Border Skirmish

Fray Canadians have had it up to here.

Bryan Curtis writes an homage to the Trivial Pursuit heyday of the late 1980s full of observational wit, and what does Fray Nation take away from the piece?

Those who revere Trivial Pursuit for its wit and erudition may be heartbroken to learn that it was created by Canadian hockey fans.
Border skirmish in The Middlebrow Fray. Here, jl_eau gets off the first shot, wondering:
I’m not sure what part is supposed to be the opposite of wit and erudition, Canadian or hockey fan. But since Canadians are pretty much by definition hockey fans I’m going to take that as insult it was obviously meant to be.
But her assertion that if “If Americans in the last couple of decades had spent a fraction of the time they’d spent playing Trivial Pursuit and put it towards getting a clue about the rest of the world…Imagine…” doesn’t begin to convey danakerjbam’s rage:
Oh wow, you mentioned both Canucks and Hockey, what a fucking masterstroke! What can be next, pointing out that we say “Eh” and “aboot?” Even the usually clever writers over at Gawker couldn’t resist.

Can somebody please explain to me why generally intelligent, funny, insightful and talented Americans end up sounding like Henny Youngman WANNABES when they get the subject of Canada? “Take the Canadians – they drink beer! They play hockey! Great White North! Eskimos! Wakka wakka wakka!”

…Other’n that? Snickering about lunkheads on the ice? What, cuz the gentle majesty of modern American basketball and its humble practitioners fills you with such pride? Beer? Yeah, we drink beer – so do you, you fucking geniuses! It’s called Miller and Bud and I know that because we get three hundred commercials a day for it up here!

…I propose a new Law akin to Godwin’s – call it the Canadian Stereotype Law or whatever, I don’t care, but here it is:

When a writer or speaker references any of the following Canadian stereotypes:

1) Hockey
2) Beer drinking
3) Freezing Temperatures

be it accepted that said writer is a HACK.

Who’s with me?
Probably Juno, who departed the Fray on January 12 (though returned briefly in mid-March) after a heated debate on the respective virtues of Canadian and American Exceptionalism with Geoff…that started over, you guessed it, beerKA10:10 a.m.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Hardly Dworkin: Demosthenes2 takes time in Today’s Blogs Fray to comment on Andrea Dworkin’s intellectual legacy. D2 “had the opportunity to debate Andrea Dworkin in 1985 while working on my thesis rebutting her proposed 1985 statute in Indiana that defined pornography as a violation of all women’s civil rights.” The overview of D2’s argument is this:

The tragedy of Dworkin’s work is that at its core it focuses on the subjugation of people while in an obsessive and ironic twist her proposed measures stems from the need to delimit the individual autonomy of those same individuals.
D2 expands on this paradox for us:
…what is subordination, what is subjugation of women is not depictions (however offensive we may find them) but Dworkin’s notion that what constitutes offense for her (or for anyone else) should be extrapolated and overrule the explicit dissent of people who disagree with her—what is a violation of one’s autonomy is the belief that other individuals may not have an explicitly different concept of what is and is not permissible (in the absence of a harm principle violation) and that others ought not be allowed to make that autonomous choice.
Thrasymachus replies to D2’s top post by sharing that the initial title of his obit for Dworkin was:
“Good News, Guys! We Get To Keep Our Dicks!”
T. ultimately decided on a stage play:
Then I realized that I hadn’t written an obituary about Johnnie Cochran or Pope John Paul II, so I had a notion of killing three birds with one stone (you’ll pardon the phrase) and setting a Platonic Dialogue in front of the Gates of Heaven (or perhaps in Purgatory, to get Jack’s ire), with the personalities being:


It strikes me that the three of them would have a lot to discuss, much of it illuminating.
Care to contribute a scene to T’s postmortem theatrics? Click here. Als Not Well: While we’re lacing public intellectuals, check out this doozy from Fray newbie Gem101 on Hilton Als. Last week, Als participated in Slate’s discussion on Saul Bellow. Here’s Gem:
(a) You really shouldn’t use the phrase “not only” twice in one sentence. It causes whiplash.

(b) Can you, as you claim, “mention a few” Papuans? Can you mention one, Proust-like or not? I’m willing to bet you can’t. Are you calling Zadie Smith a Zulu? Because last time I checked, she was British, and I suspect she would be offended by being described otherwise. And Danticat is Haitian-American, not Papuan – and, again, I’m sure she would object to being lumped in, by you, with all the world’s dark-skinned people. – Yes, it was a stupid thing for Bellow to say, but look at how easy it is to say something that someone might find offensive. After all, you just did, and with a fillip of self-righteousness that makes your crude approach to negritude seem even shallower.

