Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
May 27, 2011 - May 20, 2011

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Biden Escapes!

The critical event occurs 1:44 into the clip.

UNHEEDED ADVICE. At this point nobody in the administration seems to know why security was so lax at the Veep's undisclosed location, but we should be used to that by now. Still, it was astonishing to be reminded just how much damage the man can do when he goes on one of his crazed media sprees. In just a few days time he managed to infuriate both Democrats and Republicans by claiming a stable, democratic Iraq as one of Obama's great achievements, piss off a majority of New York Democrat politicians by accusing them of exaggerating the costs of a KSM trial, increase his boss's exposure on terrorism by declaring another 9/11 attack unlikely, irritate a huge Dem donor by forgetting the name of his blockbuster movie, and insult Blue State Massachussetts (and the military) by treating their new senator like an ignorant schoolboy. That's a lot of constituencies to rub the wrong way when your president and your party are way upside-down in the polls.

Appalled as they must be behind closed doors, the Obama White House will probably try to spin this as part of their new (!?) communication strategy of not taking any crap from anybody and smacking them upside the head if they get out of line. But please. The Veep is a lot less like a SWAT sniper than he is like a suicide bomber, taking out friend and foe in about equal measure while making a bloody mess of himself in the process.

To focus on just one example, what on earth did he have in mind starting this particular fight -- and in such a recklessly snotty tone, to boot?

They say Anthony Hopkins conceived Lecter's voice as a male
  version of Katherine Hepburn's. I admit Biden's doing something
different. Maybe an inarticulate male version of Gore Vidal's.
  He's got the blind, arrogant egotism down cold, that's for sure.
But the low-class adolescent sneer sort of ruins the effect.

I mean, when you leave the door open to get taken down as tersely, factually, and completely as this...

“He’s trying to give me a lesson on military law, and I didn’t think it was appropriate,” Brown told POLITICO. “And I thought he was off base when it comes to explaining to the American people that somehow I need a lesson on whether people get attorneys — of course they get attorneys. There’s a difference as to what type of attorney they’re going to get and when they’re going to get that attorney, and how are they treated, and what rights do they, in fact, get.”

Brown said he is particularly incensed by Biden’s remarks because he’s served in the Massachusetts Army National Guard for more than 30 years and is currently the Guard's top defense attorney in New England.

...people are just going to laugh at you, regardless of their political affiliations.

Try as I might, I can't think of any rational reason why it helps the Obama administration to have turned Biden loose in this way. All I can do is give them a hint, again, on how best to contain this fool and the unending source of embarrassment he represents:

Mum's the word. A pretty good word, too. When you think about it.

Eduardo Sounds Off.

How they really see you.

NOBODY'S SAFE. Some of you savvy web wanderers may have noticed this little gem floating around about Captain America* from Marvel Comics bashing the Tea Party movement:
In issue number 602 of Captain America, a new story line has begun called “Two Americas.” In it the current Captain…is on the trail of a faux Captain America that is mentally deranged and getting chummy with some white supremacist, anti-government, survivalists types going by the name of “the Watchdogs.” While investigating this subversive group, Captain America and his partner The Falcon — a black super hero — have decided to try and infiltrate the secretive organization.

In preparation for the infiltration, Marvel Comics depicts the two super heroes out of costume and observing from a rooftop a street filled with what can only be described as a Tea Party protest. The scene shows crowds of people in city streets carrying signs that say, “stop the socialists,” “tea bag libs before they tea bag you,” and “no to new taxes.” Naturally, the people in these crowds are depicted as being filled with nothing but white folks.

The black character asks the out of costume Captain, “What the hell is this?” And follows that with, “looks like some kind of anti-tax protest.” The Falcon character then snidely tells his partner the Captain, “So I guess this whole ‘hate the government’ vibe around here isn’t limited to the Watchdogs.”

The two then discuss their plan to infiltrate the subversive group that Marvel comics seems to be linking to the Tea Party movement. This discussion culminates in The Falcon wondering how a black man would do such a thing. “I don’t exactly see a black man from Harlem fitting in with a bunch of angry white folks,” he tells the incognito Captain America.

