Touching Down at the Lou

A Frayster’s first trip home since Katrina.

Fatso: An invaluable contributor to the Fray’s Katrina coverage over the summer, Sawbones recounts his first trip back to New Orleans since the hurricane. Where is Sawbones on the rebuilding question?

to the rest of you: those who don’t bleed with each inevitable Saints loss; those who have never heard a Boudreaux-and-Thibodeaux joke; those of you who don’t know what it means to eat boiled crawfish so hot that you can’t tell the tears from the sweat from the snot (and think that this is a good thing); those of you who wouldn’t think of calling a perfect stranger “dawlin’”: you can think whatever you want and maybe even say it to my face. You can say that it can’t or shouldn’t be done. Depending on my mood, I might just punch you, but your words and my reaction don’t change the simple fact that it will be done. It will be done either a painful millimeter at a time by New Orleanians alone, or more quickly in concert with other citizens elsewhere who understand that real patriotism must also involve treating your neighbor’s fate as if it could be your own tomorrow. It is a rare moment when words from George W. seem appropriate, but you are either with us or against us. Get on board or get out of the way.
’bones’ full account deserves a read. Stroll the Ave with him here. Trustifarians:MacGuffin shares the frustration of Field Maloney (“Free Bob Marley“) over the hijacking of Bob Marley by the kids at Andover and the brothers of A.Z.A. MacG lets it rip in Music Box Fray:
I am pleased that Maloney wrote this article about the dangerous scourge of our time: trustifarians. I agree that these hacky-sack playing, ginseng tea sipping, Foucault reading, hemp necklace wearing hippies who are busy at work writing 10-page, double-spaced papers for sociology courses about the existential crisis caused by Tina Yothers, while toking on ganja, cut with oregano and bonsai tree clippings, are ruining Marley and what his music really means.
As Fray-rants go, it’s a good one—replete with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Take lunch with MacGuffin hereKA8:30 a.m. PST

Tuesday, February 28, 2005

Prescriptions for Left and Right: I’m going to miss ShriekingViolet—a liberal poster who, unlike many of her left-leaning brethren on the Fray, is never reluctant to call totalitarianism by its rightful name but is also unwilling to cede to the facile militarism of the right. Here she is in response to Francis Fukuyama’s survey of current works on the challenge of the West vis-à-vis fundamentalist Islam:

It will be difficult to move forward and address this burgeoning crisis, but the first step is (and should always be) to reject the simplistic ideological prescriptions from the usual suspects.

First of all, the Left needs to come to terms with the limitations and failures of identity politics. As much as we prefer cultural diversity to conformity, and as much as we generally prefer to sympathize with the powerless rather than with the establishment, we need to be willing to stand up and defend the superiority of our values to those of the radical mullahs. We believe in freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of association. We believe in equal opportunity for men and women of all races. We believe in liberal democracy. And we will only welcome people into our countries who share these minimum values. We value diversity in art, music, cuisine, personal expression, religious belief, and political philosophy, and we really don’t care what you do in the bedroom. But if you’ve got a problem with liberal democracy and human rights, then we’ve got a problem with you. And we aren’t afraid to fight when we must.

Second, the Right needs to come to terms with the limitations and failures of military action. No matter how deeply they believe that we’re facing a clash of civilizations, no matter how strongly they prefer tough talk to diplomacy and military power to soft power, and no matter how much they prefer our traditional values to cultural diversity, they need to accept that millions of Muslims already live in our midst and most of them want to peacefully coexist with us. They can’t defeat radical Islam by intimidating it into submission or invading Arab dictatorships and attempting to impose liberal democracy from the outside. The only people who benefit from a direct, violent confrontation between the West and the Islamic world are the radical mullahs who wish to coerce moderate Muslims into choosing Islamic solidarity over Western values. It would only succeed in encouraging the allies we need the most to take sides against us.
Read the entire post here.Hangover Cure: Try Poems Fray, one of Departing Fray Editor’s favorites; for the most part, PF is a self-policing, civil, and collaborative community. Perhaps it was for these reasons I didn’t visit PF more frequently. But with stalwarts such as MaryAnn holding down the fort, FrEd felt that the board was in the safe hands of its veteran de facto moderators.  Here’s MA on this week’s poem, Dean Young’s, “Ode to Hangover.” … KA3:05 p.m. PST

