Being Silly and Being Syllogistic

Yukking it up in the Fray.

Hope Springs Eternal: Neal Pollack’s “When The Laughter Stopped: Bob Hope’s 100 Years of Radical Politics” prompts a bunch of questions over in Low Concept Fray.

It ain’t the Cosmo Quiz, but read the piece and scratch out your musings if it’s a slow work day:Is Pollack Funny?: Geoff, long the anti’s party leader, blasts “Is this mediocrity gonna become a regular columnist?” White_Rabbit casts a shadow on Pollack’s intent, but finds some humor here:

Satire gains its power from having at least some connection to reality. This bit of strangeness from Neal Pollack goes out of its way to deny reality. Its funniest parts have nothing to do with Bob Hope, but with Gloria Steinem et al., whose radical liberalism he manages to skewer despite himself. His main target, though, he all but completely misses.
Is Bob Hope Funny?: Doodahman (whose “My Two Cents” in Dear Prudence Fray yesterday was a howler) claims, “I know funny. I love funny. I live for funny. And Bob Hope? HE AIN’T FUNNY.” TalkingOnMySoapbox2 agrees, but concedes that just because “I never laughed nor grinned at his material…so what? Millions more enjoyed his brand of humor and just because I (and apparently quite a few Slate readers) didn’t should not matter.” Nemo waxes nostalgic for the old man here.  And Geoff digs out some primary sources to the Fray here, a catalog of Hope zingers here, which raprap appends here.    Are you a good satirist or a really bad one if people can’t tell that you are writing satire? That’s the question posed by the_advocate, and it launches a monster critical debate. Geoff counters with, “Do you do syllogisms?” and spells out his equation for humor here that concludes “Satire = Funny.” Doodahman is a humanities guy, telling Geoff here, “Stick to math and leave literature and art to the professionals. The most classic piece of satire ever written was Swift’s ‘A Modest Proposal.’ It is the original model for satire. Guess what? It ain’t funny.” Of course, this launches the next debate…Is “A Modest Proposal” Funny? Geoff ambles over to his bookshelf, pulls out his copy and excerpts from Swift here and again here, noting that “if that doesn’t strike you as funny, your humor’s got some kind of congenital defect.” Doodahman’s answer:
…Perhaps you should consider something that is painfully obvious to most people: context matters. The detailed description of roasting Irish babies seems funny to you now because it represents a response to conditions several hundred years’ past. That much time has a tendency to drain the horror out of it. Of course, if the starvation of the Irish peasantry were occurring TODAY, and this piece was published, would you laugh out loud, in public? Yes, it is “dry.” But humorous? Only several centuries later when the circumstances have been resolved.
Finally…Zathras challenges Fraysters to “Write three jokes for Bob Hope about Neal Pollack.” You can yuk it up Low Concept-style here….KA9:10 a.m.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

Rocket Fuel: Some Sports Nutters have representational issues with Charles P. Pierce’s characterization of Roger Clemens as baseball’s “Last Great Flake.”Adam_Masin paints Clemens as “scary intense, but not a flake,” then points to Wade Boggs and David Eckstein— both notorious for eating the same meal before every game—as paragons of flakiness.

Naturally, the Yankee partisan gets in a parting word at Pierce: “figures the writer writes for a Boston publication.”

Echoguy agrees with Adam and unfurls a laundry list of baseball flakes that includes:

Tug McGraw who, when asked, “do you prefer to pitch on turf or on grass?” answered, “I don’t know; I’ve never smoked turf,” is a flake.

Doc Ellis, who pitched a no-hitter on LSD, is a flake.

Jay Johnstone, who thought a hotfoot or bubble gum on the ol’ cap, was the pinnacle of humor, was a flake.

Adrian Beltre, who insisted on different accommodations when convinced that his Milwaukee hotel room was haunted, is a flake.