The Captain tells him, “no it’s perfect… this all fits right into my plan.” After this we find that the Captain’s plan is to send the black man into a redneck bar to pretend to be a black man working for the IRS and to get everyone all mad… because… well, you know that every white person is a racist that hates black civil servants, right?
Not long after this story made its way around the intertubes, Marvel owned up to their, uh, “mistake”. Quoth Marvel’s editor in chief:
There was zero discussion to include a group that looked like a Tea Party demonstration. Ed [Brubaker] simply wrote in an anti-tax protest into his story to show one of the moods that currently exists in America. There was no thought that it represented a particular group…

Where Mr. Houston [sic] is correct is in our accidently [sic] identifying in one of the held up signs, the group as being a part of the Tea Party instead of a generic protest group. That’s something that we need to apologize for and own up to, because it’s just one of those stupid mistakes that happened through a series of stupid incidents.
There, you see? It’s just one of those innocent, stupid mistakes. Could have happened to anyone. They just randomly, on a whim, decided that the plot called for a group of people staging a “generic” protest against taxes because that’s a current mood in the country. There was never a single thought in their head that they might actually be representing a real, high-profile group whose name is derived from a famous tax protest, and slandering them as racist, white supremacists. Case closed. No harm, no foul, right? Wrong. As is usual with these people, it’s all bullshit.

Those precious few that happened to visit the Shuteye Nation Underverse before its untimely death already know where I’m going with this. For everyone else, let me show you why this is just another in the long line of examples of dishonest liberal media bias.

The year is 1991 and the U.S. media is still having wet dreams nightmares about the Rodney King beating. Li’l Eduardo, an avid (but waning) Marvel Comics fan, opens up the latest issue of The Avengers (a team of super heroes led by Captain America) to see:

About as subtle as a sledgehammer to the left temple.

A sober, handcuffed, Hispanic, teenage boy is caught on tape being mercilessly beaten by white cops. Just like what happened with Rodney King. This causes a whole lot of people to stage angry protests outside of police stations (which Captain America and the Falcon are apparently OK with, come to think of it), but then the unthinkable happens. Evil white people show up:

Conservatives are incapable of speaking without
using racial slurs, kiddies. Just so you know.

Don’t worry, though. The Avenger named Rage sends them packing:

I love how"Constitutional rights" is in air quotes. What does that mean, exactly?

And a parting Nazi jab for good measure.

To make things even more ridiculous, it's discovered later on in the story that this small group of town hall protesters white supremacists is not genuine, but is being astroturfed by health insurance companies/Big Oil/Halliburton one malevolent bad guy named Rush Limbaugh The Hate Monger or something like that who simply enjoys making people hate each other to the point of violence by using his radio show mutant power. Hmmmm... sound familiar?

Look, the Avengers are supposed to be fighting interdimensional aliens and teams of super powered villains, not American citizens exercising their first amendment rights when they disagree with what they’re saying. This recent issue of Captain America is not the first time this happened. The comic I’m referencing was published almost twenty years ago. Aside from making me feel old, this perfectly illustrates who these people are.

They are dishonest cowards. Their real message is so repulsive and illogical they have to dress it up and disguise it in comic books and cartoons so they can attempt to indoctrinate kids. When they’re caught, they apologize without admitting they did anything wrong. They never admit they did anything wrong, period, whether it’s slander, global warming, DDT, economics, mass murder, etc. No matter how blatant the lie or how catastrophic the failure, I still have to put up with people like Noam Chomsky putting out excrement like this. I’m sick of it. SICK. OF. IT.

The silver lining here is that twenty years ago Marvel was churning out propaganda like this in every one of their series, from the Punisher to X-Men to Spider-Man. Trust me, I know. It's why I stopped reading comics (even though there's not really any liberal media bias, Noam). Back then, nobody noticed. A week from Sunday, though, a blogger made a post about this new issue of Captain America and a few days later Marvel scrambled to cover its ass and will hopefully be more reluctant to propagandize in the future. Significant? I think so. You tell me.


