Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
April 29, 2010 - April 22, 2010

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Who is Allahpundit?

Pretty? To make up for his, uh, writing?

TEDIUMOUSNESS. Actually, I don't care who he is. He's a tiresome, repetitive, not very good writer. I don't mind that he's an atheist as much as I mind that he's predictable, as smart as a parakeet and deep as a mud puddle, and did I mention repetitive? I looked him up on Wikipedia, and they said he was a satirist. Uh, excuse me. He's a not very good writer whose idea of humor is reusing a Drudge headline and inserting the word "obligatory" into it. That's a satirist?

Yeah, you're right. I have a specific grievance. He said:

Yeah, like I said Saturday, I can’t believe Obama “goofed” and took a dig at Limbaugh not realizing that it would leak. He knew it would; the question is, what was he hoping to gain by it? Presumably he’s playing off the media scrutiny of Limbaugh’s comment last week, which even people like Bill Bennett have (tepidly) criticized. An Obama vs. Rush fight becomes an “I hope he succeeds” vs. “I hope he fails” fight, and that’s not a fight Limbaugh can win when Obama’s approval rating’s in the high 60s and people are terrified of an economic catastrophe.

I'm going to try to stay on point here. But I'm really sick of this guy. He violates the Prime Directive of InstaPunk: "Thou shalt not be a stupid guy who thinks he is smart." Sorry. On point. Let's take another look at the last sentence of the paragraph above:

An Obama vs. Rush fight becomes an “I hope he succeeds” vs. “I hope he fails” fight, and that’s not a fight Limbaugh can win when Obama’s approval rating’s in the high 60s and people are terrified of an economic catastrophe.

I was going to say I despise this kind of logic, but actually I love it. It amounts to an absolutely pure litmus test that divides the people who believe what they believe from the people who are making a career out of believing what they can get away with.

I call it the whore test. Rush Limbaugh just passed it, and Allahpundit just failed it. Boing. It's that simple. Unless you're a media whore depending on official approval to get ahead, it's ridiculously easy to see that there's a vast difference between being a successful president and a good president. Everyone, including me, would like Obama to be a good president. Which would mean that he restored America to its native free market prosperity while defending it from all enemies foreign and domestic. But he can't be a good president if he succeeds in nationalizing free private enterprise, tripling the federal budget, and surrendering to all of America's foreign enemies. Even if such policies get him reelected. Those outcomes would be catastrophic for our future as a nation. Therefore, if those are his policies, we would prefer to see him fail. Simple? Yes. Bone simple.

So what's the meaning of writing "that’s not a fight Limbaugh can win when Obama’s approval rating’s in the high 60s..."? I mean, Limbaugh's obviously winning this fight. The President of the United States has called him out as if he were an equal in influence and power. And given the fact that 47 percent of the electorate (probably much more than that of the legal electorate) voted for Obama's opponent, it's probably true. Half the country is with Obama, and half is willing to listen to Limbaugh, especially if someone gives them a reason to listen.

Here's the surprising truth. It's Limbaugh who's the big tent, not all the supercilious conservatives who claim to speak for the right-hand side of the political spectrum. Everybody else who claims to speak for conservatives is a divider, far less qualified to articulate a platform than the Mouth from Missouri. Allahpundit is a snarky, snobby little shit who can't even write a straightforward paragraph about what he thinks; every day, he prides himself on his "Quote of the Day," a pointless, allusive intro that frequently references a weird, contextless expostulation by somebody that leaves you thinking "WTF?" Ed Morrissey, the other HotAir guru, would rather be right than president perceptive about bias, which he's not sure he sees, or Democrat corruption, which he's pretty sure cuts both ways. (In any event, you have to be fair, which means maybe we deserve Obama and Hillary's actually a pretty attractive woman.)  Every other conservative in the new and old media is similarly handicapped. Michelle Malkin still can't stop bashing Bush. (No. Really. She can't.) Sean Hannity has one rant that he gives repeatedly, as part of every question he asks on his TV show and every bait and switch promo he performs on his endless radio program. O'Reilly isn't a conservative at all, just a pea-brained reactionary New Deal dinosaur. Shepard Smith is a nouveau riche cracker limousine liberal. (I knew he was UMiss before he did.) Glenn Beck is an hysterical ex-drunk born-again Mormon who  weeps at the drop of a hat and probably vacations with Hal Lindsey in the Caimans (where they count their gold bars together), and Bill Bennett would really really like to be forgiven for his gambling addiction and get another cabinet position because it's so satisfying to give those long patronizing speeches to employees at holiday dinners.

Which is why Rush is the Big Tent. He's pro-life but not very religious. He's pro-gun but not what you'd call a weird shooter. He understands competition and the free market from direct personal experience. He understands global politics because he doesn't kid himself about the good and bad of people. He's from a midwest border state and he grew up knowing the complicated relations between white and black. He's not even afraid to say what he thinks about it all. He knows history because his lawyer father and grandfather hammered it into him.

