Sunday, September 30, 2007

"Few things are less relevant than Susan Estrich"

Truer words are rarely spoken.

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #5655

From page 78 of Mr. and Mrs. Erotic Australian (audiobook read by Paul Hogan).
(Image of kangarewwwww originally uploaded by djley; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Saturday, September 29, 2007

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #6318

Conversations You'd Rather Not Know About, #178: "...and another neat thing about the Tibetan Book of the Dead is..."
(Image originally uploaded by millerjont; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #6976

OK, a bit more catching up. This is for yesterday:

Why do I believe in the transmigration of souls? Because my very first thought on seeing this was "Ha! You're not so tough without a torso, huh? Let's see ya chase me down and devour me now, asshole. Hey, somebody call Tom Sawyer: there's a big smelly picket fence that needs painting. Oh, wait—that' s you. Nyah."
(Image originally uploaded by psydereal; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #9417

('cause there's a lotta ground to cover at an old slave plantation, dontcha know.)

Donald Rumsfeld sprays for chinch bugs.
(Image originally uploaded by possutonium; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #2668

For yesterday. My Daily Random Flickr Blogging seemed so far away.

Question 17: An annoying drone coming through the speakers is known as (a) static, (b) white noise, (c) Radiohead.
(Image originally uploaded by inourhands; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #2599

For Tuesday:

"For the last time: that's a racetrack, not a crop circle." "I don't care. I'm calling the Enquirer."
(Image originally uploaded by bpmorris; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #2167

Catching up. For Monday:

Few people realize that karaoke is actually Japanese for "Hell is other people."
(Image originally uploaded by Señor Frisky; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #2426

Sigh. Catching up again. This is for Sunday. Almost as disturbing as the last time we did #2426.

Thus commenced his fiendish plan to forever ruin both silver and surfing for, well, everyone, basically.
(Image originally uploaded by kjoyner666; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Monday, September 24, 2007

Make that Tranquilizer Fred Thompson

It looks like once again I won't be doing Daily (or yesterdaily) Random Flickr Blogging until tomorrow at earliest, but in the meantime, by all means go read Matt Taibbi on Fred Thompson:

Thompson may act like a blank slate -- a homespun version of Being There hero Chauncey Gardiner running on a platform of "Whatever you say" and "I'll get back to you on that" -- but he represents something else that no one, after seven years of George W. Bush, could possibly have expected: a new low. It was bad enough when the GOP field was led by a grinning Mormon corporatist and a fascist ex-mayor itching to take his prostate pain out on the world, but Thompson is the worst yet -- a human snooze button, campaigning baldly for the head-in-the-sand vote by asking Americans not to think but to change the channel.

And that, after all, is what the campaign trail is all about. Give voters a chance to go lower than they've ever gone before, and you'll get numbers in a heartbeat. Ladies and gentlemen, meet the next Republican front-runner. ***

In person, Fred Thompson reminds you of a lot of good actors who go numb when asked to play themselves. If you've ever listened to interviews with Laurence Olivier or Robert De Niro or any of a hundred other talented performers who can manhandle a script but seem at a loss when it comes to who they themselves really are, you'll recognize the same thing in Thompson.

That makes it all the more painful when you watch him try to sell his oddly thin biography as a great "American story." He has a few items of note on his résumé: minority counsel for the Republicans during the Watergate hearings (where he tipped off the White House that the committee knew about Nixon's secret tapes), lawyer for a Tennessee whistle-blower who exposed a cash-for-clemency scam in the governor's office, and two largely undistinguished terms as a U.S. senator. In between, there are about twenty-eight years of his adult life where he acted in bit parts in a few movies, and lobbied a little. Thompson's campaign video runs out of stuff to talk about after around ninety-eight seconds.

But he is on television, and has been in a movie with Sean Connery, and in the world of politics -- which is basically Hollywood for the ugly and talentless -- that makes him something close to a god on Earth, a veritable rock star. And despite his disinterested pose and empty-suit résumé, his TV persona gives him a natural advantage on the trail, one that most politicians can only dream of.

You have to see it to believe it, the effect that Fred Thompson has on certain crowds. Reporters who describe his public appearances as "bland" and "uninspiring" and "vague" and "blurry" do so because they're looking for the wrong thing; they're looking for theatrics, for fire and brimstone, for that candidate who can get crowds howling for blood. What Thompson inspires is something much more appropriate for Americans of the TV age: He gets audiences purring in a cozy stupor. Their eyes glaze over and they end up looking like a bunch of flies happily lapping up their own puke.


It's only after you run into this lobotomy act ten or eleven times that you start to see the dark essence of Fred Thompson. He is hard to dislike on a personal level: Unlike the overconfident district attorney he plays on Law and Order, the real-life Thompson comes off as a halting, humble, accidental celebrity who's really just dern glad to be here. And his personality seems consistent with his Goldwater-era ideology: A believer in limited government, he seeks to achieve his ends by getting his frankly limited self elected to the White House.

His politics, though, are another matter. As a political animal, Thompson embodies the twisted core of the Sean Hannity/Rush Limbaugh era: He looks you right in the eye with that aw-shucks face of his and tells you shit that just isn't true about who we are as a country. In his first few days on the campaign trail, he paces back and forth in front of crowds of Iowans and assures them without blinking that "we have the best health-care system in the world" -- and you sit there wondering how the hell he can get away with saying that when America's infant mortality rate is behind fricking Slovenia's.

But by then Thompson is talking about how France and England are desperate to copy our market-based system of health care. And then he's on to Iraq, where we "went in for the right reasons" because Saddam was planning a "nuclearized Middle East" that "would have defeated all of us," assertions that leave the bad-news-weary crowd dewy-eyed with approval. Thompson represents the essential bullshit at the heart of modern conservatism: The fantasy that we are the benevolent envy of the world must be believed at all costs, no matter how much waste or mayhem or loss of young lives is suffered in deference to it.

All aboard for dreamland!