Marvel Comic’s Captain America is the mightiest soldier with the super powerful secret soldier formula that makes him a super man. Sadly, this muscle bound hero that took on the whole Nazi army during WWII seems to be afraid of those American people who’ve joined the Tea Party movement. Not only is Cappy quaking in his little red booties, but he’s sure that the Tea Party folks are dangerous racists, too.

Isn’t it wonderful that a decades old American comic book hero is now being used to turn readers against our very political system, being used to slander folks that are standing up for real American principles in real life — and one called “Captain America” at that?

Ironically(?), this website has done battle in the past with another faux "Captain America." Somehow it seems to fit right in to this context. And if you read the Comments, you'll discover that this particular Captain isn't American so much as, uh, Canadian. Serendicity again. --IP.

The Global Warming Breakdown

Do they seem tired out? They're not the only ones.

TOLD YOU SO. Do any of you have any idea how many Global Warming articles I've read in the last three days? No. Of course not. Ingrates. I did it all to find you the best one. Which I've done. It's the one that actually enumerates the size and scope of the shatter-ing of the so-called "consensus" of "settled science":

It has been tough to keep up with all the bad news for global warming alarmists. We're on the edge of our chair, waiting for the next shoe to drop. This has been an Imelda Marcos kind of season for shoe-dropping about global warming.

At your next dinner party, here are some of the latest talking points to bring up when someone reminds you that Al Gore and the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change won Nobel prizes for their work on global warming.

The operative number is nineteen separate but interrelated scandals:

1. ClimateGate
2. FOIGate
3. ChinaGate
4. HimalayaGate
5. PachauriGate
6. PachairiGate II
7. SternGate
8. SternGate II
9. AmazonGate
10. PeerReviewGate
11. RussiaGate
12. RussiaGate II
13. U.S.Gate
14. IceGate
15. ResearchGate
16. ReefGate
17. AfricaGate
18. DutchGate
19. AlaskaGate

Just from the names we can see that the record of fraud, dissimulation, and scientific corruption is worldwide. It comprises academic, political, corporate, and individual malfeasance. It's huge.

Start from the article linked above to initiate your searches. This is a hoax that has to be hammered into a million pieces. It's not over yet. Get to work.

You're welcome.

P.S. I know I've posted this before. But a commenter suggested I needed to write more explanation about the problems with Global Warming and the politics that produced a hoax and why and what to do about it. Truth is, I nailed it the first time I wrote about it 13 years ago. I wrote about it then in the context of a nation that was flirting with cultural disaster. In the Clinton years. Before the hated W. Before most of you were on the Internet.

Friday, July 25, 1997

Awakening once again to NPR, I heard crime news -- the serial killer believed dead in Florida and some new development in the Ira Einhorn case, possibly an extradition fight. Science was making news this morning, too. Evolutionary biologists have come up with a neat new explanation of the Cambrian explosion, which has been a thorn in their side forever. Apparently, the whole earth flopped over on its side 500 million years ago and somehow made random genetic mutations at the cellular level happen faster(?) Funny we hadn't heard about this before. You'd think an earth flop-over would have been discovered by the guys who know so much about tectonic plates. I also heard an extended NPR segment on the Greenhouse Effect -- a.k.a. Global Warming -- which has made the usual invisible transition from hypothesis to scientific fact. As a result, the president has decided we all need to worry about this. It sounded like a remedial seminar on the subject had been conducted at the White House, with the Pres taking on the role of simple-minded questioner while various scientists played the role of patronizing know-it-all. I got the impression we're all supposed to be feeling guilty because we still get in our cars and drive to work.

There must be some evidence in support of Global Warming, but the only one the mass media like to cite is far from convincing to me. This has to do with a reported rise in average temperatures of one degree (Fahrenheit, I think) during the last hundred years. No expert in climate, I'm willing to concede their argument that one degree has pretty serious implications. It's how they get to the one degree that leaves me a little skeptical.