I know the media have tried very hard over the years to marginalize him, but the marginalizers have succeeded in convincing only themselves. Truth is, he's not a celebrity but an archetype. Everybody has a Rush in their background -- that loud, florid, smart, successful guy everyone looked to for answers when the questions were hard and you needed a realist who wouldn't make fun or tell the world your problems. Because he was no saint, either. Almost irritatingly so. You couldn't understand why women liked him so much even though he was big and brash and at times oafish. You might not have liked it that he was right, but he often was, and he was steady. He didn't change his opinions at the drop of a hat, and truthfully, that's why you went to him, secretly perhaps, for advice. You knew you could trust him. Even on slight acquaintance. He made you feel better. Sometimes you needed to hear that last year's answer was this year's too. It's possible you resented him, didn't invite him to dinner when you should have. The sheer force of his personality may have tired you out. But if you were an educated person, you came eventually to realize that you weren't alone. Even Sinclair Lewis had a Rush; he wrote "Babbitt" in order to pretend that he was superior to what he was inferior to.

He's a better man to have in your life than a Teddy Kennedy. He's more gracious somehow. You know he wouldn't take advantage of your teenage daughter. He'd be more flustered than licentious, and he might connect in spite of his clumsily avuncular approach. You'd forgive him the cigars around your infant because he'd overreact at not having thought of it himself.

This may all seem fantastical, but it isn't. You can't listen to someone on the radio for years without coming to know something of who they are. Never heard Rush Limbaugh get actually mean with any caller. He's the only one I can say that about.

Can Rush Limbaugh "win" against Obama? Absolutely. Why? Very simple. Rush has what is called the common touch. Obama doesn't. I saw Obama's first arrival on Air Force One  last night on the National Geographic Channel. He didn't know who he should be. He told the Captain he looked like he came from central casting (compliment, I suppose), but it didn't occur to him to ask, "Where are you from, Captain?" The same with the Chief Steward. He asked the steward for a lowly burger, with cheddar and dijon mustard, but it never occurred to him to ask, "How long have you been here, where are you from, and how would you like me to address you?"

Obama versus Limbaugh? I'm betting on Limbaugh in this particular exchange. How about you?

Oh. And Allahpundit? You're precisely the kind of schmuck who gives atheists a bad name. Not because you're dumb. But because you're not nearly as smart as you think you are. I'll take on your lofty, condescending pronouncements about religion any time. Doubt if you have the guts, though. You're such a mediocre writer, I suspect I'll never hear from you.

UPDATE. The sound and fury continue. Here's the latest. The DNCCCP has started a petition denouncing Rush. A Georgia congressmen (R) thought he understood which way the wind was blowing and told Rush to "back off." Turns out he didn't know which way the wind was blowing and had to "rush" a letter of clarification onto his website. That's the whole problem with the Republicans in congress and much of the conservative pundit class. They've forgotten who their base really is.

Monday, January 26, 2009

YouTubeless Monday

If he's really the One, shouldn't Obama be able to do this?

OBAMATRIX REDUCTIO. Well. The short answer is that he hasn't been tested yet. Maybe that's what Biden was talking about when he warned of dire international challenges early in the Obama administration.

I looked around for old-fashioned, low-tech gif animations just to be fair in my comparison. Here is the most popular one I could find that featured the new POTUS.

Yes, he's having fun, but it's not a One-ish type thing, is it?

And then there's the inevitable dancing...

Which, I suppose, is cool, but does it really hold a candle to this?

Be honest. Don't you miss the old (lowercase) one just a little bit already?

We were here long before you:

The Future is the Past

PROOF. Today, Rush Limbaugh is grappling with the Democrat definition of 'Bi-Partisan,' which has always meant only what the Democrats and mass media want it to mean. For example, Democrats are allowed to have frantically perverse erotic fantasies about the assassination of George W. Bush, and Republicans are treasonous if they don't want a left-wing Democrat administration to succeed in turning America into socialist Britain or France. The only thing (relatively) new is the alacrity with which formerly conservative Republicans are willing not only to hope for the Democrats' success in such schemes but also to criticize those conservatives who stubbornly continue to believe what they have always believed in -- limited government, free markets, and the kind of American exceptionalism which tolerates not treading in the lemming-like footprints of the doomed nations of the EU.

As far as I'm concerned, it's time for (about) a 12,000 word "I told you so." Back in 2000, long before many of the stellar internet pundits on whose words everyone hangs like damp washing, I imagined an incredibly stupid and willfully blind country called Shuteye Nation. It was perhaps the first world-level multimedia fiction posted on the internet, and it anticipated absolutely everything Rush Limbaugh is saying this afternoon inside the circled wagons of the few remaining committed conservatives.

