Blind Boy of Alabama

Newsroom agendas, legal agendas, astral agendas.

Gray Parachutes: The chattering classes are abuzz over the horse race to succeed Howell Raines at the New York Times, but EdwardBoyd thinks the devil is in the details, mainly:

What severance package is he going to receive from the times as payment for stepping aside and saving Pinch?
Roll, Roll, Roll in Ze Hay! Wellmanswellman reminds Fraysters that even though the Times is maligned as the stateside’s Pravda, it was during Raines’ tenure that the paper “pursued Clinton/Whitewater like those maddened villagers from Young Frankenstein.” This prompts zinya to offer her theory that the Times of the Whitewater era was “‘overcompensating’ with [its] tirade against Clinton and anything else to try to prove their objectivity in exactly the WRONG way.” Will the scandal of the Raines administration hinder the New York Times from setting the topical agenda in newsrooms around the nation? According to Zathras, not until
papers other than The New York Times lay out the money to hire enough good reporters to go get stories rather than wait for stories to just show up.
More from Zathras on the epistemology of agendas here. Meter-o-Meter: Baltimore-aureole rolls out a menu o’ meters for Mickey Kaus to install following the comparable success of the Saddam-O-Meter and the more evanescent but graphically endearing Howell Raines-O-Meter. WVMicko follows up by assigning b-a’s creation to appropriate Slate personnel. b-a’s “osamameter - not what you think. instead of simply counting off the days to his capture, you make it into a kind of ‘where’s waldo’ deal. put up a map of the middle east and use color intensity to show level of probability (by country and city) of his location. bonus aspect: people won’t ridicule it as stupid,” WV assigns, “to Peter Maass – since he knows the Baghdad Blogger, he may have an ‘in.’” b-a replies
if you give maass the ‘where’s osama’ assignment, isn’t this likely to end up with a special ops team capturing osama in the hotel room next to maass, who will lament (again) ‘perhaps i should have paid more attention to …’
Star Sightings: How has the first week of stardom been treating EFriedemann? Now crowned with gold, EF has renewed his longstanding legalistic spat over the Federalist Society with Beverly_Mann. The origin of the debate, so far as Fray Editor can find, is here and here. Beverly and EF got into it again this morning – the first time they’ve engaged in Fraycombat since EF’s June 2 star. Beverly’s post this morning, in which she apologizes for misidentifying a judge in a previous message, reiterates the purpose of her initial post “to note the slimy game Sen. Arlen Specter, who will be running next year for reelection, was playing with judicial nominees.” EF jumps on this and defends the Federalist Society:
I joined the Federalist Society a few years ago, because I admire the group’s interest in “federalism.” Also, unlike liberal legal organizations, the Federalist Society sponsors talks and writings (e.g. the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy annual edition) that look at all sides of subject legal issues.
Is the Federalist Society a “right wing think tank” as Beverly maintains, or merely a legal parlor for the consumption of intellectual fodder. You can read EF’s point-by-point rebuttal and decide for yourself hereKA4:45 p.m.

Thursday, June 5, 2003

Packed Like Sardines in a Crushed Tin Box: Music Club-goers may be Paranoid Androids but in the Fray they attack like Hunting Bears, and Sasha Frere-Jones better be Bullet Proof…or wish he was. Drew22 finds the forest through the Fake Plastic Trees here, and essentially calls Frere-Jones out as an Airbag:

I do have to say that the sentence, “Their work reeks of that middlebrow embrace of Modernist gestures without any of Modernism’s heavy lifting” made me laugh harder than I have in a long time, so thank you for that. Sometimes there’s nothing funnier than blissfully unaware self-satire.

ElboRuum offers his Dollars and Cents here, squawking that “The ‘high-art’ intellectualism has more to do with the reviewers of music rather than the music itself.” DrTchocky embodies a populist Street Spirit with this riff:

So Radiohead is modernist? OK, I can see that, their music certainly represents an attempt to deconstruct or at least fuck around with the form, tenor, and expectations of pop music, while still ostensibly claiming to be ‘pop.’ …That to me seems like the biggest problem that certain critics have not just with Radiohead, but with other half-way experimental mid-lifers like Wilco and Beck. Apparently, all this conflict between wanting to explore the fringe but still acknowledging the undeniable, human pull of pop music is anathema for some critics, who don’t mind reveling in the esoteric pleasure of the latest Neptunes track, but who blanch at even seeming to enjoy something that Entertainment Weekly or People magazine would (god forbid) consider ‘visionary’ or ‘cutting edge.’