BigIron takes up for Pierce, first answering Adam’s Boston-bashing with, “As for Pierce writing from Boston, I think that would give him greater knowledge and insight. Pierce, of course, also works for Esquire and ESPN. It’s not like Pierce was ripping Clemens—quite the opposite!”

Then he provides more Clemens fodder: 

In his famous 1990 nutty, in addition to the Ninja Turtle stuff and the eyeblack, Clemens had the words “Obsessed Rebel” on the back of his spikes (at least that’s where I think he’d printed it). Then there was the famous incident in (IIRC) 1993, when he was late to camp and, after this caused a bit of a stir, upon his arrival he wore a walkman doing laps while rookie manager Butch Hobson tried to talk with him for the first time.

… and finally adds some recent Red Sox flakelore here, including exploits from Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd. 

Signal, You Schmuck! Responding to Will Saletan’s “Progressive Tacks: The Democrats Turn Left,” WVMicko wonders, as does Sissyfuss1 here,  “How is this a left turn?”

Since when is insistence on “winning the peace” in Iraq “antiwar politics?” We paid for our victory, now poor administration planning is squandering it. I’d call it “the return of anti-incompetence politics,” myself…. SINCE WHEN IS BILL CLINTON A LEFTIST? 

… News flash: Populism is non-partisan. Nobody wins elections without populism of some sort. Period.

… Maintaining privacy and Church-State separation is counterculture? Somebody tell the Founding Fathers, apparently they missed that one.

Larry then asks WV, “Wouldn’t you agree that the ‘Democratic’ wing of the Democratic party seems to be gaining converts while the ‘electable’ wing treads water?” WV’s response is here. Torero offers up a prescription from the other side here. … KA8:45 a.m.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

The Horror, The Horror: Damned if Howie Kurtz isn’t referenced in the Fray more times than Alexis de Tocqueville at a high school Mock Congress cluster%*&@. First, Dan_Simon reinforces Jack Shafer’s Friday Press Box on Rick Bragg here with some Kurtz, then Betty_The_Crow brings e-mails leaked to Kurtz here to bolster the case against New York Times reporter Judith Miller. Betty has no doubt that “Mr. Shafer will be providing more juicy details on this ongoing train wreck later today.”Judging Rain-esy: Beverly_Mann begins a solid thread with JCormac arguing that

Journalists are considered unprofessional when they misrepresent via byline that they themselves have done the legwork on the stories that bear their byline and that they themselves therefore actually know that the representations in the article are a fair statement of what actually occurred.

Federal appellate judges, on the other hand, are downright revered by some), although they routinely misrepresent via byline on appellate opinions (whether formally published or not) that they themselves have reviewed the briefs and the court record in the case (or at least have opened the briefs and read the Table of Contents, and therefore have some vague idea of the nature of the issues in the case and in the appeal).
Beverly then cites specifically the 9th Circuit. JC, who has “had several cases before federal courts of appeals, most of them before judges in the 9th Circuit,” responds that
I’m not sure you have accurately described what I understand the process to be. I’d guess that 95% of federal appellate judges…have their clerks summarize the positions of the parties prior to oral argument. I’m pretty sure this is what you mean when you state “before the judge must decide the resolution of the appeal.” But, oral argument is not when the judges decide the resolution of the appeal, that usually happens after oral argument, during which the appellate judges pepper counsel with questions which illuminate the issues to be resolved. The judges then have an opportunity to review briefs, whatever they need before the decisions.
You can render your verdict after reading another round of testimony here and here. Fear and Loathing in Apalachicola: laocoon asks of the Bragg scandal
Didn’t Hunter Thompson resolve this issue 35 years ago with his comment that ‘sometimes a lie can bring you a little closer to the truth’? All journalism is ‘gonzo.’.…To me, the whole question of this tempest in the teapot of journalism is more about self-importance and narcissism than anything else.
Logicat-2 posits an even more cynical bent here. But back to laocoon who suggests that, “a journalist shows his subjectivity by his choice of subject,” to which Christofurio answers, “So does a scientist, but that’s no excuse for fraud.” … KFA9:30 p.m.