Which may explain the disgust you see here about the new era of hopenchange and my reluctance to soil my hands in the already voluminous dirt of an administration that's barely a week old. (Does anyone realize that the conflicts of interest and admitted integrity issues of Obama appointees -- quite apart from the disgrace surrounding unelected Democrat senate appointments -- already surpass the cumulative scandal record of eight years of the Bush presidency? Of course not.)

Back on point. Those of you who can't be bothered to enjoy or participate in our mostly comedic take on the Coming of the One -- which is, frankly, all that's left in the current political scene -- should take the time to study this purely verbal anticipation of the impending Democrat utopia in all its semantic details. I give you my word. There's only one graphic. CountyPunk didn't make it. And it's not even meant to be funny. You should love it. Nothing about James Bond. No faux magazine covers. No playful jabs at the pretentious inaugural ceremonies. No fun for fun's sake. Just pure and deadly satire like Ambrose Bierce used to make.

It's called The Y2K Amerian Glossary. It's extensively hyperlinked within its own text, and most (though not all) of the links are still operational after the CPR that rescued them from the Wayback Machine.

It should demonstrate beyond doubt how much of your current rage is really really really old news to us here. And if you do your homework, you might find that you too are ready for some posts that are just "What the hell" fun rather than fetid third autopsies of the needlessly exhumed dead.

Or not.

If I sound angry, I apologize. But I am. I enjoyed doing my movie piece and the responses it got, but truthfully I think CountryPunk's recent entries have been better conceived and better executed than mine. But that's just me. I know the rest of you have very good reasons for staring woefully at your navels rather than joining his one-man party of exuberant defiance. It's really so much more fun to wind up doomsday clocks than unwind with a reckless jeer or two.

Not that I'm dissing my own work. I love The Y2K Amerian Glossary. I wrote it, after all. But then I can't do what CountryPunk can with photography and graphics. So maybe I'm prejudiced.

But I am planning to finally send him a Christmas card next year. If I could be sure he wouldn't just laugh and send me a parody of it back in the mail.

Some honestly good advice perhaps. Stay the hell away from satirists. You can't trust them. Even when they're your friends.

Friday, January 23, 2009


Understanding America
in 25 Movies or More...

Watch the whole thing or skip to 4:40 in. Which is what it's all about.

HONORABLE MENTIONS. Everything else in this country is over budget at the moment, so why shouldn't I be, too? As soon as you make a finite list of anything, you realize immediately after you filled in the last slot that you've forgotten this and missed that. So here are, as promised, the "Tacked-On Ten."

1. My Big Fat Greek Wedding

Yes, dear readers, it's a comedy. Funny, affectionate, and rarest virtue of all, still entertaining after many viewings. It also illustrates the duality of the American melting pot. Yes, we assimilate immigrants into American ways, but we also absorb the gifts they bring with them. It's more frankly warmhearted than most of the comedy suggestions from commenters, many of which I couldn't understand at all. Liking some movie a lot doesn't mean it belongs on this list. It's got to reflect more than just the writer's or director's political perspective on some issue, however important that issue is. Comedy succeeds best when it illuminates human strengths and foibles in endearing ways. (As opposed to satire, which is almost invariably an intellectual attack by the mind behind the words.) I like this movie for the list not only because I like it but because it succeeds delightfully in expanding our appreciation of the joyful sparks of culture clashes. It's grossly unfair to WASPs, but as a WASP myself, I'm used to it and there's no point in explaining that nine out of ten of us would have been  enthusiastic participants in all those Greek parties. That aside, it's a worthy addition to our American canon. To be brutally honest, I'm all done with watching Dr. Strangelove. There's nothing else in it for me. This modest little movie still has miles to go before I tire of it. (clip)

2. Pork Chop Hill

Someone correctly pointed out that the Korean War is a hole in the list of 25. I agree. But the best Korean War movie isn't a political thriller. It's a movie about the men who fought that terribly costly and now forgotten battle in the Cold War. In movie terms, it's almost as big a hole as World War I (and don't anybody dare mention M*A*S*H, which was always only about Vietnam). Pork Chop Hill, though, is exactly the movie it should be -- hard to watch, painful, dreary, and admirable all at the same time. Make the effort to watch it, and as you do, remember one of the saddest of all facts about that war -- how many of the men fighting it had already survived military service in World War II only to be called up again to fight under the flag of the U.N. But you never saw Korea vets burning a flag or throwing their medals away. You've never heard a peep from them. That's the kind of men they were and are. (clip)

3. Advise and Consent

Does anybody but me remember this movie? It was a star-studded Otto Preminger production about the internal partisan wars attendant on the confirmation of a key post in the president's administration. In 1962. Before Bork. Before Clarence Thomas. If you think there was a time when Washington politics weren't bloodsport, think again. At first it seems dry and dull and procedural, but it slowly pulls you into the center of a very nasty game. With excellent performances by Don Murray, Henry Fonda, Charles Laughton, Lew Ayres, Walter Pidgeon, Burgess Meredith, and Franchot Tone. It's a sobering lesson about what power in America's constantly growing federal government entails. Can we ever trust them? And why should we? The advantage of examining the question at a great remove from our current policy fights and power brokers is that we can see how the thing itself works or doesn't, independent of our own pet priorities. Not a small contribution to our perspective given that the federal government of the United States is the single largest organizational creation in the history of human civilization. Never forget that, by definition, government is force. It shows in the way our government does its business. (No clip available. Sorry.)

