Saturday, March 27, 2004
Noted Without Comment"A French lawyer who made his reputation defending some of the world's most notorious figures says he will take on Saddam Hussein as his latest client."
You couldn't write this kind of stuff, you know?
posted by kriston at 11:36 AM........
Texas, Texas... Bye-ByeA heartbreaking game of staggering implications. I don't think we'll be 11 deep next time around, I'm sorry to say. Have to ask, though, what ref throws out a frustrated coach with 3.9 seconds left in the game?
Take it away, OK State.
posted by kriston at 1:49 AM........
Friday, March 26, 2004
Evolution of the SpeciesJosh Levin at Slate examines the fine zombie film genre and wonders why zombies run these days. If you've seen the undead fare coming out of Hollywood over the last few years (or, more likely, seen the previews) you know that zombies move very fast now. The lumber is gone. These guys are "extreme" zombies: to adapt a Wonkette formulation, Mountain Dew zombies. MDZ have stretched their legs, eaten their Wheaties (by Wheaties in this context I mean brains, perhaps of athletes), and shaken off that rigor mortis problem that was dragging them down.
Note though that the movie that seems to have sparked this revolution, 28 Days Later, did not feature zombies. I understand why you might think so—the movie featured a kind of numb-witted horde intent on putting an end to teenage fun—but by that broad definition you'll end up netting movement conservatives as well. Zombism is most certainly not pathogen-borne, as was the unfortunate crisis in 28 Days Later; I feel in Snyder's Dawn of the Dead remake, he's surely reacting to that false rehabilitation of the walking dead. The Resident Evil film/video game series surely matters in this conversation, but let's note that in the games at least, the zombies are slow, if not pure (they're also pathogenically inspired undead). The zombie dogs are fast, but that's zombie dogs—I mean, it's a whole 'nother animal.
But George Romero, oh, he knew what he was doing back in 1968 with Night of the Living Dead. He made zombies slow because that's their ludicrous threat—they can't catch you, yet you still can't escape. As the neighborhood corners in on you, you have time to look at what remains of each of their faces—your friendly barber, your sister, your local pastor, Bill Bennett—and that looming societal threat is key. Plus, look at the competition. Wolfman? Fast. Creature of the Black Lagoon? Fast, and he swims. Dracula? Fast, plus he flies and transports. OK, Mummy was slow, but mummy was a pussy. Zombies play the best slow game in town and could take any of them. It's about fundamentals.
I'm set for some new interpretive directions for the genre, especially if it makes for an undead revival. While the pathogen take on the creation myth is deeply unsettling, I suppose that answers some of our larger fears about epidemics and bio/chem weapons—MDZs and WMDs—so I'm OK with that. So long as brain-feastage is at hand I'm buying.
Flamethrowers and gratuitous femal nudity are the other prerequisites to a proper zombie cinematic experience.
posted by kriston at 1:05 PM........
Bob Novak: That ShallowCourtesy of Josh Marshall, here's my friend Bob Novak on Crossfire last night:
ROBERT NOVAK: Congressman, do you believe, you're a sophisticated guy, do you believe watching these hearings that Dick Clarke has a problem with this African-American woman Condoleezza Rice?Novak is factually correct here, guys. Leave it to a sensitive liberal to throw a fit over the facts. Liver-spotted ghoul Bob Novak would also be correct to say that unmarried Condoleezza Rice isn't fond of penis-having Richard Clarke, either. Lily-livered Kriston is also right to say that he ought to have given omnijowled Mr. Novak a response stronger than a shrug when he had the chance.
Bob Novak hates Native Americans.
posted by kriston at 12:35 PM........
Richard Clarke (+2 Visibility/+2 White House Scramble)Richard Clarke's Against All Enemies now tops the Amazon's top-selling charts—people are listening. (Of the handful of political books in the Top 25, only Sean Hannity's there to represent insanity, with Deliver Us From Evil (#21), unless you count a Left Behind book up at #3 and some agitprop by Dr. Laura at #18.) And according to the WaPo, a Pew Research polls conducted earlier this week shows that nine out of ten Americans have heard of Mr. Clarke, with nearly half saying they've heard a lot of what he's had to say.