See My Vest, See My Vest

It's a great Simpsons musical number brought to life:

GUANAJUATO, Mexico - A bootmaker to world leaders, including President Bush and Vicente Fox, is in a Colorado jail, charged with money laundering and conspiring to illegally smuggle the skins of protected animals into the U.S. to provide exotic footwear for high-end clients.

The arrest of Martin Villegas — and Mexico's raid of a warehouse filled with hundreds of cowboy boots and belts made from endangered species — has raised questions about how much Fox knew of the scheme and whether the former Mexican president purchased illegal boots himself.

Before Fox left office in December, Villegas created a special brand of cowboy boot named after him, which was manufactured in Mexico's shoemaking capital, Leon, in Fox's home state of Guanajuato.

The Mexican bootmaker also produced footwear for Fox's bodyguards, Cabinet members, relatives and friends — including Bush, a fellow lover of ranchwear who accepted a pair of ostrich-skin cowboy boots as a gift during a visit to Fox's ranch in 2001.


Villegas was arrested Sept. 6 along with two other Mexican nationals and two U.S. residents following a three-year undercover operation by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents. The five allegedly made 25 illegal shipments of banned skins into the U.S. since 2005, the department said.

According to court records, Villegas pleaded not guilty in a Sept. 11 court appearance, and is now being held at the Jefferson Co. jail in Golden, Colo., just outside Denver.

Days later, Mexican federal agents raided the Canada Grande factory and warehouse in Leon, which is owned by one of the other Mexican suspects, Esteban Lopez Estrada. They found about 400 pairs of cowboy boots and 150 belts made of the skins of endangered sea turtles, as well as products made illegally from the hides of crocodiles, lizards and cobras.

En italiano, por favor:

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #8880

...and this is for today. Let's round the week off with some classic rock.

Ah    Ah    Ah    Ah
Ah    Ah    Ah    Ah
Ah    Ah    Ah    Ah
(Image originally uploaded by PeteBerg; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #9568

...and this is for yesterday.

Dear Jared: Leave a bag containing $250,000 in small unmarked bills next to the hot dog carousel in the 7-11 on 38th Street and the people at Subway need never know of your infidelities with the chicken.
(Image originally uploaded by Orang Ulu; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #7837

For Thursday.

Though it has had a dedicated cult following for decades, most Americans had never heard of cro-magzeco music until Paul Simon stole some for one of his albums.
(Image originally uploaded by miatwidoor; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton. I honestly did not know that there was such a thing as Finnish folk metal.)


Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #9197

For Wednesday.

But one day, for just a moment, it became the Great Wall of Snookums.
(Image originally uploaded by 99david; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton. With apologies to Wallace Stevens.)


Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #2475

I'm sorry, but it's been a rough week. But now, as summer slouches at last towards its end, I can at least do some Catching Up Over the Weekend Flickr Blogging. This is for Tuesday.

"You mean we're about to leave for China and nobody remembered a present for the premier? Well, quick, send someone out to pick up a box o' them Pancakes and Sausage on a Stick or somethin'." "Right away, Mr. President."
(Image originally uploaded by iammonkeyboy; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

An Open Letter to Chuck Asay


I've had difficulty before with finding humor in your cartoons, which often seem more like dispatches from a perpetually angry, delusional id rather than creations of considered wit and insight; however, this one really has me baffled:

For the life of me, I just can't figure out what's supposed to be funny here. Is it the depiction of the U.S. Senate as the imperial Roman Senate, complete with bloated, clueless imperial senators? No, that can't be: a war supporter like you would surely not wish to acknowledge complaints that under Bush the U.S. has increasingly become, like ancient Rome, an arrogant, voracious, anti-democratic imperial power that tromps brutally around the world asserting its right to do as it pleases with hypocritical disregard for the very rights it claims to champion; however, your cartoon does nothing so much as conjure up this unfortunate analogy. But there's nothing funny about that—unless perhaps you mean in Marx's sense of history repeating itself, the first time as tragedy, the second as farce. But I'm sure that the very mention of Karl Marx makes your buttocks clench in dismay, so it seems unlikely that you meant this to be the source of humor.

Is it the counterintuitive response to the herald's upbeat "news from the front"? As I acknowledged to your colleague Glenn McCoy a little while ago, reversal is a common source of humor; is the fact that the people in your cartoon treat the message as bad when it seems to be good supposed to be funny? This might actually work—if only you hadn't gone and actually had the glowing dispatch from the front being signed by "Gen. Petraeus." I guess you were worried that otherwise, nobody would get the lame shot at—but frankly, I think that even that would be funnier if you'd left out the general's name. (See, there's this thing called allusion, and...well, I think Aristotle says somewhere that the best art leaves a lot up to the audience, so the audience has to share in the cognitive labor of making meaning—for from this shared labor comes much of the joy of art. Take a few moments now to ponder the implications of this for cartoonists who obsessively stick labels on everything they draw lest someone might have to think a little to figure out what it stands for, God forbid.) By explicitly including the general's name, you see, you cannot help but create the impression that (a) this glowing dispatch is supposed to represent the Petraeus report and (b) you think that such a glowing report from a thoroughly politicized general on a war effort that he himself has been superintending should be taken as serious, objective "news" rather than as establishment propaganda. Mind you, coming from an adult, your kind of simplistic, childlike faith in Official Spokesmen and Great Leaders is touching, indeed, almost funny—just not in a ha-ha sort of way.

If it's not the unfortunate Rome analogy, and if it's not the "taking good news as bad news" reversal—is it the depiction of Ted Kennedy in a toga, lying there like a beached senatorial whale? Is that where you put the humor? Is that all you've got? Help me out here.


Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #9492

For yesterday:

The Nasty Bastards are working on their stage patter.

"No, YOU'VE got Hepatitis B and gonorrheal drip."

"I know I am, but what are you?"

Keep working, guys.

(Image originally uploaded by mopedLauren; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Sunday, September 16, 2007

"The Domestic Enemy"

The baffling, disturbing remarks of counter-protesters at yesterday's festivities in Washington (emphasis added):

I've seen how leftist politicians hate the military. It's disgusting. We're fighting a war not in Iraq but with them," said Lt. Col. Robert "Buzz" Patterson, a retired Air Force pilot.