Anyone Can Play Guitar: TheNewSnobbery finds Gerry Marzorati’s quote from Tuesday’s Music Club exchange to be Idioteque:

here in the States, and not only in the States, Radiohead’s reputation resides less with critics than with musicians, musicians of all kinds—classical pianists and composers; jazz players; countless other bands. It’s the music, of course, but I don’t want to get your blood pressure up again about that.

TNS, a “classically trained practice room piano nerd and pop fanatic” rebuts, “you’re indulging in that worst of arguments, the musicologist/critic vs. musician credibility gambit.”  TNS continues:

Just like actors fall over themselves over a certain kind of acting, writers lose their minds over ‘writerly’ writers, musicians … are going to like Radiohead in the sense that there are things to deconstruct, there are unusual moves being made and the whole thing generally smacks of chance music, the a-tonal stuff that every professor we’ve ever had has told us is too cool and difficult for the average person to really understand.

And just so I’m clear, those really are good reasons to like the band. But it also explains your claim that the critics (implied text: trend chasing, navel gazing english/journalism majors who don’t know much about serious music) don’t like Radiohead as much as those who, you know, walk the musical walk. Composers. Pianists.

No Surprises: In revolutionarybitch’s estimation:

Radiohead, which piggybacks on 40 antique years of guitar-guitar-bass-drums-vocals, is no revolution. …

Hip-hop has been, and continues to be, a revolution in every sense of the word. Rap and hip-hop artists are using totally new and unprecedented instrumentation and technologies in the production of their music; they’ve revolutionized the concept of an album, its structure and its character; they’ve created an entirely new palate for lyrical content. …hip-hop represents a vibrant and diverse culture …the eloquence and genius of J-Live, Mos Def, Dilated Peoples, Aesop Rock, Dan the Automator, and on and on and on, dwarfs anything Radiohead has ever done or ever will do. So, can we move on, already, and talk about some music that matters?

Knives Out, MarcEJohnson retorts:

Sorry, hiphop, broadly speaking, stopped being revolutionary in any important sense about 15 years ago. Cutting edge? Sometimes. Popular? Often. But revolutionary? Sorry, no dice. …The whole argument seems rather silly. I like Dan the Automator, Mos Def, and the others you mention. … So I’m entirely sympathetic to hiphop’s relevance and quality. What I have no sympathy for, however, are blanket assertions.

More Ripcords and Blow Outs from Marc here. … KA12:20 p.m.

Wednesday, June 4, 2003

Hydrol-ogic: Rob Walker’s Ad Report Card (with the TOC line “The Commercial That Assumes You’re Racist”) features Chevy’s new Impala campaign in which white yuppiedom turns the axles on a carload of street toughs. Walker weighs the heightened effect of Chevy’s “switcheroo”—a familiar narrative tactic in “ad-land”—given that “we’re asked to spend a few seconds thinking the worst” about racial norms. CaptainRonVoyage sees a different color line:

This seems like a pretty crafty and crass bit of racial bet-hedging. The Impala has a very “schizophrenic” market position for Chevy. The original cars had a strong nostalgia element for whites as a family car, but in the past few decades also developed a lot of street cred as the ultimate car for low-riders.
More on the CRV’s theory that Chevy’s “trying to have it both ways” here. In addition, CRV answers SlipperyPete’s snarky assessment of “what’s REALLY wrong” with the ad:
no self-respecting yuppie would be CAUGHT DEAD in a Chevy Impala, which is the closest thing to a NASCAR fanny pack on wheels.
CRV counters here and Pete again here. It’s the typology, stupid: Wolleybugger2 cautions, “Do not confuse culture with race,” reminding posters that, “The bottom line is that black kids love that kind of music. So do white, yellow, brown, purple, etc. kids.” RandyMoran agrees in a sense. To Walker’s ironic analysis that “In fact, she’s totally down with black culture!” Randy pshaws:
She just likes rap music, apparently, and she likes to play it loud in her new car. Loud enough to disturb those around her. Loud enough so that one can’t help but notice her. Yup, she’s a typical white suburbanite.
Does MikeMillennium catch Slate in a subconscious whitewash? “‘The commercial that assumes you’re a racist’?? Who is ‘you’? White people?”…KA1:05 a.m.