So it came as no surprise to see the White House announce yesterday that Condoleeza Rice will take a few questions from the 9/11 panel. But the NYT notes that there are two stipulations: The questions will be held "only in private" and "not under oath." I'm thinking that she has some words for the subject that would make Richard Nixon blush, but really, I don't see what the White House is trying to pull. Everyone testifying in front of the 9/11 commission has to take an oath, up to and including Donald Rumsfeld and Richard Clarke and everybody. And why would you not take an oath? It's not only a given for these things but largely a formality, too. What gives—is the administration trying to frame the commission as obstinate for not removing all the tan M&Ms from Condi's dressing room before her appearance?
The NYT article goes on to mention some things about 9/11 victims' family members' appearances. After careful consideration, I've come to the conclusion that 9/11 victims' family members are not people at all but rather Orbs. Having a 9/11 Orb in your possession allows you to summon political clout, indemnify your position, roll three attack die and paint any adjacent player as weak on national security. (Has no effect against players with Mutant Gaze abilities. Democrats may not possess Orbs.)
That picture of Condi Rice, that'll launch a thousand ships all right....
posted by kriston at 9:50 AM........
Thursday, March 25, 2004
One Year Down the DrainThat's one year of webloggage from the ol' G.p and you can congratulate me by checking in at the new site, which, I swear, will be up any day now. Does one congratulate someone for a blogiversary? "I see that you, uh, didn't get a whole lot done last year." Also coincides roughly with another arbitrary milestone of 20,000 hits or visitors or clicks or bored workers or what-have-you. It's you who make this possible, man, it's all about the readership. Man.
While I'm letting you know where I stand, I have no hope of getting that Britney Spears "Toxic" jam out of my head. If they could put subliminal messages in pop music I'd be fucked. Good thing that's all bullshit.
(takes long, satisfying gulp of Pepsi)
posted by kriston at 5:53 PM........
Tell 'em I Said 'SupSorry to say that I can't afford to go to gala Democratic events like the party at Dream tonight, which will see Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Al Gore, Terry McAuliffe, and a bunch of hip-hop stars (hey, it works) in attendance. I did see Terry McAuliffe last night—I accidentally stumbled in on a Democratic Meet-up (an accident, I swear!) where he was speaking.
I have to say, McAuliffe doesn't make for the best cheerleader. He told some guy that it was basically impossible for the Dems to take back either the House or the Senate, which, although true, isn't what you're required to say to a bunch of kids with beers in their hands. (Though the Meet-up put an end to any hope of table service.) He did say that Tom Daschle would definitely win his seat again in November and that was the sort of irrational exuberance, as the kids call it, that I was expecting. For whatever reason, McAuliffe also went on about "the communities of color," though it was quite clear from the line outside to the place next door that they weren't at the Lucky Bar with us.
Anyway, click that Wonkette link and check out the video from last year's Dream party. There's an outstanding video-montage sequence set to Outkast's "I Like the Way You Move" featuring a ton of Bill Clinton coverage and a brassy close-up on some chick's rack, and before that there's some other song and a video about how Democrats drink a lot of Hennessy.
Fun-filled Fact: The Democratic Party is debt-free, for the first time since the 19th century! [Sponsored by Hennessy.]
posted by kriston at 5:31 PM........
Dip Trip, Flip FantasiaPeter Schjeldahl has the run-down on the Whitney Biennial in this week's New Yorker and it sounds fan-fucking-tastic. If it weren't obvious enough already, painting is back. (But I'm not quite ready to lazer my Cremaster tattoo yet. One of the bigger sensations this year so far has been of the more passe variety: Douglas Gordon's multimedia (video installation, large-format photography) horror show. There's still room for discourse in art.) An interesting point that Schjeldahl and others are making is that even as art would appear to be polling conservative, withdrawing after some severe years, the level of intellectual rigor is still there. Doesn't seem as if artists are retreating into dogma or formalism or whatever and that's good news.