War supporters staked out three blocks on Pennsylvania Avenue to await the war protesters. A large police presence and metal barricades separated the groups, but not their words.

"Commies out of D.C.!" came the chants from one corner of 10th Street NW. Across the street, two middle-aged men shouted obscenities into the face of a young man in full camouflage and a bandanna that concealed all but his eyes. The young man remained silent amid the screaming, holding a sign over his head that read "Support the troops, end the war."

A bus had been painted with antiwar slogans including "Impeach Bush-Cheney Now!!" A man at Pennsylvania Avenue and Sixth Street shouted "Drive your bus into the Potomac. You're all idiots. . . . Relieve us of your stupidity."

Like many yesterday, Deborah Johns, the mother of a sergeant who has served three tours in Iraq, raised the Vietnam War for comparison.

"We're not going to let the domestic enemy here at home defeat us like they did then," she said. "No retreat, no surrender. Not now, not ever."

What is it with these people? We have ample evidence that the folks who got us into this war are, at best, tragically incompetent and, at worst, shameless liars; we know that the war is wrecking our army, squandering billions upon billions of dollars that could be used to better effect elsewhere, alienating our allies (what's left of them), and encouraging the growth of terrorism. Yet these people think it's war opponents who are hurting the country; hell, some of them seem to think that the real war is with fellow Americans who won't come to heel like good dogs, who won't stay obediently in the herd and follow their masters wherever they might lead, even if it's over a civilizational cliff. And they think this slavish devotion to fools, liars, and lunatics is patriotism.

Y'know, I was an optimist during the buildup to war: I actually believed that an America that had lived through Vietnam, Watergate, Iran-Contra, the Lewinsky scandal, etc. would not be foolish enough to buy the crap that the Bush Administration was selling. Oops. Then, as the occupation dragged on, the body counts mounted, the coffers emptied, and the news never really seemed to get better, I remember thinking Surely in the aftermath of Vietnam, Watergate, Iran-Contra, the Lewinsky scandal, the Iraq boondoggle, etc., Americans will no longer be suckers for the stupid, simplistic either-or logic which says that in time of "war" (however far away and however manufactured) you either unquestionably support the government or you're a traitorous "domestic enemy" who must be brought to heel. Surely enough Americans have read 1984, for God's sake.

One of the things I have come to hate most about this time in America is how often it vindicates my pessimism.

Update: Sinfonian from Blast Off! was at yesterday's protest and recounts a confrontation with "a flag-draped USA cap-wearing mouth-breather":

Mouth-breather was wearing a button saying "I'm fighting the insurgency at home." I guess that's us. Whatever.
No matter how you interpret that button, the results are disturbing. If "the insurgency" refers to the one in Iraq, and the button is the wearer's way of proclaiming that he is fighting the insurgency from the comfort of home—well, that's just clueless and confusing. If "the insurgency at home" refers to Americans who oppose the war—if the button is meant to equate war opponents with people who are actually, you know, shooting at and blowing up American soldiers—then it's just sick, sick, sick. Ditto, if you'll pardon the expression, for someone who would wear such a thing.

A lot of the pro-warriors seem to have skipped past "honorably misguided" and gone straight to "clueless and/or insane."

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #4356

The W.C. Fields Warbler may be distinguished from other Passeriformes by its prominent red-orange beak and its melodious cries of Mar-TI-ni-please, Mar-TI-ni-please.
(Image originally uploaded by rockliao; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton. For extra fun, don't miss the W.C. Fields Wikiquote page.)


Saturday, September 15, 2007


My friend jules sent me some more photos of little Maxxine a while back. Well, she's probably not so little anymore. In fact, by now, she's probably the size OF A SMALL HORSE.


Weekly Random Flickr Blogging, #3701

"Saigon...shit. I have got to find a better yoga teacher."
Bonus: Baby with Bluebonnets. Awesome:

(Images originally uploaded by ejkim801014 and wcpeach; Random Flickr Blogging explained here.)


Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #8081

In another case of life imitating art, boy after boy is rejected for the plum role of Odysseus in the school play when many prove barely able to lift, much less to shoot, the prop bow.

"Ow." "Next!"

Shame, too, 'cause the role meant getting to onstage second base with "Wayward" Wendy Wasserstrom as Circe each night for at least three performances—and maybe one or two undress rehearsals too, wink wink.

(Image originally uploaded by torridcraftaffair; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Friday, September 14, 2007

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #0969

"There now: that's the kinda audience I want. Tell that Terry Cotter guy I wanna borrow some o' his warriors." "Right away, Mr. President."
(Image originally uploaded by lawlergary; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #5005

Oops. This is for yesterday.

Let's see what's happening on Ye Channell of Weathyre. "Ye boreal wind bloweth most feercely; ye sygnes are for drear and dank, sadde for ye shepherds, but at least it keepeth ye Norsemen at bay. Now hear ye yr five-day portents." (Cut to tapestry of suns, clouds, and rains accompanied by jaunty lute-and-recorder music)
(Image originally uploaded by colourcontinent; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #2120

"Shut Up and Drink the Kool-Aid or the Terrorists Win" is my favorite from the Drown It in the Bathtub collection.
(Image originally uploaded by Mr. Forester; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #4892

It's a good day for nightmare fuel.

A loudly garbed blue-eyed wolf proffering a slab of cold dough studded with stained glass, accompanied by desperately manic rejoicing. Thank you, Wolfgang Puck, for this allegorical representation of Petraeus Report Week.
(Image originally uploaded by sarithak_n; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #2614

Okay. This is for yesterday.