Wednesday, February 22, 2005

Cheesily Blonde: Jack Shafer’s hilarious appraisal of the concrete blondes who deliver the news has generated all kinds of responses, ranging from the defensive to the confessional. Then there’s historyguy, who finds Shafer’s visual exercise puerile and uninteresting:

“many female newscasters lie about their true hair color every time they appear on television”

Yeah, and they also lie about what their skin looks like by wearing clothing. The male anchors do that too. And everyone lies by using studio lighting.

The male anchors lie about their true facial appearance every time they appear on television shaven. except Wolf, who lies by trimming neatly.

Next in the series: radio broadcasters lie by editing out their stutters and hiccups! Print journalists lie by letting editors and spellcheck software improve their prose beyond its natural state!

Shafer, find a real topic next time.

As a Mom of two blonde kids, omnibus1reader finds Shafer’s potshot at the fair-haired to be off the mark, anthropologically speaking:

People of usually Nordic extraction who are blond are not necessarily using it to some advantage over others. It is just a trait. If your ancestors lived in the frozen north, they would have perished from rickets if they had been dark — unless — and this explains the Inuit and those, like Catherine Zeta-Jones who are various forms of “black Celtic” (she is black Welsh, my mother’s father called himself black Irish): the reason for the color difference has to do with access to the sea and access therefore to vitamin D in mostly fish livers and such…

You have to have practically transparent skin to let the sun in, such as it is, in some latitudes, so that your body can make vitamin D. Or as George Carlin put it, you have to be iridescent.

This isn’t to say that omni doesn’t have issues with the blonde brigade:

If there’s anything annoying about the Fox women and their MSNBC competitors, it is their soap opera voices and tacky Banlon cleavage.

Though departing fray editor is a closet Weather Channel junkie (and an Atlanta native to boot), he’s not quite sure what’s going on here with NarcoRepublican. Meanwhile, scout29c laments that once “the internet can handle the bandwidth for all the bloggers to have live feeds … we will all have to get better pajamas.”

Models of Spiritualism: Though this thread in Faith-Based Fray begins with Fritz_Gerlich’s posting of Leon Wieseltier’s scathing review of Daniel Dennett’s new uber-rationalist Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, the post launched a more personal examination of religion—highlighted by Theodore_Geisel’s post here. Though TG confesses to “having very few institutional-religious bones in my body,” he has sought out some answers on religion’s fragile relationship with functionalism at a Talmud class on Mercer Island. His revelations are intriguing, as is Fritz’s response here.

Canadian Bacon: No Slate FRC correspondent has topped bacon’s coverage of the Canadian hockey team’s roller coaster ride in Turin. Check out his post-game analysis here.

Bright Lights, a Bit Shitty: There’s little action in Books Fray on Blake Bailey’s review of Jay McInerney’s new kinda-topical novel, The Good Life. But Ted_Burke steps forward:

I agree that Jay McInerney is a better writer than he’s been credit, but history will judge his novels as minor efforts at best.

Ted goes on to say that McInerney never did his formidable influences, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, proper literary justice:

After all these years he is still trying to outrace the long shadows of those who brought him reading pleasure.

Check out Ted’s missive hereKA 8:20 a.m. PST

Saturday, February 18, 2006

As we reach the last week of the 2006 Winter Olympiad, Fraywatch is proud to present comprehensive coverage of the Fray’s comprehensive coverage of Slate’s comprehensive coverage of NBC’s comprehensive coverage of Turin 2006.