While you're clicking/flipping through the New Yorker make sure you check out Calvin Tomkins's Very Special Article on Christo and Jean-Claude's New York gate project. ...well, I see now that it's print-only, so stop by and you can borrow my copy. They give the story a very flashy visual treatment for whatever reason ('cause it's art, stupid - ed.) so that it ends up looking like a TIME magazine piece. Anyway, we mentioned something about this Christo NYC gig way back in May of '03 if you're interested in, you know, a percentage of the real content from the New Yorker piece.
Or buy your own copy—it's great Metro reading.
posted by kriston at 4:59 PM........
Life is a 100% Fatal Sexually Transmitted DiseaseListen up, creationists:
For over two centuries, opponents of evolution have searched for examples of natural complexity that could have only been created by design. Reverend William Paley was fond of the eye, with its lens, retina, and other components all beautifully fine-tuned to work with one another. These days, the Intelligent Design camp tries to invoke blood clotting cascades or the flagella that bacteria use to move around in the same way... Ironically, one of the most successful, intricate examples of complexity in nature is something creationists never mention: a tumor.That's Carl Zimmer, courtesy of Crooked TImber on God's gothic streak. See also childbirth (I guess God did dole out that punishment), viruses, prions.
If you're wondering, the post's title was neither my brainchild nor an indie B-side but the clever formulation of an Austin-based artist.
posted by kriston at 2:13 PM........
Exterminated?The bug man from Sugarland might be stepping down! Courtesy of Kevin Drum, the account from Roll Call :
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) has begun quiet discussions with a handful of colleagues about the possibility that he will have to step down from his leadership post temporarily if he is indicted by a Texas grand jury investigating alleged campaign finance abuses.Yesterday the WaPo ran a story on Tom DeLay's charitable organization, "Celebrations for Children," which one watchdog organization alleges is a fundraising funnel for DeLay. (It's not clear from the article whether or not and members of the house will actually pick up the ethics complaint against DeLay and make a move.)
Unlike many of my liberal brethren, I don't wish for bad things to happen solely for Democratic political gain. Believe it or not I support neither Saddam Hussein nor Osama bin Laden. But I must admit to disliking the Yankees just because they're the Yankees, and I'll go a bit further: I kind of sort of want to see the kids get screwed on this. I hope that DeLay's Celebration for Children is the saddest party ever, featuring "dinners, a golf tournament, a rock concert, Broadway tickets and the other fundraising events DeLay plans to host at the convention in New York City." I'll be tickled pink if turns out that the Children all went home without cake and balloons DeLay was buying Cats tickets and cigars. I'm probably the worst person ever. And if turns out that DeLay steps down over campaign finance shenanigans I will paint Schadenfreude all over my body and dance on my roof and pour champagne on my head, and the whole time I'll be laughing at the Children.
Totally hell-bound over here.
posted by kriston at 11:50 AM........
American BandstandThe White House is now fully engaged with Richard Clarke and his 9/11 commission testimony, because Clarke has asserted now that if Condileeza Rice had done her job, 9/11 might have been prevented. It's a loaded statement for such a simple assertion, and I think there are two ways to read it.
If your reading of Clarke hinges on prevent then Clarke probably comes across as spurious. I was talking with a friend the other night and we were discussing how Clarke sounds a bit like the guy that comes back in time to tell you that you have to stop SkyNet by blowing up a batch of microchips or terrible things will happen. Then when the Terminators show up, he's right there to tell you that he told you so. (Point-scoring tangent: President Bush, as it happened, responded to the Terminators by going after Judge Dredd.) It's not satisfactory to say that there was one thing or two things that needed to be done to prevent a cataclysmic terrorist attack, of course, though we can identify perhaps one or two such things in hindsight.