Product of an unspeakable ménage à trois between Gwen Stefani, Edgar Winter, and Herbert Lom.
(Image originally uploaded by don_goose; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


An Ex-Parrot

If I can, I'll be back later with some random Flickr blogging, but for now, I thought I'd mention something I just saw at the Times. Y'know, I got little sleep last night, and I woke up this morning with a pounding headache, and it's the sixth anniversary of The Day Everything Changed®, and I remember fearing at the time, as did lots of other people, that our country was going to start getting crazier and nastier, and we were right, and today we're still bogged down in the fifth year of a war that should not have been started in the first place, and our leaders and our media are blathering about surges and give it 'til March and six more months and how can we drag this out so that our army is wrecked and our coffers are emptied and the next administration gets hamstrung by it, and thousands upon thousands more people have been killed than died six years ago this morning, and so I was very grateful to run across this story, which, sad though it is, made me forget about all this crap just for a moment and remember instead that, despite all we do to turn it into a smoking ruin, the universe is still a pretty marvelous freaking place:

He knew his colors and shapes, he learned more than 100 English words, and with his own brand of one-liners he established himself in TV shows, scientific reports, and news articles as perhaps the world’s most famous talking bird.

But last week Alex, an African Grey parrot, died, apparently of natural causes, said Dr. Irene Pepperberg, a comparative psychologist at Brandeis University and Harvard who studied and worked with the parrot for most of its life and published reports of his progress in scientific journals. The parrot was 31.


When, in 1977, Dr. Pepperberg, then a doctoral student in chemistry at Harvard, bought Alex from a pet store, scientists had little expectation that any bird could learn to communicate with humans. Most of the research had been done in pigeons, and was not promising.

But by using novel methods of teaching, Dr. Pepperberg prompted Alex to learn about 150 words, which he could put into categories, and to count small numbers, as well as colors and shapes. “The work revolutionized the way we think of bird brains,” said Diana Reiss, a psychologist at Hunter College who works with dolphins and elephants. “That used to be a pejorative, but now we look at those brains — at least Alex’s — with some awe.”


Dr. Pepperberg used an innovative approach to teach Alex. African Greys are social birds, and pick up some group dynamics very quickly. In experiments, Dr. Pepperberg would employ one trainer to, in effect, compete with Alex for a small reward, like a grape. Alex learned to ask for the grape by observing what the trainer was doing to get it; the researchers then worked with the bird to help shape the pronunciation of the words.

Alex showed surprising facility. For example, when shown a blue paper triangle, he could tell an experimenter what color the paper was, what shape it was, and — after touching it — what it was made of. He demonstrated off some of his skills on nature shows, including programs on the BBC and PBS. He famously shared scenes with the actor Alan Alda on the PBS series, “Look Who’s Talking.”

Like parrots can, he also picked up one-liners from hanging around the lab, like “calm down,” and “good morning.” He could express frustration, or apparent boredom, and his cognitive and language skills appeared to be about as competent as those in trained primates. His accomplishments have also inspired further work with African Grey parrots; two others, named Griffin and Arthur, are a part of Dr. Pepperberg’s continuing research program.

Even up through last week, Alex was working with Dr. Pepperberg on compound words and hard-to-pronounce words. As she put him into his cage for the night last Thursday, Dr. Pepperberg said, Alex looked at her and said: “You be good, see you tomorrow. I love you.”

He was found dead in his cage the next morning, and was determined to have died late Thursday night.

There's a moment in Errol Morris's Fast, Cheap and Out of Control—one of my favorite films—where Ray the naked-mole-rat expert talks about how one of the coolest things in human-animal contact is the moment where Subject seems to recognize Subject across the species divide, where human and animal exchange looks that acknowledge each other's consciousness: "You know I am. I know you are." When I read about Alex's last words, I thought of Ray and his generous awe of that moment and all that it signifies.

There are mornings when you need to be reminded of things like this.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Weep for Freedom

I don't know whether I'll be able to post anything else today, but I couldn't resist mentioning this (from My Left Nutmeg, from Atrios):

Jeez, it's like a who's-who of shameless right-wing hackery—with bad country music to boot. What did freedom do to deserve this?

...and Jon Voight?!? NOOOOOOOO.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #4662

The Austrian tour guides never could figure out what the American kids found so funny about the expression "Wiener Putti."
(Image originally uploaded by orayzio; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Saturday, September 08, 2007

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #0181

"I've coughed up hairballs more interesting and coherent than anything published at Little Green Footballs."
(Image originally uploaded by Elyse 柳素英; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #2294

This is for yesterday.

"Pssst. Escape attempt at midnight. Pass it on."
(Image originally uploaded by kat1980; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Horses Horses Horses Horses

I'm delighted to find that somebody put this up on YouTube:

This is from Millennium, that dark, depressing, short-lived Fox show from the 90s that starred a marvelously grim Lance Henriksen as haunted crimefighter Frank Black, whose uncanny (and possibly supernatural) ability to get inside the mind of a killer is both his gift and his curse. I've recently been rediscovering this series with the help of Netflix, and I've been pleasantly surprised to find that, though it has its faults, the show holds up rather well a decade later. Whether it was better originally than it seemed, or whether its darkness just fits better in the Bush years, I cannot say. I still remember being floored by this sequence when I first saw it. It's from the finale of Millennium's second season: as an apocalyptic virus begins to wreak havoc upon the land, Frank Black's equally haunted colleague Lara Means (Kristen Cloke) holes up in a lonely motel room and has her own apocalyptic breakdown—set to the searing, elemental accompaniment of the "Land" triptych from Patti Smith's Horses. I had never seen anything quite like this on television before. Nor had I paid sufficient attention to Patti Smith.

Come to think of it, it was a year ago yesterday that my friend jules sent me an email noting that Patti Smith had a new song inspired by the Israeli attack on Qana during last summer's war: go here and scroll down to "Qana." Listening to it, I couldn't help but be reminded of Lara Means going eloquently mad as her world descended into nightmare. Water to wine, wine to blood.

Go over to Patti Smith's news page now and you'll find an unspeakably gorgeous poem for the 70th anniversary of the Guernica bombing—Patti Smith doing in her way what Pablo Picasso so famously did in his. Part:

Through the rubble she crawled
with one shoe the other foot gone
a trail sticky and warm

She crept into the belly of a fallen horse
drawing its life into her mouth
covering her doll with kisses
she knelt entreating her god
an immense crucifix swathed
in telegraph wire that spun
like a bottle in the center of a circle

She made a sign over her breast
and stuffed her mouth with biscuits

Body of Christ...Body of Christ

Horses wept jewels the size of fists
swept by scholars with a mind
to twist and level facets
of each plane to be raffled
when the bombing ceased

Oh, Patti: I only wish I had gotten to know you sooner.