(c) Yes, the world passed Bellow by. He was almost 90, after all. Trust me, the world will pass all of us by. That’s what the world does.
Gem101 has some serious Fray-mudgeon potential. Dispatch from Iraq: Marking his “six month mark in Iraq,” PigLatin submits this evocative list of “the top 10 things I miss least and most about livin’ in the good ol’ US of A” … KA2:20 p.m.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Given that there isn’t a Tom DeLay post worth an ounce of DDT, Fraywatch goes one-off today with a tangential invective courtesy of IOZ, here:

…The pontificating and prevaricating on the issue of the independence of the judiciary–and why mince words? independence is precisely the aspect of the judiciary that self-proclaimed (though not actual) conservatives wish to circumscribe–is the death-gasp of the intellectual underpinnings of their movement. (Honestly, those pins were never very sturdy to begin with.) It’s an admission: What we seek in the end is an extraconstitutional governing order. They don’t believe that the ability of the political wings of the government (so long, at least, as they control them) should be constrained in any meaningful way by independent judges. Indeed, the judges have run amok, or so the saying goes, by ruling against Republican political prerogatives. Well, it’s a nice tagline, anyway. Judicial activism if you do, judicial activism if you don’t. Oh, and either way, we kill you, muthafucka.

Now, let IOZ take a minor detour through history. A year or so ago, which under the American Standard System of Measurement is the equivalent of several millennia, there was great hue and cry in the land that these so-called activist judges were exceeding their constitutional authority–blah, blah, blah–and allowing thems hawmasectials ta marry, an act whose consequent psychic vibrations invalidated the government-tested, god-approved sanctity of each and every heterosexual marriage in the entire United States of America, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, right up to the most high and extra-holy matrimony of Britney Spears. In most cases, of course, these courts were rather modestly extending equal rights jurisprudence, striking the eminently reasonable stance that since there are homosexuals, and since there is marriage, and since the latter institution is the principle legal means of extending a set of basic rights to a generally cohabiting and fiscally interdependent household, it would do well to extend to the former access to the latter. Opposition to this notion came couched in a veritable petting zoo of legalia, much of it based on a fallacious generalization about legal enforcement of communal mores, and all of it rooted in the Axis of Leviticus, a collection of rogue theologians and non-state actors whose Paul-induced terror of man-on-man action is about as reasonable (and, IOZ might add, pathetic) as a grown man’s petrifying fear of the dark or the number thirteen.

That said, a few so-called conservatives made the tangentially valid point that we’ve come to depend too heavily on judicial remedies prior to exhausting all of our legislative options. This argument requires a fairly fatuous reading of the history of civil rights, in which a nigger-hating collection of Democrats and Republicans alike managed for years and decades to whip themselves into a white-hooded frenzy that would have driven even Atticus Finch to strong drink. Still, IOZ has some small appreciation for the argument: if you don’t like the law, change it; if you don’t like the constitution (state or otherwise), then, by God, get together a coalition to amend it. Hardly point, set, match, but at least an attempt at coherence, unlike our present advocates of jugicide, say an Edwin Vieira, who feels that certain decisions “uphold[…] Marxist, Leninist, satanic principles drawn from foreign law.” The obvious remedy to this creeping Leninism? Why Stalinism, of course. It worked for Stalin, after all: Death solves all problems. Proof positive that despite all the crowing after our year-apart funerals for the Vicar of Washington, Ronald Reagan, and the Vicar of God himself, old John Paul II, communism is not in fact defeated, and you just can’t keep a good Bolshevik down. Comrade Edwin, za vashe zdorov’ye!

More seriously, here is the gauntlet that IOZ lays at the so-called feet of conservativism: If you dislike the independent judiciary so much, change it. That old bat Phyllis Schlafly (old golfers never die, they just lose their balls) has been wailing that Justice Kennedy and a host of others ought to be impeached. Well, by all means, take up proceedings. Frankly, IOZ doesn’t think you have the stones. As George C. Scott as General Buck Turgidson memorably opined, “Mr. President, if I may speak freely, the Ruskie talks big, but frankly, we think he’s short of know how. I mean, you just can’t expect a bunch of ignorant peons to understand a machine like some of our boys.” Another accurate summation of modern so-called conservativism, whose withered claws have rigor-mortisized into the flesh of political power, whose collective mind (and IOZ uses the term very loosely) is so drunk with it that it’s lost all capacity to tie one on and head home to crash–no, no, tequila shots all around (except for the Minutemen, who prefer moonshine).