4. The Caine Mutiny

Commenter DW made an impassioned case for this movie, and I'm including it here for two reasons. First, because the navy was the only branch of service excluded from the three WWII movies on my list of 25. Second, because of a point made perhaps more clearly in the book than in the movie DW remembers: the Captain Queeg who is so vilified in the course of the plot was an officer in the peacetime navy -- part of that FDR-ravaged corps of professional military men who served faithfully and uncomplainingly in the years before a Depression-distracted country realized they still needed an army, a navy, an air force, and a marine corps. Without them, the massive miltary machine that won the Second World War couldn't have been created. That's why the military attorney played by Jose Ferrer was so enraged at having to destroy Queeg on the witness stand. It's a fair addition to our understanding of the largely civilian military which helped win the war that they were, for the most part, constitutionally incapable of appreciating the professionals who were there before them and would remain there after them. (clip)

5. Pastime

There have been maybe a hundred Hollywood movies about baseball. That's how important it is to our history and national psyche. So I have (modestly) selected the best one for your enjoyment and education. It's about a minor league team from parts unknown. We follow the team and watch what they endure to be able to keep playing the sacred game of baseball. No Kevin Costner. (Yes!) No acting stars to speak of, although there are numerous cameos by real major league baseball players, which should tell you something about their perceptions of the honesty of this low-budget, unmarketed ode to their sport. The emphasis here is on the continuum, as an old player trying to hang on for one more season helps a talented youngster adjust to the vagaries of fortune and life on the road. Something about life and passion and following your dreams. In a venue that used to be the American pastime. (No clip available.)

6. The River

With the possible exception of John Ford, American moviemakers have always considered farmers and farming a huge yawn and box-office poison. When farms do appear in the movies, they're usually just a departure point for some much more exciting adventure (Wizard of Oz, Walk the Line) or an ironic background for some surreal or otherwise improbable drama (Field of Dreams, Witness, Signs). OR a flat-out horror show (Texas Chainsaw Massacre et al). So it's yet another hole in our cinematic history of America. The River is about a farm family. Unlike Places in the Heart, it's not about unqualified and mostly helpless amateurs making farming heroic because of who they are. It's about a farmer who is trying desperately to keep his farm. Period. Do we have room for that in our understanding of our nation's people? I think we do. (clip)

7. Running on Empty.

The main list didn't cover the sixties generation of sex, drugs, rock'n'roll, and insane politics except through the lens of the Vietnam War. This is a big hole, but it's not a terribly interesting one in many ways, being mostly a story about brats whose over-indulgent parents never really taught them the essentials of growing up. Brats are largely the same whether they're drug dealers or rock groupies or hippies or anti-establishment narcissists in any number of professions and lifestyles. I considered a lot of possible candidates here, ranging from the documentary Gimme Shelter to the lame cinematic artifact Easy Rider to the most epic tale ever told of the American drug culture, Blow, but I finally settled on Running on Empty because quite serendipitously it manages to kill two birds with one stone. It demonstrates the rank idiocy of those who got caught up in the "revolutionary" politics of the sixties in a country which was and is the envy of the world. And it demonstrates, via the real-world facts surrounding its star, that the legacy of that time remains incredibly destructive. The plot concerns the plight of a radical  couple who have lived hand-to-mouth in hiding for decades since setting off a bomb back in the good old days and now have a teenage son who would like to have a real life of his own now, please. The son is played by River Phoenix, who was soon to die (for real) of a drug overdose as one more victim of the "if it feels good, do it" generation of idealists portrayed in middle age in this movie by Judd Hirsch and Christine Lahti. Empty is the operative word here, despite the movie's clear attempt to make all the characters sympathetic. That's why it's here. Such attempted manipulation of our judgment is a trick, and it's a trick that's still being played at this very minute by all the glib apologists for Bill Ayars and his murderous wife. See the trick in action. Watch this movie. And remember River Phoenix. And who must have been the parents who named him 'River' in the first place. (clip)