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #8793

This is for Thursday. Ye gods, aren't these things beautiful and sublime all at once? I understand that poem better every time I see a picture of one, I swear.

There's nothing like a good lickdown to keep the fur clean and the symmetry fearful.
(Image originally uploaded by iliaa; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #0482

Folks, I'm awfully sorry about not keeping up at least with DRFBing this week, but I've been very busy, not least with some software problems. I apologize. Let's get caught up. This is for Wednesday. I can't say I expected to run across bullfighting pictures two days in a row.

"You know, for the machoest representatives of a macho sport in a macho culture, you guys sure seem inordinately fond of the color pink." "What are you implying?"
(Image originally uploaded by heydanno; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #7787

The most dangerous part of any corrida is when, realizing that it has nothing to lose, the bull lets fly with all the snark it can muster. "Hey, the pink puttees weren't my idea, so shut up about 'em already."
(Image originally uploaded by pawlowski; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Yet Another Open Letter to Glenn McCoy


I wish I knew how to quit you. But no: lately, it seems like every time I get a Slate "Today's Cartoon" email, the featured scribbling is a particularly rank and odious one of yours, and I am driven to the blogosphere for solace. Oh well. At least you've gotten better at making donkeys look like donkeys since our last encounter:

I have admit that this one actually made me giggle a little when I first read it; however, I'm still trying to figure out why. Let's take the possible sources of "humor" one by one.

(1) The use of the expression "pervert Republican" in the first panel. At first I thought I might be responding to this nasty little bit of name-calling, either because (a) I get some kind of sadistic joy out of hearing a Republican described by such a vile adjective or (b) there's a pleasant surprise element in seeing you use such an adjective for a Republican—in this case, Larry Craig. Upon reflection, though, I realized that (a) I don't get joy out of hearing anybody called "pervert," particularly when their main offense seems to be cruising for consensual sex using a code that practically guarantees that only the willing (or cops bent on entrapment) will even know what's going on and (b) it seems likely that you get some sort of sadistic joy out of calling someone a "pervert"—when you could have used a less charged adjective such as gay or homosexual and it still would have been quite clear that you're alluding to the Larry Craig case. And that's not a kind of joy I'd like to share, thank you very much.

(2)The sudden reversal created by mentioning Barney Frank in the second panel. A lot of humor is created by sudden changes of direction, as in Henny Youngman's famous imprecation, "Take my wife—PLEASE." I thought I might be responding to the sudden switch from "pervert Republican" in the first panel to "Barney Frank" in the second panel. There is a reversal here, from talking about a Republican to talking about a Democrat; however, when I think about what connects the two in your cartoon, all the humor just kind of melts away. You see, if this reversal is meant to be funny, it can only be because you're taking us from (in your mind) a "pervert Republican" to a "pervert Democrat"—and we run afoul of the abovementioned "pervert" problem again. The reversal amounts to you trying to shift our attention off a Republican by pointing at Barney Frank and screaming "Hey, look, the Democrats have perverts, too!" Except that Barney Frank isn't a "pervert." Barney Frank is gay, and there is a difference between being gay and being a pervert. I'm sorry if this needs to be explained to you. I wouldn't call Larry Craig a pervert, either; hell, he even denies being gay. Given that he's spent much of his political career demonizing people for being gay, though, and for engaging in the same kinds of activities of which he now stands accused, I might call him a hypocrite, but that's a different matter. Read "A Prayer for Larry Craig" by James E. McGreevy, who eloquently shares his own memories of living in the unique kind of hell that is a closeted life in politics, and you might even feel compassion for a guy like Larry Craig. I do; thus, I can find no humor in dismissing him with the sick name pervert.

By the way, this also undercuts another possible source of "reversal" humor in the cartoon. Being cynical about politics myself, I thought that maybe I was responding to the cynical depiction of your two DNC operatives: eager to exploit a Republican scandal but worried that one of their own might be caught up in it. That might be funny, were it not, again, for your regrettable use of the word pervert—for once again the humor depends on us finding it funny to call gay men perverts. And if we don't, well, bang goes your joke. Which leaves me with one last candidate for why I found your cartoon at all funny:

(3) The manic energy depicted in your "D.N.C. Machine" exchange. In Freud's book on jokes he identifies one of the sources of humor as differences in "expenditure": for example, between the amount of effort actually required to accomplish a task and the exaggerated, extravagant movements of a clown or a good physical comic. (The "Ministry of Silly Walks" sketch is funny on many levels, but surely its foundation is John Cleese's hilarious ability to create this "expenditure" difference by, well, walking sillily.) Something like this seems to be happening in your cartoon, where the one DNC operative comes running in excitedly in panel one, bellowing, hat falling off, arms gesticulating, tie in disarray, etc., only to go rushing off in similar fashion in panel two—so much sound and fury over such a relatively unimportant (except to those involved) matter. I have to admit: I think that's kind of funny. It's the political cartoon equivalent of slapstick, but hey, it's better than nothing. So congratulations: at long last, you made a funny.

I'm almost eager for the next gay Republican scandal—if only to see how you manage to work in the name "Barney Frank" again. Oh, I know it'll be there. I am hopeful, however, that next time you'll forego the sick little thrill of calling a gay man a "pervert." There's a reversal that would raise some pleasant spirits, don't you think?


Monday, September 03, 2007

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #8226

Advertising Fun Fact #73: That koala in the old Qantas ads was goshdarned cute, but get too close and it would rip your face right off.
(Image originally uploaded by ferda mrvnc; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Sunday, September 02, 2007

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #2629

Cokie Roberts Fun Fact #23: Her NPR analysis segments are 87% effective in hypnotizing dogs and other easily suggestible mammals.
(Image originally uploaded by sebcra; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Stuff I Learned From the Sunday Times

(1) Under the Bush Administration, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has become an impotent joke. The whole story is worth a read, but it's the details like these that really make the heart sing:

The cranes that hover like a swarm of giant praying mantises over the piers at the Long Beach, Calif., port are concrete evidence of how global trade has transformed the safety commission’s task in keeping American consumers safe.