IOZ will begin taking these lame ducks seriously when they begin to put up. Calling on the lonely, still-live-with-mother, moron McVeighs out there to start blowing away judges for their stance on the Establishment clause is a nice trick and all, but most of these guys are too busy masturbating to two-decades-old glamour shots of Terri Shiavo to load the gun and head for the nearest appellate court for a nice shooting spree. Meanwhile, the party hacks are just so sure that they know the Constitution better than any jurist, and if independence means losing sometime, clearly, it’s for the birds. So they gallivant about doing the ” It is for mine own pleasure that I ask the head of Iokanaan in a silver charger” routine, but they never hold hearings, they never so much as try to impeach, and they certainly don’t ever try to alter the constitution. Even after constructing a specious constitutional reading that construes congress’ power to establish courts lower than the Supreme Court as carte blanche to limit jurisdiction over issue-specific cases (really, guys, this is pretty lame), they can’t manage much more than to inveigh, and that, obviously, doesn’t take much energy.

There can be no functional nation without its independent judiciary. Hell, most civil cases are business suing each other anyway. There must be some relatively impartial system of arbitration. There must be some interpretive agent. IOZ disagrees with plenty of decisions that post-date Marbury v. Madison, but that doesn’t mean he wants to crawl into his time machine to go back and try John Wilkes Boothing the judicial review. That so-called conservatives just can’t stand losing from time to time is a pity, but it’s hardly grounds to dispense with a basic governing unit that’s proven, for the most part, to be the least venal and mob-minded branch of government–which in so venal and mob-minded a government as ours is a precious, precious quality…
IOZ bookends his post with some faggy Morrissey lyrics, for those scoring at home. The disaffected can check out the entire post hereKA3:10 p.m.

Friday, April 8, 2005

Andrew Blum’s article on lifestyle centers misses a crucial point about earlier shopping malls. Architect Victor Gruen’s original designs for shopping malls consciously sought to recreate the dense commercial atmosphere of downtown for new suburbanites. In fact, in the 1950s the only model for successful retailing was downtown. The only other retail option was what was contemptuously referred to as ribbons or strips. These were seen as akin to commercial blight that would reduce property value and the appeal of retail. What Gruen promised at the 1950s shopping mall was to clean up commercial sprawl, create community, and turn a tidy profit. Being Viennese and more than a little critical of Americans, Gruen imagined that he was creating urban density in the midst of suburban sprawl with the mall. Additionally, he often had grand visions of bringing in other uses to the mall: community theaters, daycares, libraries, bomb shelters, and city hall. While Blum may bemoan that Americans have been tricked by lifestyle centers into giving up their right to expression, they already (and for the majority of white middle-class suburbanites willingly) gave it up when shopping malls began dominating the retail world in the 1950s.–MJH, known outside the Fray as M. Jeffrey Hardwick, biographer of Victor Gruen, on Malls vs. Downtown.
What I’m particularly proud of is how my newfound fame has led people I’ve never even met to open their hearts and their massive bank accounts to me.

As you read this, I don’t want you to feel sorry for me, because, I believe everyone will die someday. My name is Paul Adams I am a merchant of Omani nationality but presently residing in Britain. I have been diagnosed with Esophageal cancer . It has defiled all forms of medical treatment, and right now I have only about a few months to live, according to medical experts.
Makes it all worthwhile.

Thanks for the praise and good wishes, think about the fairly amazing job Eric has done in alien environs, and, last and least, locdog: neener neener neener.

hg, I think the story has some intrinsic value with respect to what Eric and I are doing, but what was most interesting to and instructive for me was how Froomkin used it as an illustration of a point he’d made in one of his live chats. If you search on the page for “they didn’t get answers,” (no quotes or comma), you’ll see what he did.–Betty_the_Crow, soaking up the goodwill in BOTF on BTC News’ newfound prominence in the White House Briefing Room.
Rhyme can be hackneyed or labored, or impenetrable, as in today’s rap music, but at least it shows the poet’s de minimus attention to the verbal texture of the work. The Greeks may not have had rhyme, but they certainly had metrical rhythm, as their poetry was meant to be chanted or even sung and often formed a crucial element in a large public ceremony. It was oratorical and therefore, by implicit necessity, rhetorical, that is to say, social, competitive, aggressive, in a certain sense political. Indeed, the poetics of rap are in this regard much closer to the ancients than any Wordsworth or Milton with their, respectively, breathless reflections on nature or allegorical-theological dramas. 50 Cent has much more in common than either of them with, say, Pindar.