8. The Great Debaters

This one's here because it represents an almost invisible hole that has nevertheless always bothered me. It's the road not taken by black people in America. There was a small and intellectually proud nucleus of black colleges in this country who were absolutely dedicated to the principle of overcoming though learning, accomplishment, and impeccable character. Due to a variety of causes -- black and white both -- what should have become a mainstream liberating movement never acquired critical mass. Today it's only a sad footnote recalling what might have been. That's what this movie is about. A small black rural college in Texas develops a debating team so skilled that it wins the national college championship. Not surprisingly, the key to their success is not money or government assistance but an incredibly able and demanding teacher, who is as controversial in his own community as he is feared and monitored by the white authorities for his secret (and, yes, marxist) political activities. The movie is deeply flawed, but it is based on fact. The Wiley College team did win, against all odds, the national championship. In the movie, the deciding event was placed at Harvard for maximum impact, which is inaccurate. In reality, the team did defeat Harvard in a debate but won the championship against USC (which would make me mad if I were a USC alum). And more inexcusably, the Wiley debaters are never seen having to argue a proposition they don't agree with, which is absolutely a requirement of collegiate debating. The result is that their arguments in competition become an increasingly annoying political argument about the rights of black people and the injustices of life in America.  I wish Denzel Washington, the director, had understood that the movie itself was making all those arguments more effectively than the script's sermonizing could. Still. It's heartbreaking to realize the huge contributions a few generations of such highly educated and fiercely proud achievers could have given our nation. To drive this perception home, I'd suggest a double feature. Watch The Great Debaters and then watch 8 Mile, in which the natural impulse toward verbal achievement is hobbled and rendered ridiculous by the bankrupt cultural tradition of black anti-intellectualism. (clip)

9. We Were Soldiers

I debated long and hard before choosing The Deer Hunter over this movie as my Vietnam entry. But I can't leave it out altogether. It's about the professional military that existed at the beginning of the Vietnam War and their victory in one of the only full-scale battlefield confrontations of the entire war. It's about discipline. It's about valor. It's about the wives and families and religion and fidelity. Sam Elliott almost steals the show, as he frequently does, but there's also a touching performance by Greg Kinnear as a chopper pilot and, yes, Mel Gibson, too. The music alone is worth watching the movie for, but so is the rest of the movie. And ironically, this movie may be the best filmic effort yet that illuminates the extraordinary heroism of our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. It helps us understand what "professional" means in the context of war. It encompasses so much, and it seems to ask for so little in return. It is humbling. Like this movie.Which, unlike many on the list, is a great movie. (clip)

10. A Christmas Story

Full circle. We close with another comedy. You've all seen it. You know that it's deeply true in a variety of ways and hilariously funny because it is so true. Is it true of today? Almost certainly not as much as it was. It's rapidly becoming an artifact. Which lends it pathos. But it's still impossible to understand who we are now without first understanding who we once were. It's a deceptively simple movie. But there's nothing simple-minded about it. That's all I have to say. Except for two more words: Darren McGavin. (clip)

That's it. I'll save my generalizations and pompous inferences for another post.

I Pledge Allegiance...
Watch the opening, then skip ahead. The scariest stuff is toward the end.

LEFTY INSANITY. Y'know, these people are out of their freaking minds. It's unusual for us to post without a unique angle of our own, as you're aware, but this post is an exception because I don't want you not to know the kind of weird stuff that's going on.

Here's what a Boston Globe columnist has to say about the video above.

Demi Moore and her boy toy Ashton Kutcher have put together a YouTube video called “The Pledge,” in which a cast of celebrities and semi-celebs pledge their service to Obama....

The video starts harmlessly enough, with Hollywoodies like Cameron Diaz, Laura Linney and the like making various innocuous pledges of good behavior. They range from the serious (“I pledge to promote mental health education”) to the silly (“I pledge to never give the finger while driving again”) to the slightly icky (Jason Bateman pledges to stop flushing the toilet after urinating...

So when rocker Anthony Kiedis says “I pledge to be of service to Barack Obama,” it seems humorously over the top.

But then Moore stares intently into the camera and announces “I pledge to be a servant to our president,” a pledge echoed by all the celebs who promise to become “the change that we seek.”

A pledge of allegiance to Obama? I don’t care if you’re a Republican, Democrat or a Vegan Evangelical Anarchist - that’s just plain creepy.

It’s also odd coming from a group of people who’ve previously shown little enthusiasm for pledging allegiance to our flag, much less a previous president.

Seriously - if a dozen college conservatives had lined up on TV to pledge their service to George W. Bush, wouldn’t there be an HBO documentary on “America’s BusHitler Youth” by the end of the week?

There's more. Read all of it.

Do I need to point out that in Nazi Germany, the people swore oaths of personal loyalty not to their country but to their leader? Who was you know who. Of course I don't. You knew that. No need to repeat it.

And is this bizarre cult of personality in any way responsible for the fact that CBS goddess Diane Sawyer was totally drunk on her ass and broadcasting after the inauguration without getting booted off the air? The media joy over the Obamascension was just too ecstatic and infectious to be restrained by minimal standards of professionalism? Jeez.