It's better, but less indicting, to say that there was a general policy stance that might have prevented the attack. This is the other read I get from Clarke's testimony, when he talks about Condileeza Rice's job: There were all these instances where the Bush administration should have been considering, in broad terms, the problem of terrorism. This question about policy is really important because it tells us what the Bush administration is willing to do with the information it has at hand—where its priorities were. The Clinton administration had neither the mandate nor apparently the inclination to chase down terrorists. The Bush administration followed suit, but also saw the much-noted "spike" in terror alerts in mid-2001. That spike ought to have resulted in a direction a bit more concrete than commissioning an anti-terror task under Dick Cheney only for it to never convene.
Quite bizarrely, the administration seems to be defending itself against charges that they missed those points of prevention, rather than asserting that they were following a sufficient policy of prevention (though they weren't). Rumsfeld said in testimony that it's not clear that killing Osama bin Laden would have prevented 9/11, since bin Laden would become a martyr—isn't that absurd? First, clearly, whatever the administration did, they did not prevent 9/11, so elsewhere-scenarios can't have worse outcomes. Second, killing bin Laden after 9/11 would install him in the goddamned constellations as far as his followers are concerned—that's no reason not to take the bastard out. It ought to be okay for Rumsfeld to say that the Bush team, like Clinton's, probably couldn't have done whacked ObL if they wanted to, but instead Rumsfeld's taking the stand to tell us that whatever they didn't do wouldn't have worked.
This whole exercise of assigning blame is edging toward a solely political pursuit—certainly, when Madeleine Albight told the 9/11 commission that the Clinton administration did everything it could have to prevent terrorism, I was disappointed. Clarke going after Rice isn't going to be palatable for many people. But as far as politics goes it seems that this is what it took to get the Bush administration to address some of these questions. For the record I'm ready to dig into this Iraq war with the same fine-toothed comb, since there's plenty of warranted blame to go around. Furthermore, the Gulf War II skirts all the points-of-prevention crap since we initiated it and gets right down to the policy question, on which the Bush administration is mind-bogglingly wrong.
UPDATE: For the record, I don't think killing ObL would have prevented 9/11 unless it were done on Clinton's watch. By the start of the Bush administration's watch, I think that the al Qaeda scheme/executioners had metastasized in America.
In the meantime, I'll have to settle for watching Dick Clarke's non-stop blamathon.
posted by kriston at 10:48 AM........
Wednesday, March 24, 2004
Brought to You by the District of Columbia and My Complete Inability to Follow DirectionsI'm down at DC's Tax and Revenue Customer Service office to sort out an income tax issue—I sent a copy instead of an original record of what little I made in 2003—so I expect that I'll be here until Friday morning. For a city with no potable water, they've set up a host of computers with fast internet, so it's a good time to catch up on some webloggage.
I'm seeing a lot of commentary recently regarding Tom Daschle and his efforts to frame the political debate surrounding September 11th. His statement today is a strong dressing-down of the Bush administration for its failures in waging the war against terror. Setting aside the substantive issues at hand for the moment—the big elephant in the room known as Richard Clarke—let's talk about Daschle. A while back, Marc posed some good questions about Mr. Daschle and why his hold on his Senate seat is as tentative as my hold over a balanced checking account. Marc observes, "I imagine it's hard for SD voters to actually feel like Daschle is as responsive to them as he is to the Democrats." No kidding. We've seen Daschle waffle before on important legislation in order to coo at his constituency—the "partial-birth" abortion ban comes to mind—and though that's not really cause for alarm, you'd like to believe that the Democratic Minority Leader comes from a real Democratic bastion and is unencumbered by the day-to-day voting calculus. Though you don't want Ted Kennedy leading the Senate Dems, I thought John Kerry was an ideal candidate for the job, betting that Daschle wasn't long for this world and that Kerry had picked up steam from the primary campaign process. (We know how both of those precictions turned out.)