The towering cranes lift container after container of goods from China, which sends more products through the neighboring Los Angeles and Long Beach ports than to any others in the United States. In just the last decade, imports of Chinese consumer products nationwide have surged to $246 billion from $62 billion, according to agency statistics. Nearly 20 percent of the consumer products for sale in the country today are Chinese-made, compared to 5 percent in 1997.

And some of them may be dangerous. By law, the commission can mandate safety standards only after voluntary measures have failed. Chinese officials and factory owners have said, however, that they do not feel compelled to meet the voluntary standards.

“Time and again, through the translators, they made clear they did not understand this concept,” said Nick Marchica, an engineer and former agency senior aide. “What they told us was, ‘As far as we are concerned, voluntary means we don’t have to.’ ”

Gosh, we'd better hurry up and scrap the rest of our regulatory frameworks before the Chinese surpass us completely in the Capitalism Without Conscience department </competitive enterprise institute>.
Mr. Marchica said some Chinese products, like electrical extension cords or children’s jewelry, frequently violate the standards. But the consumer agency is handicapped in finding those goods or blocking them from reaching American buyers. The commission has no inspectors at factories overseas. And at ports in the United States, the agency is overwhelmed.

In Los Angeles area ports, through which 15 million truck-size containers move a year, a single agency inspector, working two or three days a week, spot-checks incoming shipments. Agency officials would not permit the inspector to speak with a reporter, but colleagues said her assignment was all but hopeless. “It is completely ineffective,” one agency official said.

Predictably, members of the Federalist Society are involved in the pillaging and a government that attempts to protect its citizens from unscrupulous business practices is derided as a "federal nanny." Oh, it's good to hear the classics on a Sunday.

(2) There was a big same-sex sex scandal in Idaho back in 1955, when Larry Craig was just a boy. This first featured a number of prominent whitebread male citizens caught dallying with teenage boys but then spread with the accompanying hysteria to ruin the lives of adults involved in quiet consensual relationships. The authors suggest that Senator Craig's intransigence might owe something to lessons learned many years earlier:

By the time snow fell, scores of men had been questioned. Sixteen were charged, including one who was hauled back from San Francisco, where he had fled when the scandal broke.

Of the 16 men who were formally charged, only one, the one who denied it all, who fought the case through a brutal trial, beat the charges. His steadfast denials, coupled with questions about the evidence against him, persuaded the jury to let him go.

The lesson of the 1955 scandal was clear: sexual misconduct — or even the mere perception that one is gay — could ruin a man’s reputation. But steadfast, straight-in-the-eye denial just might get him off the hook.

(3) Another op-ed contributor comes right out and says that Craig was entrapped. She bases this claim on the findings of an (in)famous 1970 dissertation that examined the elaborate system of codes in public-place liaisons. Basically,
various signals — the foot tapping, the hand waving and the body positioning — are all parts of a delicate ritual of call and answer, an elaborate series of codes that require the proper response for the initiator to continue. Put simply, a straight man would be left alone after that first tap or cough or look went unanswered.

Why? The initiator does not want to be beaten up or arrested or chased by teenagers, so he engages in safeguards to ensure that any physical advance will be reciprocated. As Mr. Humphreys put it, “because of cautions built into the strategies of these encounters, no man need fear being molested in such facilities.”

Mr. Humphreys’s aim was not just academic: he was trying to illustrate to the public and the police that straight men would not be harassed in these bathrooms. His findings would seem to suggest the implausibility not only of Senator Craig’s denial — that it was all a misunderstanding — but also of the policeman’s assertion that he was a passive participant. If the code was being followed, it is likely that both men would have to have been acting consciously for the signals to continue.


Clearly, whatever Mr. Craig’s intentions, the police entrapped him. If the police officer hadn’t met his stare, answered that tap or done something overt, there would be no news story. On this point, Mr. Humphreys was adamant and explicit: “On the basis of extensive and systematic observation, I doubt the veracity of any person (detective or otherwise) who claims to have been ‘molested’ in such a setting without first having ‘given his consent.’ ”

The author does not explore the implications re. Tucker Carlson. Pity.

(4) Meanwhile, Bush has been talking to a former Texas Monthly writer about what he's going to do once his (p)residency is over. Caution: you might not want to read this one if the thought of that man going on to a long, comfortable life of faux ranching and getting paid thousands of dollars a pop in wingnut welfare money to give insipid, predictable speeches makes your veins pop with righteous anger or your soul sink into despondency.

(5) Finally, libertarian Reason editor Nick Gillespie reviews a new book by Matt Bai about attempts to turn the Democratic Party into a progressive powerhouse. Apparently, the problem is that Democrats are shallow and lack big ideas—claims buttressed, I gather, by Bai's relentless accumulation of incriminating details, such as Rob Reiner being rude at a meeting once and Markos Moulitsas not reading Friedrich Hayek. Meh. I'm particularly baffled by this assertion from Gillespie's mournful conclusion: "Our political system works best — or is at least more interesting — when big ideas are being bandied about, both within parties and between them." Well, maybe. But it seems to me that what Democrats really need if they want to be a progressive force in these regressive times is not "big ideas" but rather a proud, loud respect for some time-honored ideas:

None of these strike me as terribly radical ideas, yet Republicans have been in de facto opposition to each one of them for decades—and the results are now painfully apparent in Iraq, New Orleans, the housing market, the emergency rooms, etc. etc. etc. I doubt that either Times writer Bai or libertarian Gillespie is terribly sympathetic with them, though, so perhaps it's not surprising that they downplay progressive activism by prattling about a dearth of "big ideas" and trotting out troubling anecdotes about limousine liberals. See Joan Walsh for a longer, deeper dissection of Bai; she at least does not buy into the mythology about how Republicans win because they're "the party of ideas."