Sunday, May 25, 2003

Cellar Dweller: Sarvis offers his services to any pathological, oenophilic hoarder on the following premise: “Wine ain’t art, although it is artisan. It isn’t a Micky Mantle trading card either. Don’t just hang it on the wall or stick it in the closet - the damn stuff is meant to be consumed.” To wine cheats – profiled in Mike Steinberger’s “Grape Deceptions,” – burdened with the spousal ultimatum of “it’s me or the hooch,” Sarvis will

come to your house (or take delivery, if your preference) of key elements of your cellar and give them the fitting release that they deserve. The wine is happy, and your guilt is relieved.
Moving Violations: Like the kid on the bicycle in Better Off Dead chasing John Cusack, Geoff has been on Tad Friend’s tail all week for Friend’s Segway spin through the arrondissements of Paris. Geoff takes a generational swipe here, then here jumps on Friend for having “no business driving down the sidewalk (aside from his fantasies that the entire world marvels at him for his fancy little gizmo.),” and finally, upon reading Friend’s revelation that a middle-aged clerk “would never have approached us if we had been standing on our Segways,” scoffs:
I care enough to notice, but… *sob*… not enough… *sob*… to care…who knew the Segway would render your silly feet so obsolete? Who knew that this device would finally usher in the stratified dystopia we’ve always expected?
Geoff reportedly has a lunch date this week with Oakland mayor Jerry Brown to stem any incursion of Segways into the streets of the city…KFA2:45 p.m.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

The Courthouse Steps at High Noon: In response to Michael Isakoff’s review of Sidney Blumenthal’s, The Clinton Wars, Tim Noah files a second round (Sid Blumenthal Framed, Part 2), reprising a Chatterbox from October 1998 in which he takes up for Blumenthal against charges that the former Clinton aide-of-indeterminate-value-and-proximity overstated Starr prosecutors’ inquisitional zeal during grand jury testimony. Noah reviewed the book for Slate on Tuesday, as well.

The sticky point is Blumenthal’s motive in naming specific networks and media outlets when asked by the grand jury, “Did you distribute [talking points denigrating Kenneth Starr’s prosecution team produced by the Democratic National Committee] to anyone outside the White House?”

To answer Chatterbox’s barb of “[W]hom does Isikoff suppose the prosecutors had in mind when they asked Blumenthal about distributing DNC talking points ‘outside the White House’? Blumenthal’s cleaning lady?,” Isikoff promptly jumps into the Fray:

Chatterbox strains way too much. Blumenthal’s grandiloquent statement on the courthouse steps proclaimed that he was ‘forced to answer questions about my conversations…with the New York Times, CNN, CBS, Time magazine, U.s. News, the New York Daily News, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Observer and there may have been a few others.’ There was no way to listen to that and conclude anything but that the prosecutors had asked him about each of these news organizations and what he said to them.

Isikoff continues:

Blumenthal’s public statements about his testimony were misleading. It’s not just me who thought so. It was also the grand jurors who chastised him, through the grand jury forewoman, for his “inaccurate representation” of what took place…

Isikoff’s complete rebuttal to “Part Two” is here.

Not one to surrender home-Fray-advantage, Noah concedes that “it was Blumenthal, not the prosecutor” that enumerated the catalog of media shops, 

But it’s a petty point. As I noted in my original item about this, it’s obvious that the prosecutor, having first asked if Blumenthal had distributed the material outside the White House, and having received an affirmative answer, was next going to ask to whom Blumenthal had distributed the material. It was a pattern well established in the earlier questioning…

Noah concludes here

Among the Fraysters piling on Isikoff is zinya who zings, “There is something very troubling about someone who calls himself a journalist who carries around in his head (about virtually anything) such self-justifications as ‘There was no way to listen to that and conclude anything but …’”…KFA10:25 p.m.