Root, Root, Root for Some Team: If the Fray is any indicator, the athletes must be one of the least interesting features of the Olympics. Fortunately, however, the sports haven’t gone wholly unremarked. Resident Canadians Lono and bacon have been treating the Fray to commentary on (what else?) Olympic hockey. British national steelbucket takes a moment to savor his country’s success in the women’s tea-tray slalom. And tmservo gives us a valuable update on the Jamaican bob-sledding. Anyone caring to crow or keen about their team’s performance is welcome to join in on the Olympic Fray.

Fanon Ice: On the Fray, discussion of the games has been dwarfed by discussion of Reihan Salam’s provocative article “White Snow, Brown Rage.” Is huey_lewis right that the article’s a joke? Is Rudyeman right that Salam’s take on the Winter Games identifies something about our post-colonial moment? Or, as MarshallStall suggests, is it a little bit of both? Feel free to hit the slippery slopes of race, sport, and geopolitics in our Olympic Fray.

Virtual Virtues: While many lament the unwatchability of the games on TV, Slate writer Neal Pollack laments the unplayability of the games on Xbox. UnnamedWill, a game developer, blames the mediocrity of Olympic video games on the paradox of game design: “Because they don’t sell well, video game makers don’t put a lot of effort into making Olympics video games, and therefore the ones that are made tend to suck, and so they don’t sell well.” Finger jockey Archytas suggests that Pollack’s dissatisfaction may stem from the game’s title, rather than its topic. GA 6:30 p.m.

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Does Hollywood do anything new these days? That is the heart of the question posed by Edward Jay Epstein’s defense of The Island, the Michael Bay sci-fi actioner best known for tanking at the box office last summer amid charges of plagiarism.

Nothing new under the sun, says Brian-1:

It’s hard to argue with the notion that there is something lacking in Hollywood’s film slate, but originality has NEVER been its forte. Back in the days before remakes, Hollywood relied on cribbing musicals, plays, and books. It’s simply moved on to television and its own back catalogue because that is what the audience is familiar with.

20yearsfromnow seems inclined to let studios off the creative hook:

Hollywood can’t be faulted for behaving with fiscal prudence. Things haven’t really changed much since the earliest days of movie-making.

Before there was TV, and up to the present day, the most profitable movies are based on best selling books: GWTW, TWOO, Potter, Jaws, LOTR are a few of the top earning films that quickly come to mind.

Films that introduced an entirely new cast of characters (Star Wars being perhaps the most successful) have always been the exceptions, and for the filmmaker, the biggest risk.

But no matter what the source, if the movie tells a story badly, its going to fail. Judging by the other posts, that was Island’s main problem.

In an era of escalating budgets, RoboTombo offers a similar rationale for playing it safe:

The suits at the studios are primarily responsible to one constituency: their shareholders.

If it is true (and clearly it is) that movies with a built-in awareness factor are more than original material to succeed in the marketplace, then the studio suits have an obligation to their shareholders to focus their efforts on unoriginal films.

Not mentioned in the article, but equally important, is that up-front merchandising deals are far richer for known properties.

WIth the summer blockbusters, you’re looking at a couple hundred million dollars per film in production and marketing expenses. The studios have a fiduiary responsibiity to maximize returns on such major investments.

So, don’t look to the summer blockbusters for originality. Is this a new phenomenon? I don’t think so.

On the plus side, the success of such 90’s movies as Pulp Fiction has helped fuel an ever-growing market for smaller films. Studios can afford to gamble with $20 million a lot more than can with $200 million.

Look at the line-up at your typical multi-plex, and I think you’ll see a pretty awesome variety of movies, not just cookie-cutter blockbusters. I’d say the variety of film that’s available now is probably greater than at any time since the early 1970’s.

I think the variety that we see now is a result of two different market forces coming together. The first is the success of “independent” movies in the 90’s, and the second is the ever-increasing failure rate of summer blockbusters.

But wait … isn’t The Island already a remake? jhelling is the first to make reference to this controversy, documented at length in a Daily Variety article here. Lump516 explains the chain of derivation this way: “Frankly, the plot to THE ISLAND seems to have been mostly ripped off from a late-70’s sci-fi film called PARTS: THE CLONUS HORROR (which itself was ripped off from Robin Cook’s COMA).”