The one thing I wish Democrats would learn from Republicans is how to bash the media effectively. I don't want them to turn into mirror images of those wingnuts who scream "liberal bias!" whenever the media tells them something they don't want to hear, regardless of whether it's true, relevant, significant, etc.; however, I do wish they would get better about fighting back when the media treats them unfairly, gins up fake controversies about them, and so on. We had a great example recently, when Barack Obama's wife made an innocuous comment about how the couple arranges their schedules to ensure that their children are not neglected thanks to the heavy demands of campaigning—only to have media outlet after media outlet rip her quotation from its context, selectively edit and present it, and then treat it as part of a demeaning "catfight" narrative wherein the remark was really a cheap shot at Hillary Clinton. I don't particularly care for either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, but I personally would love it if the candidates made a habit of pointing out stuff like this and going after the various reporters, talking heads, internet gossips, etc. that thrive on this kind of idiocy. I don't know if "fight back hard when the media mistreat you" would count as a Bai/Gillespie "big idea," but I know I'm not the only American who would like to see Democrats put it into practice far more often.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #2966

(Image originally uploaded by Magdalenawurth; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Professor Blevins

Our friend Generik points us to a new page of Get Your War On cartoons and reminds us about a hilarious essay by their creator, David Rees, ridiculing pro-war intellectual Michael Ignatieff's recent "mea culpa" in the New York Times Magazine. I, too, read Ignatieff's essay when it came out and found it quite baffling—though it did not occur to me to say, as Rees does, that it "can MAKE LEMONADE IN YOUR MIND," nor were my thoughts on the rest anywhere near as funny as Rees's:

Ignatieff's latest essay is what Latin people call a "mea culpa," which is Greek for "Attention publishers: I am ready to write a book about the huge colossal mistake I made." I imagine the book will be about a man struggling to do the right thing -- a man who thinks with his heart and dares, with a dream in each fist, to reach for the stars. It's about a journey: a journey from idealistic, starry-eyed academic to wizened, war-weary politician. (Ignatieff used to work at Harvard's Kennedy School; now he's Prime Chancellor of Canada's Liberal Delegate or whatever kind of wack-ass, kumbaya government they've got up there.)

In a way, it's a story much like Cormac McCarthy's recent best-selling "The Road." Both follow a hero's long march through thankless environments -- in Ignatieff's case, from the theory-throttled, dusty tower of academia to the burned-out hell-hole of representative politics. Danger lurks. Grime abounds. The narrative tension is: Can the hero be wrong about everything, survive, and still convince people he's smarter than everyone in

I was excited when I first saw this new essay: At last, Ignatieff was going to come clean about his super-duper-double-dipper errors. I expected a no-holds barred, personal excoriation. In fact, I assumed the first, last, and only sentence of the essay would be: "Please, for the love of God, don't ever listen to me again."


The first nine-tenths of Ignatieff's essay, far from being an honest self-examination, is a collection of vague aphorisms and bong-poster koans. It hums with the comforting murmur of lobotomy. I refuse to believe this section was actually written by a member of the Canadian government, because that would mean Canada is even more "fuxxor3d" than America. (A little hacker-speak, that. There will be more; I finally bought the B3rlitz tapes.)

Rees may be "only" a wise-ass cartoonist, but I swear, his description of the bulk of big-shot liberal intellectual Ignatieff's essay as "a collection of vague aphorisms and bong-poster koans" is spot-on. I really was shocked when I read Ignatieff's piece at how vanishingly little he actually says about the mistakes he made that led him to support the Iraq War. He starts promisingly, with an introduction that hints of hard cogitations upon the difficulties of good judgment, only to swerve off immediately into paragraph after paragraph of vague blatherings about politics, then swerving sort of back toward the topic of Iraq, only to end with more vague meanderings about prudence, vision, democracy, etc.—with nary a piece of insight into Ignatieff's Iraq-related errors to be found. Structurally speaking, the whole thing winds up looking something like a question mark:
I've been thinking about how I went wrong on Iraq.

Isaiah Berlin blah blah
intellectuals vs. politicians blah
blah understanding vs. knowledge
reality blah history blah blah
personal vs. political blah blah
blah dogmatism vs. flexibility blah blah

some were right on Iraq
but for the wrong reasons
prudence and democracy
Honestly, Ignatieff's essay is the first thing I've read in the New York Times Magazine that reminds me of the Austin Lounge Lizards song "Old Blevins" (lyrics here, MP3 here), wherein the singer retreats to a bar after a fight with his wife, makes the acquaintance of an old man whose demeanor promises enlightenment about matters of the heart, and listens intently as the elder begins to share his wisdom—only to find that it all sounds like this:
He said "Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah
In Tijuana, blah blah blah, back in 1963
Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah
You should have been there blah blah blah"
Is what Old Blevins said to me
I only wish I was joking. Here is Ignatieff's introduction:
The unfolding catastrophe in Iraq has condemned the political judgment of a president. But it has also condemned the judgment of many others, myself included, who as commentators supported the invasion. Many of us believed, as an Iraqi exile friend told me the night the war started, that it was the only chance the members of his generation would have to live in freedom in their own country. How distant a dream that now seems.

Having left an academic post at Harvard in 2005 and returned home to Canada to enter political life, I keep revisiting the Iraq debacle, trying to understand exactly how the judgments I now have to make in the political arena need to improve on the ones I used to offer from the sidelines. I’ve learned that acquiring good judgment in politics starts with knowing when to admit your mistakes.