How many other media stars were in attendance at the 'hail the fuehrer' booze and bombast orgy? Uh, I know Anderson Cooper was there.

These are deep waters. But I think they swirl with the same currents. I apologize for providing no new insights, but you do have to know what happened.

How about this as an antidorte? "I pledge allegiance, to the flag, of the United States of America. And to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

See ya down the primrose path.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Escaping Obama

What its YouTube author is calling the 'Post Barackalyptic Wasteland.'

JUST A BAD DREAM. Everybody copes in his own way. IP decided to think about other stuff and so generated his list of 25 movies about America. I chose another route, opting to find what media I could that was not all about the Second Coming of Abraham Lincoln. No cable news. No newspapers. No newsweekly magazines. No women's magazines (They're just The View on slick paperstock if you want to know.). In fact, I thought, here was a golden opportunity to catch up on the specialized periodicals that couldn't possibly have anything to do with a change in the political leadership in the United States. Was I right? Judge for yourselves.

For example, everyone who reads this blog knows that I'm a motorhead. Years ago, I was a huge fan of Car and Driver Magazine, which once scandalized the automotive world by  conducting a performance test of the Ferrari GTO and the Pontiac GTO -- and preferring the Pontiac. I lost contact with C&D for a few years during a sojourn in the midwest. When I left the east coast, they were vociferous opponents of airbags. When I returned, they were among the most fervent advocates of same. Apparently, the possibility that airbags could flat-out kill small women and children by functioning normally had ceased to bother them. But let bygones be begones, I thought. Maybe they'd be a palliative in the new age of messianic politics.

Not so much, really. Even the Obama article was disappointing. Apparently, the president doesn't know how to drive a stick, and he has an anxiety attack whenever the highway speed tops 55 mph. Oh, and he positively loathes "Detroit Iron." Who knew? But the editors found him charming, brilliant, and well-versed on the topic of hydrocarbons. They're bad.

So I turned instead to Scientific-American. Surely they wouldn't give a fig about the tsunami of rhetoric that was sweeping the ignoramus commoners of the nation.

When I read the cover article, I could hardly blame them. It turns out that Barack Obama does practically everything at an expert level (except, possibly, drive with a manual transmission). He can play five games of chess simultaneously and stalemate them all, while hitting the highest number of triple-word scores in Scrabble ever registered, and extemporize on the bleak philosophical implications of quantum physics as he's writing a record third doleful autobiography and cleverly losing a game of dominoes to his two children and their fashion advisers. No wonder the magazine had to dedicate three-quarters of the current issue to his cerebral feats of derring-do.

That's when I remembered National Geographic. The magazine that taught all American boys whose fathers didn't subscribe to Playboy about breasts.

I'm not saying the cover article was uninteresting. But there were no breasts in it. And what does it mean exactly that a forensic reconstruction of Tutankhamen's face from his shattered mummy looks exactly Barack Obama? There's no particular indication that the boy king was an exceptionally able pharaoh. For all we know, the accomplishments of his administration were largely the work of the exceptionally able Speaker of the Egyptian House, Pel Osi, whose remains are on display at Harvard University's Fogg Museum.

NOTE: Silicone implants don't age well.

Besides, National Geographic isn't what you'd call serious. You'd be hard pressed to find any teenage boys who subscribe to the Journal of the Amercan Medical Association, which always puts high art on its covers with absolutely no indication of what the content inside might be.

I suppose I should have taken a cue from the fact that JAMA's post inaugural issue started all over at Issue 1, Volume I, signifying the beginning of the new era in free healthcare we could all look forward to from now on. But I didn't. I tried to read the cover article. Which was all about how Hippocrates and Galen and Salk and DeBakey were just redneck asshole plumbers compared to the astonishing medical genius of the new president of the Unites States. I stopped reading when they claimed he could drive a manual transmission.

If you can't trust anyone else, you can trust Popular Mechanics. Hardheaded realists all. Right?


So I figured there was one periodial so high toned, so snooty, so divorced from everyday reality that the very worst I might encounter would be Donald Trump's latest makeover of his largest Manhattan penthouse. Architectural Digest does not care about the stray zephyrs of political fashion.

Which is when I gave up on periodicals. I turned on the TV again, but this time with an eye to the imperturbably irrelevant channels, the ones that couldn't be topical if they tried. Like Nickelodeon. They do reruns of Star Trek, the real one, for God's sake.

Something to do with warp drive. I know it is.

There had to be some safety somewhere. After all, what could anybody do to the Honeymooners?

He's the president of the Raccoons or something. Something bad.

And so, before I even looked, I knew that the gush had reached I Love Lucy too. Which I never even liked in the first place.

She just LOVES him. Doesn't she?

By then I knew. The TOON channel:

Spongebob has ALWAYS believed in hope and change.


Bob Vila can feel the love, too. Obama
is very handy with power tools. They say.

