied prescription, because these issues won't be resolved the same way; 3) by suggested co-history, which these issues don't share; and 4) by proportionality, an obvious difference. Bigotry is of course the major component of both crises but at last count, bigotry was parcel to about 110% of the world's problems.
So you're thoroughly annoyed with my wonking by now and that's understandable, but let me try to smooth things out with a better analogy, from a WaPo article on yesterday's landmark decision:
"I very much feel this case has a lot of resonance with what the California Supreme Court did in 1948 when it became the first to strike down a ban on interracial marriage," said Mary L. Bonauto, the lawyer who represented the seven same-sex couples who won in Massachusetts yesterday. "That was at a time when nine out of 10 Americans still opposed interracial marriage and no court had ever ruled in favor of it."That's more or less perfect: The rights for interracial couples to marry and the rights for homosexual couples to marry are analogous in all the ways that that queer rights/Civil Rights are not. The principal battles for both sets of rights were/are being waged in the courts. Moreover the two bear personal and geographic similarities: Interracial dating is societally recognized but still often frowned upon within the family, and an interracial couple is more likely to garner stares in, say, Burmingham than in Boston. When gay marriage is legalized I think the legacy will be the same. And obviously both are about sexual mores, which really locks the analogy.
MORE... Sully is feeling that analogy as well. I've got more on that guy in a sec.
posted by kriston at 10:34 AM........
Tuesday, November 18, 2003
Dear President, Please ExpatriateThe Guardian is reprinting a few letters issued to George W. Bush from the British (link courtesy of Hackmuth). It sounds like the natives are more than restless. Note how the letters read from citizens of a nation in which literacy is of some import:
Dear President Bush,If you thought that was to the point, well:
Dear President Bush,Crikey. As much as W's visit irritates the British, I'm perfectly fine with it, and in fact I hope Blair extends his hospitable invitation for an indeterminate amount of time, and extends his gracious welcome to Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice...
...DeLay, Rick Perry, Schwarzenegger, The Washington Times, whoever decided to stagger the DVD releases of Buffy, a certain married pair of professors from my alma mater, some ex-girlfriends....
posted by kriston at 2:34 PM........
For the Last Time: George W. Bush = YankeeThis sort of bashful Texas-talk coming from the mouth of George W. Bush irritates me to no end:
I'm looking forward to -- it's a huge honor to be invited by Her Majesty to stay in Buckingham Palace. It's hard to imagine me even considering staying in Buckingham Palace when I was living in Midland, Texas. It's just one of those things. And Buckingham Palace has got a tremendous mystique to it, and so Laura and I are really looking forward to coming.Matthew Yglesias calls it faux-populism:
I'm not sure if Bush is referring to the time he lived in Midland when his grandfather was a U.S. senator, or if he's talking about the period when he moved back to Midland (after Andover, Yale and Harvard Business School) while his dad was vice president of the United States. Either way we're nowhere near a rags-to-riches story here.Moreover, we're nowhere near a Texan. Had I one sentence to inscribe on the face of history, it might be right next to George W. Bush's picture in the encyclopedia: "George W. Bush, a governor of Texas who lost the 43rd US presidential election to Al Gore, was a Connecticut Yankee."
Not that it's such a terrible thing to be impressed by the Buckingham Palace, unless, of course, it's because you're scared of the British....
posted by kriston at 12:40 PM........
Jumping on the Tyler Cowan-Bashing BandwagonI always read lots of webloggers bashing on Tyler Cowan at the Volokh Conspiracy, and I always skip those posts. I'm no fan of the "How idiotarianic can this idiotarianic idiotarian be!" stuff, though Donald Luskin deserves it. But I'll finally take my shot at Mr. Cowan, who lists his top ten conservative dinner guests:
I'll opt for Socrates, Plato, Jesus, Paul, Beethoven, Hume, Shakespeare, Mondrian, and some of the Aztecs who fought Cortes. Of course, if I were still single, the list might be different altogether, and no, neither Ayn Rand nor Ann Coulter would be in the running.Suspend your disbelief with me that Top Ten Conservative Dinner Guests is a topic that is being actively discussed somewhere in the world. I'm also skipping over the fact that 'a bunch of Aztecs' qualifies as a Top Conservative Dinner Guest. No, I'm going straight for the jugular: Mr. Boogie-Woogie Man himself, Piet Mondrian. This is a terrible choice. The man died poor and alone for a reason. Everything I've read about him suggests he was an extremely austere and basic man, and that he liked dancing a lot, but you're going to have to skip over that detail or this post isn't going to work. Plus you know Mondrian would play with his food, arranging all the peas in a line and cutting little squares out of the bread.
So, Tyler Cowan: Hack! Fisk him! Idiotarian!
Yeah, I've got nothing.
posted by kriston at 11:36 AM........
