November 30, 2007

Media Matters does much praiseworthy work in examining many of the conservative biases of traditional media outlets, and any partisan Democrat has to love any outlet that works the ref as aggressively as they do; it's work as a purely propogandistic website is invaluable. And the crude attacks on MMA for being a George Soros front are little more than recycled bits of anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that were stale when Henry Ford was publishing the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

But sometimes they jump the shark a little with some of their more anally-retentive criticisms, such as this, where they take the media to task for praising Gov. Huckabee's clever "evasion" of a WWJD question at the debate earlier this week. I use scare quotes, because I'm not sure that the new GOP frontrunner's response was an "evasion," since one of the few things known about the historical Jesus is that he did not pursue worldly power. The ways of Caesar, after all, are different than the ways of God. Hidden beneath Huckabee's answer is an admission that Christ would not support the death penalty, and that as a political leader, the governor cannot always follow strict Christian theology. Liberals, of all people, should celebrate the nuance of his answer, since it indicates that if, heaven forbid, he should win next year, we won't have another Christianist conservative in the White House.

But even assuming that it was an "evasion," so what? Debate questions aren't meant to be answered with a series of detailed policy positions. They're part of a ritual, an elaborate dance by which the voter can see if a candidate can think on this feet and not merely explain any unpopular positions he might have, but win voters over to his side. "Evasion" is the whole point; if Michael Dukakis had responded emotively to the question about the death penalty in the second debate with Bush rather than actually answering the question, he might have won the 1988 race. Since Media Matters is not going to post any diatribes in the event Clinton, Obama, or any other Democrat successfully avoid giving answers in the real debates next fall, it just looks petty for them to do so here.

November 29, 2007

Two weeks ago, I noted that the New Yorker had featured an article about my brother Jim and his all-ages club in downtown L.A., The Smell. The writer, Sasha Frere-Jones, has also posted a series of photos about the joint on his blog, one of which features the Bro in all his glory. Enjoy !!!

November 28, 2007

November 27, 2007

The controversy about the author's atheism aside, isn't the reason The Golden Compass is likely to bomb is that it has too convoluted a plot to appeal to anyone other than the actual readers of the books? Say what you will about "theistic" stories like the Narnia Chronicles or The Lord of the Rings, or, for that matter, the Harry Potter series, those plots were relatively straight-forward battles between obvious good (ie., kids, dwarves and other little people) and absolute evil (Lord Sauron, Voldemort, Tilda Swinton) that translate well to the rigid formulas of cinematic entertainment. Can you imagine an uninitiated adult trying to figure out what "dust" is or what the significance of "daemons" are?

This looks like it might be another Dune trainwreck....
Local Blogger Joins Beltway Elite: Congrats to Matt Welch for becoming a Sabbath Gasbag-in-Training. LA's loss....

November 26, 2007

Headline of the Year:
"Bush Meets Al Gore; Effect on Permafrost Unknown"
--Washington Post, 11-27-07
Shorter Robert Lipsyte: Too many Negroes play college sports.
When Good Scientists Go Bad:
I will close with a word on Watson. He is not really a racial scientist to any significant degree, he just expressed a point of view that I think is false and destructive. No one deserves to be punished for expressing a point of view, but there is another consideration here. Watson is a legitimately respected and famous person on the basis of his great scientific accomplishments and the awards they have won for him, but those accomplishments don’t have very much to do with racial differences in intelligence, except that both domains involve the concept of “genes” in a very general way. It is safe to say that he does not know anything more about the subject than anyone writing here. He is, of course, still entitled to his opinion, but famous scientists and intellectuals have some responsibility not to use their fame in the service of dangerous ideas that are ultimately outside their real expertise. Watson got in trouble for casually stating poorly informed opinions about a deeply serious subject. He is still the great scientist he always was, and I admired the apparent sincerity of his apology, but he deserved most of the criticism he got.
"Watson," of course, is James Watson, the Nobel Laureate and the funnier half of the comedy team of Watson & Crick. It's an important point to understand, that many important scientific breakthroughs come from people who hold ridiculous views on other subjects, and/or have drawn reckless conclusions about the ramifications of their legitimate findings, and that said opinions can in no way discredit their other discoveries. [link via TPM]