Citing a litany of precedents, Populuxe admonishes us not to “confuse pastiche with originality. Aside from the obscure ‘The Clonus Horror,’ ‘The Island’ is also blatantly imitative of ‘Logan’s Run,’ ‘Coma,’ the Eloi of ‘The Time Machine,’ ‘Soylent Green,’ various episodes of ‘Space 1999,’ and any number of bad movies from the 1960s and 70s. In short, there is nothing remotely ‘original’ about it.”  AC 6:20 p.m.

Friday, February 3, 2006

The dialogue between Katha Pollitt and William Saletan over morality in the abortion debate has been overwhelmingly well-received in the Fray and has generated some of the Fray’s finest posts in recent weeks. One such comment comes by way of Frances Kissling of Catholics for a Free Choice, who writes:

Having followed with great interest the dialogue between Katha and Will and the responses in the “fray,” many things surprise me. I think this discussion embodies the core tensions within prochoice circles at this time. The fact that not a single leader of the movement has entered the dialogue is disturbing. Consider this a plea to those who are providers of services and advocates for reproductive health to use the forum provided to let people know what our values are. Everywhere I go people are eager to know what we really believe, beyond sound bites and spin, about very complicated aspects of women’s rights and fetal value. There seems to be a prevailing liberal sensibility that letting people know what you believe is synonymous with being “judgmental” or imposing your views on others. Saying, for example, “I believe, or my organization believes” (as we do in Catholics for a Free Choice) “that valuing yourself means taking the greatest care not to create life you cannot bring to personhood or into the world is a moral and social good, is jumped on as anti-woman.

Again, my own experience in working with the “persuadables” as well as women who are considering abortion or have had abortions is that they are smart enough to distinguish between the expression of a personal or institutional value and the desire to coerce.

The major difficulty I see for those of us who are strong advocates of a framework for legal abortions that stresses near-absolutism for women as decision makers (a position I agree with) is that it rarely acknowledges or allows room for the public consequences of such a policy. Pregnancy and child birth are private acts with public consequences. The old way of looking at this was the population control impulse – we don’t want to let women decide to have as many children as they want because we as a society end up absorbing the consequences. A newer dimension is genuine public concern about the relationship between abortion and building a society in which many forms of life are valued – fetuses, animals, nature, This concern emerges from a fear that prochoice advocates, who constantly hammer away about the “who” of abortion, may be distancing themselves from the “what” of abortion in a way that devalues all human life.

While I think there is more work to be done on Will’s statement that “It is bad to kill a fetus”, he does a service by putting it out there so boldly. There are many problems with the word “bad” and how it is heard. A more nuanced way of saying this is that the act of abortion is not a moral good. Things that are not moral goods are not necessarily immoral or bad. And they may, as is the case with abortion, be often justifiable and almost always have positive outcomes.

Unfortunately, in the world of politics and in the face of an unrelenting and increasingly successful political effort to simply deny women the opportunity for moral reflection by making abortion illegal, thoughtful moral discourse in which ambiguity is honored is seen as impossible. I say that it is not impossible and it is, in fact, what most Americans are rightly struggling with in the abortion debate. As a prochoice advocate, I want my movement to help shape this struggle, which includes living with public discomfort, as we discuss how to balance women’s predominant right to make decisions about their lives and society’s right to be involved in questions of respect for human life, even for life that is not yet a person and properly is not accorded rights. We are great(?) and correct in demanding the conditions that would enable women to make non-coerced decisions about having children and having an abortion, but we must also be prepared to speak out for personal responsibility as well. I respect women too much to let them off the hook about preventing conception by complaining about how difficult it is to use contraception. Get over it. Women are competent capable moral agents. Being a moral agent means hearing from others what they think responsibility entails. Take it or leave it, but don’t expect not to hear it.
To reply to Kissling’s post, click here  … 11:35 a.m.