All of which relates to the distinction between poetry and prose. There’s an awful lot of poetry that fails to live up to the imperatives of that distinction. And what really bothers people, I think, is the question of bad faith in poetics. Interestingly, aesthetics does impinge upon ethics in this way, through the expectations created by formal tradition. Poetry, for all its woebegone impoverished decline, is still accorded a certain prestige in certain quarters. And, as practiced by the members of its somewhat incestuous professional guild, it continues to pride itself on its heritage as the oldest literary genre, etc. So people wonder, if the poet continues to claim the laurel of literary distinction and continues to present his/her work in the grand manner of the canon – short, symmetrical lines arranged into quatrain-like verses – shouldn’t the verbal texture of the work bear out the necessity of these formal structures? Isn’t it incumbent upon the poet to show that he or she can actually do something special or impressive with language?

MarkEHaag, wondering if “there’s more to form than rhyme.”
…It’s ridiculous for the press to be getting on Prince Charles for finally “doing the right thing.” I would take it one step further: how dare the press treat Camilla Parker-Bowles like such a commodity? She’s not a knockout, but so what? She’s obviously a woman who clicks with Charles on all the important levels – a life partner, in other words – and if all the wags have to say about that is “But … she’s a pooch!” then they only reveal themselves to be the shallowest, crassest lightweights imaginable. And sexist to boot: did anybody make jokes about Charles’ nose or unappealing personality, or say Parker-Bowles “could do better”? Nope.

This whole business of commenting on the loves of prominent people is so … so … 7th grade. Shallowness and cruelty in a group dynamic. It’s even below the level of American Idol.–DemiMundane, taking up for Charles & Camilla.
Thread of the Week: Initiated here, in BOTF, by locdog, attempting to unravel our favorite theological tautology. IOZ cracks back, “Absolutism in the face of divinity is juvenile.” And LowDudgeon confesses that “God’s just reaction to free-willed sin I can live with,” but that “God’s just “proaction,” if you will, (“God never would have allowed evil unless it was to bring about some greater good”) is problematic.” HLS2003 tries to place “cafeteria Christians” into the proper context of today’s hot-button socio-religious debates … KA2:45 p.m.

Tuesday, April 5, 2005

When the androgynous user name Betty_the_Crow first appeared on BOTF, then-Fray Editor J.D. Connor had an inkling of what may follow. In a classified March 2003 memo prepared for his Fr_Ed successor titled, “So You Wanna Be Fray Editor,” Connor wrote of Betty, “probably the smartest poster I starred in my time.” Betty toiled on the Fray’s topical boards, often signing his posts BTC News. In fall 2003, Betty announced the launch of  BTC News’ blog. The site, offering worldwide coverage, was met with much fanfare among stalwart Fraysters. But White House Briefing Room? As recently as six weeks ago, Fraysters could’ve gotten in on the ground floor. Last Thursday, gary1 tipped off the Fray to BTC’s rush up the blog charts. But today’s Washington Post officially inducted BTC News into the big time. In his “White House Briefing” column, Dan Froomkin reported this morning that Eric Brewer, BTC’s man in Washington, “became the first blogger to actually ask press secretary Scott McClellan a question last week.” The BTC-McClellan exchange:

Q Back to the report on the botched WMD intelligence, have the massive intelligence failures documented in the report caused the President to rethink his policy of preventive war?
MR. McCLELLAN: You know, September 11th taught us a very important lesson, and that lesson was that we must confront threats before it is too late. If we had known of those attacks ahead of time, we would have moved heaven and earth to prevent them from happening. This President will not hesitate when it comes to protecting the American people. And in the post-September 11th world that we live in, the consequences of underestimating the threat we face is too high. It’s tens of – possibly tens of thousands of lives. Q What about the cost of overestimating? MR. McCLELLAN: Are you talking about the Iraq situation? Q Going into Iraq, yes, with bad intelligence. MR. McCLELLAN: I think we’ve talked about this before. The world is safer with Saddam Hussein’s regime removed from power. The Iraqi people are serving as an example to the rest of the Middle East through their courage and determination to build a free future.
For more on BTC News’ incursion on the mainstream media, check out Froomkin’s full column and historyguy’s congratulatory thread on BOTF. Fraywatch has just one question for BTC News: Is there a “McClellan-to-English” translator in the works? Could it be the Bushisms of the second term! … KA4:25 p.m.