Wednesday, March 06, 2002

WHAT A PRICK! Protein Wisdom responds to Ted Rall's most odious cartoon to date.

UPDATE: James Treacher's talking clip-art weighs in.

Electrolite puts it succinctly: "What we see here is the long history of admirable efforts to defend artistic independence being twisted into a rationale for letting someone behave monstrously."

Bill Sherman, generally tolerant of Ralls' "hamfisted and loud" political voice, comes down hard: "This isn’t political commentary – it’s self-righteous thuggishness: the work of a man too blinkered by ideology to gauge the mean of rhetorical decency."

James Lileks sums it up neatly: "Rall’s cartoon was the equivalent of pissing on a grave to protest the high cost of tombstones."

Ted Rall explains that Danny Pearl's widow failed to live up to his expectations, and was thus fair game: "She kept appearing on television and it seemed pointless and tacky. ... If your husband is dead, don't you have more important things to do than go on television?"

WHY BOTHER?: I was going to say something about this piece of antisemetic rubbish, courtesy of our friends at The Guardian, but I couldn't hold down my lunch long enough to formulate a coherent response:
Assuming a "plague on both your houses" approach is not just a travesty of the facts. It shuts out all prospect of a solution. If one side is as bad as the other, then any settlement is out of the question since both sides will go on killing each other in any event. A rational assessment of the roles of oppressed and oppressor, on the other hand, tells us not only why people are killing each other, but also how they can be stopped from doing so.

If the reason for the violence is the illegal occupation of Palestinian territory, then the obvious solution is for the Israelis to get out of that territory and disband the settlements. If the Israeli government just won't budge on either withdrawal or the settlements, then the obvious answer is for the west to impose sanctions -- to cut off the massive economic subsidies and arms shipments that have built up the Israeli economy and its military machine.
But if you were expecting a bookend to this "devil's advocate" argument -- a shred of historical balance that might have begun with "On the other hand, if the reason for the violence is that Arafat will accept no solution that doesn't end with the wholesale destruction of the State of Israel..." -- well, there was none. I'm still trying to scrape my jaw back from the floor.

Fortunately, Grasshoppa has rendered anything more that could have been said redundant.

MISDEMEANOR PLAGIARISM UPDATE: So, of course, 12 hours later The Professor pull-quotes the exact same Lileks paragraph as I did. If this infraction constitutes misdemeanor plagiarism, all's I can say is, look at the time-stamps.

Meanwhile, Slate asks: Who's the better apologizer, Goodwin or Ambrose?

Mind Over What Matters stakes out this position on misdemeanor plagiarism: When it comes to works of fiction, there's nothing funnier than a throwaway unattributed quotation. Who doesn't guffaw out loud every time Stewie Griffin, diminutive hero of Fox's Family Guy, spontaneously relives whole scenes from Broadway musicals that predate his birth by a good 40 or 50 years? Or when Crow the Robot pretends to recognize the handiwork of 1970's ARP synth wizard Rick Wakeman in the soundtrack of some long-forgotten Lithouanian sci-fi film?

The answer is -- almost no one in the target demographic guffaws out loud. Such obscure cultural references are the author's way of winking at those elite few who've snuck in from outside the target demographic. It's the author's coded message to the right people -- the smart people -- that they've achieved membership in the "inner circle," with all the rights and priviliges accorded thereto -- which is to say that they could carry their end of the conversation if they happened to meet up with the author at a cocktail party.

But writers of non-fiction must understand that one simply cannot go about tossing off lengthy, unattributed quotes from another body of work, as if counting on the audience to treat such references as a sop to "the right people" who are smart enought to "get it." In fiction, such usages may be employed liberally, as an alternative to original thought, where it can pass for irony or serve double-duty as structural punctuation. But in non-fiction, it's just plain stealing. And when it comes to light that Goodwin and Ambrose have pulled this trick repeatedly throughout their works and careers, all that can be said is that they've literally outsmarted themselves.

For its part, however, Mind Over What Matters will continue to reference the esoteric hierchary of DC Comics' Legion of Super-Heroes in its Perma-Links ghetto, smugly secure in its culturally malnourished certainty that "the right people" are "getting" it.

(So far, my short list of "right people" includes Gary Farber and Ben Kepple for sure -- and for neoblogger Bill Sherman, it goes without even asking -- while Megan McArdle has privately confessed that the reference has whooshed right over her head. No small feat, that, as I can now personally attest to both her intelligence and stature!)

Tuesday, March 05, 2002

NOT A PRETTY PICTURE: James Lileks imagines what The Guardian will have to say when I'm gone:
There are European columnists in respectable newspapers who would write about the event, and no matter how much sympathy they evinced towards the start, you’d be waiting for the fulcrum of the BUT, and you’d find it. There are reasonable, rational people writing for newspapers grounded in the Western empirical tradition who would feel it was their duty to explain the nuking of New York, and place it in context. They remember Hiroshima, but not Pearl Harbor. (It would be a hallmark of their intellect that New York could suffer both -- a sneak attack and a nuke -- and they would remain America’s fault.) They would bring up the camp at Gitmo; they would recycle all the false numbers about Iraqi sanction deaths and Afghan casualties, and if they shed a tear it would be for the Motherwells in the museums and the immigrants who, being new to the poisonous shores of America and being guilty of nothing but misguided hope, were blameless.

GRACE UNDER FIRE: Told of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's decision to invite Arafat and himself to Sharm e-Sheikh, [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon said, "I'd like to come, but Arafat can't make it."

If the Bushies had had their way, there wouldn't have been a single reporter covering the Afghan war. They couldn't stop them from going, so they sent a message, chilling and clear: we don't care if you die. In fact, we hope you do.
Why is it always the Danny Pearls, and never the Ted Ralls?

Monday, March 04, 2002

DENNIS MILLER SHOCKER! (Courtesy of The Borowitz Report)
Comedian Dennis Miller, fired from ABC's "Monday Night Football" last week, lashed out at ABC Sports today in a blistering tirade packed with obscure literary and pop cultural references that may take his former bosses years to decipher.

"When I heard you were replacing me with Madden, I was like, isn't that the guy who played Reuben Kincaid on 'The Partridge Family?'" Miller said, in an apparent reference to football announcer John Madden and former TV actor Dave Madden.

It is believed that only three or four people in North America, excluding Miller himself, are sufficiently aware of both Maddens in order to understand, and therefore enjoy, Miller's confusing remark.

NEW AND RECOMMENDED: Bill Sherman has a Blog now! Highly recommended for those who appreciate my own diversions into cultural ephemera! (Now, the trick is, where can I fit Bill within my PermaLink hierarchy without offending Ben Kepple?)

Also, waste no time devouring every word over at Cut on the Bias. (Crikeys! How am I supposed to find any time to write new content when there's so much great stuff to read?)