I'm always disappointed to see Daschle two-face on the substantive issues. At the same time, regarding Marc's point, I doubt that South Dakotans are unaware of the prestige—and pork—that Daschle brings into the state. Whereas Sugarland doesn't really need Tom DeLay to get by what with Texas's political weight and ability to draw money, making it just a big plus that he's unseemly powerful, SD definitely benefits from Daschle's clout, more so than they might under a rookie senator who happened to toe all the religious/conservative social lines. Moreover Daschle does exactly that from time to time.
I see more reason for Dems to complain than SDns but ample reason for both to be generally satisfied. From time to time Amy Sullivan sings Daschle's praises so you may want to stroll through her archives if you'd like to hear someone really testify.
Forgive me: In drafting this post I almost used some variation on "drinking the Kool-Aid," and that's terrible writing.
posted by kriston at 4:09 PM........
Tuesday, March 23, 2004
The Utility of PETASetting aside the often theatric extent to which they pursue their agenda, I have to admit that PETA serves a useful function. Tonight while flipping between channels that run The Simpsons I came across a public-access special on animal abuse within circuses, including a video capturing one elephant handler training another with instructions that were tantamount to torturing the pitiful creatures. It turns out that OSHA cracked down on Hawthorn Corporation, the firm that employed the handlers in question (and trains elephants and other animals for circuses), and Hawthorn Co. plead guilty to 19 violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act in order to settle. The investigation began when OSHA charged Hawthorn Corporation of failing to protect its employees—human employees—from contracting tuberculosis from diseased animals.
Normally, I'm as willing to disparage PETA as the next person, but I hate circuses, and would shut them all down myself. I hate circuses more than theatrics, extremist advocacy, or naked girls in hot leopard bodypaint. PETA puts the full-court press out for some useless causes, but they make for a useful (read: rabid) watchdog organization for several good causes (read: closing circuses, putting girls in spots).
If you don't buy the animal-abuse line, realize that circuses employ clowns, and I think you'll stand with me in opposition.
posted by kriston at 11:31 PM........
Monday, March 22, 2004
Fun with FundraceTyler Green comes up with a few art stars' recorded political contributions, courtesy of fundrace.org:
Larry Gagosian: $2000 to Bush, $1000 to LiebermanLet's see, Larry Gagosian, tax evasion scandal, shady dealings with Imclone, Bush contributions... sounds about right. Glad to hear about Barbara Gladstone, though.
Fundrace ought to suffice for free time for the day.
posted by kriston at 11:50 AM........
The PritzkerHeard that someone from TNR (Martin Filler, maybe?) spoke on NPR this morning about the 2004 Pritzker Architecture Prize, which was awarded to Iraqi-born British citizen Zaha Hadid. It's the first time ever the award has been granted to a woman, the same woman who executed the first American museum designed by a woman in 2003: The Lois and Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art, in Cincinatti. I was told that the TNR writer was disparaging the Pritzker committee for awarding an architect with so small a body of work on record. I don't have strong feelings about this but I'm leaning toward the belief that giving less-experienced but promising architects such a prominent slot on the world stage is eventually good for architecture, which seems to me clogged at the top by a select few firms. I suppose that might be bad for the stature of the Pritzker if some of these draft picks didn't pan out, but so it goes.
As for Ms. Hadid, her work (and now this prize) emphasize how much more appropriate she would be as a choice for the city of Washington, DC, than Frank Gehry. If you know DC and you've glanced at the Rosenthal CAC you can imagine how the Rosenthal itself would be a better fit for the Corcoran Gallery of Art than Gehry's Corcoran design, and I'm sure that Hadid would be willing to incorporate something of DC itself into a flexible design. Sure, fine, like everybody else we'll have a Gehry mark, but I'd be more interested if DC were incubating new architects and shaping new architecture.
Thanks for checking back after a long break.
posted by kriston at 11:34 AM........