Monday, June 2, 2003

Acronym Acrimony: For the better part of a month, “Where are the WMDs?” has been the top title on the Fray header hit parade. Do a Fray search for “WMD,” and the results of your 100-max return will extend barely past real time. Add to that a Fred Kaplan War Stories  piece (“Vanishing Agents: Did Iraq Really Have Weapons of Mass Destruction”) and the call letters become ubiquitous, reaching amber-hued alert levels in the Fray.

Satish_desai generates a couple dozen responses for his bio-chemo-political posting here that asserts

The chemicals used in WMD are dual-purpose (nerve agents or pesticides), and the biological agents are unstable, which means their presence or intended purpose would be difficult to establish in any event, unless they were found inside warheads. …Saddam’s WMD stockpile could have taken three courses: some of it could have been destroyed before the arrival of the U.S. troops, some of it could have been still hidden under the sand, like the barrels of pesticide that also happens to be a nerve gas, and the remaining could be in the custody of Syria’s Assad. Or, the program could be in the gestation period, in which case, destroying it before maturity was the right thing to do.

Similar to WashingtonBigfoot here and marcusjohn here, Satish believes the question of where are they? to be superfluous to the overall operation.

Back to chem class where AdamMorgan goes at Satish’s argument with a Bunsen burner. To Satish’s dual-purpose thesis, Adam responds, “Wrong. If this were so, weapon’s inspectors would only have to look in warheads, which of course is not true.” Adam’s post is chock full o’ bio-bits and multiple refutations of Satish; Curious Fraysters may learn about “gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer,” an “instrument that combines two analytical methods in tandem” used by weapons inspectors here.

Elbo_Ruum takes on the political end of the argument here:

Satish, your blind faith in the administration never ceases to amaze me. The administration blatantly prevaricated about the condition and copiousness of its intelligence on the presence of WMD’s in Iraq. Hell, the administration has practically admitted to complete willful deception with a ruse to ‘sell’ the public on the idea of the immediate necessity warfare with Iraq.

Offering his own political theory, Engram suggests that the administration may be tactical in its delay:

If I were (in) charge, my orders would be to search those hundreds of suspected weapons sites over the next few months, beginning with the ones that are least likely to yield fruit. Let the doubts grow, give the Democrats some rope to play with.

Department of Astral Affairs: As promised, FrayEditor III announces his first three stars this morning. Recipients should come over to Best Of The Fray to be dubbed.

A longtime denizen of Poems Fray, MaryAnn is a thoughtful student of the form who, though harboring some inexplicable hostility toward Los Angeles, has impeccable taste—as a critic, a voice, but most important and often forgotten, as a Fraycitizen who is always mindful of the Fray’s mission. A sample of her contributions can be found here and here.

Just what we need: another lawyer with a star. EFriedemann is cantankerous, grouchy, but not without a sense of humor. And he is long overdue for commendation as an astute analyst of all things constitutional. A stellar posting/response from Memorial Day Weekend can be found here, in addition to several other works in his lengthy MBTU which will now be preserved in the basement file room of the Fray. 

An argument for saving Chatterbox, as well as a frequent poster in Moneybox and more obscure Frays such as Do The Math, Sissyfuss1 has piled up the checks with a deft plume and smart postings that are a pleasure to read. S1 may have caught your eye during historyguy’s recent book review contest with his entry as “Hypotenuse Reviewing Euclid’s Geometry.”

FrayEditor welcomes these three folks to Project Goldenrod. Please see the Customer Service Representative at the top of Aisle 119 to claim your prize. … KA9:25 a.m.

Friday, May 30, 2003

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.