Great! the reader thinks: a smart, scholarly guy is going to share his ruminations on his mistaken support for the Iraq debacle. Perhaps, from his mistakes, we can learn something that will help us avoid making such costly mistakes in the future. Alas, within the next four words, Isaiah Berlin's name is dropped and we're off to the races. I counted: no less than 1753 words pass before we finally return to the topic of Iraq—and while the words are often not without elegance and intelligence, they come nowhere near fulfilling the promise of the introduction, making Rees's characterization of them as "vague aphorisms and bong-poster koans" ultimately quite just. And look what we get when Ignatieff finally does swerve back to the topic of Iraq:
We might test judgment by asking, on the issue of Iraq, who best anticipated how events turned out. But many of those who correctly anticipated catastrophe did so not by exercising judgment but by indulging in ideology. They opposed the invasion because they believed the president was only after the oil or because they believed America is always and in every situation wrong.
Oh, bull-f*cking-shit. We opposed it because it seemed, at best, unnecessary (to address whatever threat Saddam and his ghost WMDs posed), at worst, immoral (given that it involved the invasion of a country that had not attacked us), and, quite frankly, insane (as a response to 9/11, it was rather like invading Equador to avenge Pearl Harbor). You know, 1753 words is an awfully long way to go to find only a pathetic Straw Man waiting at the end of the journey. But it gets worse:
The people who truly showed good judgment on Iraq predicted the consequences that actually ensued but also rightly evaluated the motives that led to the action. They did not necessarily possess more knowledge than the rest of us. They labored, as everyone did, with the same faulty intelligence and lack of knowledge of Iraq’s fissured sectarian history. What they didn’t do was take wishes for reality. They didn’t suppose, as President Bush did, that because they believed in the integrity of their own motives everyone else in the region would believe in it, too. They didn’t suppose that a free state could arise on the foundations of 35 years of police terror. They didn’t suppose that America had the power to shape political outcomes in a faraway country of which most Americans knew little. They didn’t believe that because America defended human rights and freedom in Bosnia and Kosovo it had to be doing so in Iraq. They avoided all these mistakes.
Look at how short that "they didn't take wishes for reality" line is, and look how it's tucked away in the middle of the paragraph, almost like Ignatieff hopes no one will notice it in the midst of all the surrounding bloviation. And you can see why: frankly, it's the most critically damning thing he says about his side. He seems to be suggesting, albeit in a backhanded, evasive sort of way, that proponents of the war (some, at least) did commit the fundamental epistemological sin of mistaking their wishes for reality. That would be a quite profound admission—so perhaps it's not hard to see why Ignatieff camouflages it by phrasing it in the negative, in a sentence about war opponents, and then buries it in a paragraph that blathers instead about "motives." And for God's sake: after all that we've seen the Bush Administration do, how can Ignatieff use the words "President Bush" and "integrity" in the same sentence without laughing? Could it be that Ignatieff is still mistaking wishes for reality? He still seems to take the Bush Administration's lofty words about "democracy," "freedom," etc. at face value. Well, here's a bit of real wisdom for him: By their fruits ye shall know them. After Iraq, Katrina, the Plame outing, the FISA violations, the US attorneys scandal, etc. etc. etc., a lot of us have given up on wishful thinking when it comes to this administration's "motives." I respectfully suggest that Ignatieff's deepest problem is that, for all his erudition and bloviation, he apparently cannot wrap his head around the simple thought that maybe, just maybe, the people whose war he championed act in fact from motives other than those they publicly proclaim. But wait: Ignatieff continues on the theme of "mistakes." Let's see if he goes anywhere worth going:
I made some of these mistakes and then a few of my own. The lesson I draw for the future is to be less influenced by the passions of people I admire — Iraqi exiles, for example — and to be less swayed by my emotions. I went to northern Iraq in 1992. I saw what Saddam Hussein did to the Kurds. From that moment forward, I believed he had to go. My convictions had all the authority of personal experience, but for that very reason, I let emotion carry me past the hard questions, like: Can Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites hold together in peace what Saddam Hussein held together by terror? I should have known that emotions in politics, as in life, tend to be self-justifying and in matters of ultimate political judgment, nothing, not even your own feelings, should be held immune from the burden of justification through cross-examination and argument.

Good judgment in politics, it turns out, depends on being a critical judge of yourself. It was not merely that the president did not take the care to understand Iraq. He also did not take the care to understand himself. The sense of reality that might have saved him from catastrophe would have taken the form of some warning bell sounding inside, alerting him that he did not know what he was doing. But then, it is doubtful that warning bells had ever sounded in him before. He had led a charmed life, and in charmed lives warning bells do not sound.

Nope. There's the big lesson Ignatieff learned from his agonizing ruminations: "to be less influenced by the passions of people I admire—Iraqi exiles, for example—and to be less swayed by my emotions." So we've come all this way only to be offered an obvious lesson that could have been summed up by saying In matters of life and death, one must not let emotion trump reason. Mind you, Ignatieff's essay would have been far more critically valuable if he had, say, discussed some specific examples of how reason and emotion had conflicted in his case. Reason and emotion are in conflict in all of us, after all, and we might learn something had Ignatieff shared instead how his emotions managed to lead him toward decisions that he now regrets—rather than wasting 2000 words on "vague aphorisms and bong-poster koans." And jeez, he can't even develop this would-be-valuable theme much at the end of his essay; instead, he swerves instead to talking about Bush: his problem, you see, is that "he did not take the care to understand himself." Ye gods, what drivel. What Bush's lack of self-understanding has to do with Ignatieff's mistakes in supporting the Iraq invasion we are left to guess, as what follows is a couple of vague paragraphs on "prudence" and "democracy" before the essay mercifully dozes off before it becomes any more incoherent. We have gotten as close as we are ever going to get, I fear, to a fulfillment of Ignatieff's promising I've-been-thinking-about-how-I-went-wrong-on-Iraq thesis.

I've read my share of student essays, and to be honest, in most student essays that wander about and fail to develop a coherent thesis as badly as Ignatieff's, there are so many sentence-level errors—misspellings, misused punctuation, ungrammatical constructions, etc.—that the things are multiply impenetrable. By contrast, Ignatieff's erudite essay makes for a beautiful read—if only it weren't so ultimately empty. It's like a big soap bubble: pretty, shimmering, blobular, but with nothing inside. Reading it again, I found myself thinking that Rees's witty, wide-ranging takedown is actually more gentle with it than it deserves. And I found myself reminded even more of "Old Blevins":

I sat there and I listened to his words
As they flapped around my head like little birds
Had he gone plumb 'round the bend, or could I just not comprehend
His lips were writing lines I could not read
When suddenly, it all came clear to me

As he said "Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah
Them crazy hippies blah blah blah blah no effect on me
Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah
The Great Depression blah blah blah"
And he would not leave me be

Oh, well: he's Canada's problem now.

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