Beware FPR!Nice quote, courtesy of Matthew Yglesias:
It may seem odd, given that mostly old people listen to NPR, but NPR is part of the mating ritual. For both the male and the female, listening to NPR sends a signal to a prospective mate: "Despite my current income, in a few years I will have a house in a neighborhood with good public schools, and I will drive a Volvo stationwagon." Women are sending an additional signal: "I consider myself smart and sophisticated and if I get pregnant, I will have an abortion. I might consider a three-way." Men signal back: "I won't try to stop you from getting an abortion, but I'm not afraid to cry if you do. I don't like guns, but I'm manly enough to camp and mountain-bike. I just love nature! A three-way sounds intriguing."Just want to note that if any DC readers are taking this to heart, you must beware FakePR. FPR is a radio station that sounds like NPR and is only like 0.2 FMs away. You'll scan down the FM dial and land on the first station that isn't rap, but that's not it. It's like NPR but with vignettes that last for four hours. Imagine NPR minus Car Talk, or (God forbid) NPR with Prairie Home Companion-quality programming, but all political, all day long. It's like C-SPAN, in your car. [shudder]
DC more than makes up for the deceptive FakePR with its hip-hop stations. I noticed the difference my first day here, when 50 Cent's "P.I.M.P." was playing, the version with Snoop, but with a substantive edit: The chorus was "C.R.I.P." (I hadn't heard that before, anyway.) The gangs to whom Snoop and Fiddy are proselytizing—less enthusiastic about them.
And the popular, condemned crackhouse at the end of our row, with all these horrible stuffed animals affixed to the windows, that comes in dead last.
posted by kriston at 10:53 AM........
Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the BushYou don't need to be a master orator to hold down the Oval Office—obviously. But if your public speaking skills are such a liability that you have to cow to the British, we have a real problem. Bush cancelled a scheduled speech before Parliament, fearing a round of rancorous questioning from MPs, making the US look like sissies because Bush couldn't recite a recipe without Rove's handholding. Hell, he's afraid of reporters!
Look, there are only four qualifications for being the President:
Apparently the Brits are also stiffed (but how can you tell?) about not getting much bang for the buck:
The decision to abandon the speech came as extraordinary security measures costing £19million placed London under a state of virtual siege ahead of Mr Bush's arrival tomorrow.For my American readers, "invited audience" means "Rupert Murdoch," and £19million is something like $45 American.
I'd be pissed too if someone didn't own up to the $45 I paid for him.
posted by kriston at 9:04 AM........
Super TuesdayThe Massachusetts Supreme Court announced that it will issue a ruling today at 10a on Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, a decision that could legalize gay marriage in the state. Jesuchristo, it's going to be hot today.
UPDATE: The verdict: "'We declare that barring an individual from the protections, benefits, and obligations of civil marriage solely because that person would marry a person of the same sex violates the Massachusetts Constitution,' the court said in its ruling."
Doesn't go so far as to command the state to start issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, and the court deemed a 180-day hold to allow the state lege to take action, but it sounds right to me. Just waiting on Secretary of Marriage Defense Rick Santorum to declare the end of civilization as we know it.
In 45 minutes the 'sphere goes insane...
posted by kriston at 8:14 AM........
Monday, November 17, 2003
Kushner vs Conservatives?Sue and Not U has some good notes about the upcoming Angels in America adaptation on HBO. I read both plays (parts 1 and 2) just a couple of months ago, and I felt like it was still very fresh for '03—I agree that Kushner has an impeccable ear for dialogue that's both crisp and dense. I'm not sure what in the movie will touch off the firestorm that Sue quotes one critic as predicting, but if there's clamor in the fallout of this production, I hope it has something to do with Bush's appalling record on sexual science and education. But mostly I just want to watch Al Pacino do an absolutely amazing portrayal of Kushner's most interesting character, Roy Cohn—had conservatives not thrown such a fit over the throw-away Reagan series, critics and fans would probably walk into this wondering about the adaptation's artistic merits rather than its political ramifications.
I imagine those conservatives will keep mum this time. This is HBO we're talking about.
posted by kriston at 2:21 PM........
Idle NotesI'm not feeling particularly insightful today, but I am feeling particularly bored.
Hopelessness never looked so good.
If you're at all curious about the Murakami business, read on here or here, but good luck making sense of it.
posted by kriston at 1:59 PM........
Cars of Death: Not Welcome on U-StreetI thought I was overstating the case when I suggested that "our actions perhaps provoked terrorist actions in near-democratic-yet-on-the-brink-of-Islamicist nations like Turkey", referring to the near-simultaneous suicide bombings of synagogues in Istanbul last week. I expected to be called out for that, but in any event, I wasn't so hysterical as I thought, since al-Qaeda is reportedly taking credit for those attacks. I also don't think it's hysterical to add that the war we're waging in Iraq, which has diverted so much of our foreign intelligence services from Pakistan and Afghanistan, is not contributing to our war against terror. aQ is apparently still operating (to whatever extent) at will, democracy in Iraq has a snowball's chance in hell—this whole thing's a mess.
Here's a gem from aQ's note claiming responsibility:
"We tell the criminal Bush and his Arab and Western tails -- especially Britain, Italy, Australia and Japan -- that cars of death will not stop at Baghdad, Riyadh, Istanbul, Nasiriyah, Jakarta, etc, until you see them with your own eyes in the middle of the capital of this era's tyrant, America," the statement said. [emphasis added]Good. You know, I live five doors down from a bonafide crackhouse, and Matthew Yglesias bears witness to the delicate neighborhood balance between Los Vatos Locos and the Street Thug Criminals. We're doing just fine without any cars o' death action, thanks.
Sue's neighborhood is quite nice, but I'll expand the No COD Zone to encompass Glover Park anyhow.
posted by kriston at 11:20 AM........