And even the Food Channel.

He can whip up an omelet or devise a masterly fruit compote.
Paula Deen thinks he's the best thing since chicken dumplings.

Drudge says the Obama inauguration got 35 times the worldwide coverage of the Bush inaugural. I'm pretty sure he's misunderstimated the total by a bunch.

But I don't mind. There's only one icon that will send a chill to my bones. And we may be months and months away from that.

How does the line go? "Build it and they will come."

Like gangbusters.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Obamascension

Too grandiose? Just want to make sure you get your money's worth.

THE LINCOLN LOG. Just a quick update on inauguration details, in case you're one of the estimated 50 million people who will be squeezing into Washington, DC, for the festivities. You'll need to park your car in Poughkeepsie, Scranton, or Raleigh and walk the rest of the way to the ceremony, so wear comfortable shoes like these.

The Air Jordan XXO, official shoe of the 2009 inauguration.
Just $378 a pair (unless you buy from a scalper at the event).

But the good news is, thanks to a last-minute congressional bailout that has (approximately) doubled the inauguration budget from $150 million to $4.5 trillion, the bells and whistles are going to be even splashier than promised. The oath of office will be administered by the Lord and Creator of the Universe himself since Abraham Lincoln was, for some reason, still unavailable.

But they'll still be using the Lincoln Bible.

For this reason, the Secret Service will be standing down today, and security will be handled by some of God's peeps instead.

The bodyguard during the Obamaddress will be
the archangels Gabriel, Michael, and Taekwon.

In another last minute change, Beyonce will NOT be singing the Etta James classic "At Last." Etta will. (Thank God for that. He sort of insisted.)

Out                                                          In

But Beyonce will still be on hand, wearing a sexy dress with her Air Jordan XXOs. Something she's actually good at.

The only bummer -- and we hate to mention it, but you need to know -- is that due to federal regulations and space limitations, the authentic Lincoln-Pottie everybody will be using is located behind the FBI building, next to the Nixon Memorial Tape Dumpster. Be prepared to wait in line for a few weeks if you need to go.

Maybe you could all sing Kumbaya or something while you wait.

Have a nice time. I'm sure it will be worth the few inconveniences you'll have to put up with.

Part V:

Understanding America
in 25 Movies...

Why we're the Greatest Nation. Ever.

NEXT LOT. I know I promised Baby Boomers, but that's not completely accurate, any more than the things which Baby Boomers are anxious to take credit for are really their accomplishments. For example, neither the Beatles nor the Stones were Baby Boomers, even though they became the soundtrack of that entire generation of self-obsessed jerks. The miserably sad truth is that Baby Boomers have produced almost nothing memorable, significant, or new in their whole time on earth. With that disclaimer delivered, here's the final set of my list of 25.

21. Walk the Line

Consider this one a kind of book end to Bird (No. 19). It's popular among American intellectuals to celebrate black contributions to music, which originated with uneducated folk among the rural poor, and to laugh out loud at country music, which originated with uneducated folk among the rural poor. No wonder they're so convinced we're a racist nation. This movie fills a couple of holes in our movie picture of America. It shines a light on the other distinctively American contribution to our nation's hold on the world's music (quit chortling: the Stones owe as much to country as they do to Motown), and it also acknowledges, as Hollywood almost never does, the powerful cultural impact of our agrarian population -- you know, the people who drive pickup trucks, wear cowboy boots, and grow the food we and a big chunk of the rest of the world eat. Like Elvis Presley and Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash (not a boomer) became a transcendant figure, beyond genre and beyond the reach of critcs. But unlike the other two, his persona was not a manufactured or gimmicky invention. He was exactly what he looked like on stage -- a barely contained force of nature who intertwined rage, love, lust, violence, and tenderness so tightly into his voice that the contradictions produced the permanent bass quaver which made every song sound like the five minutes of roller-coaster tension before a prison riot. This movie is the story of his life, the good and the awful both, and it's one a huge percentage of Americans can relate to. The first terrible thing happens on the farm, and it never stops resonating through all the subsequent ups and downs of Cash's life. Which is exactly how life can be. Even in the pampered place The New York Times sums up as white America. With stunning performances by Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, and the busiest actor in show business, Robert Patrick. This is about country. Our country. (clip) (and a bonus) [DO watch the last clip. It's IP's theme song, too.]

22. The Deer Hunter

For this choice I have to give a nod to Ed Morrissey at Hotair. He named it as one of the worst movies of the past 25 years, which finally decided the debate I'd been having with myself between The Deer Hunter and We Were Soldiers as the necessary Vietnam movie to include here. [Singling out The Deer Hunter as a 'worst' on any list that also includes Forrest Gump, Apocalypse NowComing Home, Born on the Fourth of July, and Platoon, {a.k.a. the Oliver Stone Poor Poor Pitiful Me Story} is about as outrageous as it gets... but enough about Morrissey.] I happen to know the part of Pennsylvania where the characters in The Deer Hunter lived, and I can assure you the rendition of their lives -- in the wild, on the road, and in the bars -- is pitch perfect. The performances by John Savage, Meryl Streep, and most of all the amazing Christopher Walken are astonishing. The movie shows what other Vietnam movies don't, the wrenching dislocation of lives effected by a war in which the role of soldier was changed from winning battles and territory to mere killing . It has more impact because it is long and slow, because it shows us the lives of the men before their service, and the amplifying effects of memory after the fact, when memory cannot coexist with the life that would have been lived without a soul-destroying derailment onto a hell nothing in their previous lives could have prepared them for. It's not a Hollywood movie in any traditional sense. It's a journey to the heart of darkness Coppola could never have filmed because he had read the book, and the characters in this movie never did. They just lived it. (clip) (and another) Between these two clips, there's a brief, exploding lifetime of unbearable pain. Was the movie long? Not as long as the distance between a western Pennsylvania bar and a bloodsport gambling den in Southeast Asia. We're still living that distance down today.

23. Apollo 13

One of my all-time favorite movies about men. No, not the Clint Eastwood/John Wayne sort of men. The real kind. Smart, creative, focused, perseverant to the last second of the last gasp of the last chance. And they wear plastic pocket protectors the whole time. This is the movie where you can see the real pioneering spirit that probably won the west during the age of Manifest Destiny. The careful planners who packed exactly the right combination of food and water and ammunition and spare parts for the conestoga wagon, plus a few handy tools to fix things if the worst happened. "Houston, we have a problem." And such a problem. Unprecedented and wholly unanticipated. Bringing our men home from a certainly fatal disaster in space that they then passed off as a routine "doing what we're paid to do" example of ordinary competence. (See Slasha and CP's response in the Comments section of this post.) It's a perfect mix of both kinds of American hero -- the ostentatiously risk-taking hero-type heroes that have always been part of out national story, who live up to their own highest expectations even as the awkward, shy, too-smart-to-fit-in antihero-type heroes put their minds and their faith on the line to do the impossible. THIS is what Americans can do, and it's all BIG. The budget, the technology, the objective, the calamity, the eventual triumph against prohibitive odds. And the wives. God, women are wonderful. If Obama has seen any movie on this list, I hope the most that he has seen this one. (clip)

24. All the President's Men

You'll note that the press has played a part throughout this list, usually in their historical role as buzzard opportunists feeding on the travails of real people doing real things while the parasites prosper. I have looked, but it's almost impossible to find a movie that treats the press without scorn, satire, or wry cynicism (including especially this, 7:40 in) until All the President's Men. Which is the story of the Washington Post doing everything it can to bring down a president of the United States (who, quite coincidentally, they had hated since his first appearance in public life.) More than any other movie on the list, this one served as a recruiting tool that brought armies of young people into a trade for reasons precisely opposite the stated principles of the (so-called) profession. They watched this piece of fiction and signed up as journalists to "make a difference," "save the world," and "speak truth to power." None of which has anything whatever to do with reporting the facts, without fear or favor or emotion or bias or slanted diction, to the people who buy newspapers. If 'On the Waterfront' is the best American movie, this is the most important American movie, and its message to its audience was, and is, absolutely corrupting. Why are The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, the Philadelphia Inquirer, The Chicago Sun-Times and Tribune, and The LA Times dying with withered claws outstretched for a federal bailout from what used to be their sacred target? This movie. That's why. Anyone who saw this movie and joined the press afterwards is the journalistic equivalent of a crack whore. Fact. These are the people who are the source of Bush Derangement Syndrome. But you can't understand America without seeing this monstrosity of a movie. And, God, how they LOVE this image of themselves. If they only knew what a sickness they've infected us with... (clip)

25. The Guys

So far, the best 9/11 movie. A small production, a small budget, a small focus. A freelance writer (Sigourney Weaver) helping a New York Fire Department captain (Anthony LaPaglia) write last words about his men who died in the terror attack on the Twin Towers. It's our new reality. Still. No politics. No hysterics and no bathos. No speculation (why United 93 isn't on the list). No special effects. Just people. Americans. Which is who we are. And hopefully will remain, no matter how high-flown the oratory from the bully pulpit of The One. See it. (clip)

There you have it. And now I have to admit I've failed. There are still holes. This is too big a country to be understood in just 25 movies, no matter how carefully chosen. I have another ten Honorable Mentions that are actually cheating. Because they're as important as the first 25. What an amazng country we live in. Stay tuned for the Tacked-On Ten, as well as some observations about interesting patterns I've observed in my selections.

Still. Go ahead and sharpshoot. The ones that didn't make the 25 didn't make the 25 and I'm accountable for what I've chosen. It's just that there's more, and we're more than what I've picked out.

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