Let's think about this for a minute. What is the 'average' temperature on earth right now? Yes, I mean at this very moment. One hundred two degrees, as the thermometers in Arizona might report? Fifty below, as the ones in Antarctica would claim? Neither, obviously.

It's not as if there's one definitely correct number that represents the answer to this question. The word 'average' always means that we're going to perform some calculation. To begin with, the discipline of mathematics gives us at least three different definitions of what an 'average' is. The 'mean' is the arithmetic average, which we calculate by adding up all individual instances of something and then dividing that total by the number of instances. The 'median' is a function of counting -- we take all individual instances of something, then count up from the bottom until we reach the halfway point. The 'mode' is the most common number found in all individual instances -- we gather together all the instances of something and see which value occurs most often.

I apologize. I know this is boring, but it's got to be important. The scientists are talking about the melting of glaciers, the flooding of thousands of miles of coastline, the forced migration of major populations, the devastation of our agricultural equilibrium, and dozens of other effects of their one degree 'average increase.' So there's a quite valid reason for asking whether they're as certain as they sound.

Back to the math. All the definitions of 'average' assume that that there is some finite number of instances to be used as the basis for calculation. In the case of temperature on earth, this is not strictly true. The atmosphere is made of gases, not subject to counting like dollars or stones. It must be that we can artificially create enough instances by the act of measuring to eliminate the difference between gases and stones. How do we do that? Is it sufficient to record the airport temperature of New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, add those temperatures together and divide by three? Probably not. Maybe we need to add Paris, London, Tokyo, Moscow, Sydney, and Little America in the Antarctic. Would that do? Again, probably not. That leaves out a lot of places, and measurements in the city are tricky anyway, because artificial structures like asphalt paving have a tendency to soak up additional heat. So we'd better add in a bunch of pure countryside and farmland -- put some of our thermometers in fields, forests, mountains, ocean-top oil rigs, deserts, prairies, and plateaus. Still, this doesn't tell us much about how to weight the number of instances we measure, so that we balance arctic and Antarctic cold properly against tropical and temperate zones. And even then, we're taking a lot for granted -- having read Admiral Byrd's Alone, I've learned that temperatures vary pretty considerably only a hundred or so miles apart in the Antarctic.

I suppose we're going to have to concede that whatever number of instances we record, the 'average' number we arrive at is not necessarily going to be objectively 'right.' Because no matter how many thermometers you have out there, say one hundred thousand, you'd get more accurate data if you put another million in the spaces in between the hundred thousand, and more accurate data still if you put another hundred million in between those. It doesn't take a weather wizard to know that the temperature can be at least a little bit different one hundred yards from where you're standing now. Which would be the right number for the location listed under the name of your home town? Is that in the shade? In the sun? Or somewhere in between. You decide.

Considering all this, it looks as if we're computing some theoretical average which we must assume bears some definite relationship to the objectively 'right' number we can't measure. Which is another way of saying we're sure the amount of our unmeasurable and uncorrectable error will never change. Everyone happy so far?

But the Global Warming hypothesis depends on far more than our theoretically correct though 'not right' average temperature on earth at this moment. The one degree change we're looking for has occurred over one hundred years. This must mean that our theoretically correct number is actually determined by the number of instances -- and the standard of measurement precision -- that was already established in the year 1897.

Eighteen hundred and ninety seven. William McKinley was President of the United States. The automobile was a curiosity that frightened the horses. The continents of the world were connected by steamship travel and the telegraph. Charles Lindbergh hadn't been born. There weren't any airports anywhere. The North and South Poles hadn't been discovered yet. But the worldwide temperature recording system was already in place.

This means, for example, that the New York City measurement has to be coming, year after year, not from the state-of-the-art instruments at LaGuardia, but from a thermometer that's been religiously maintained on the lefthand tower of the Brooklyn Bridge. I hope nobody accidentally broke and replaced that thermometer at any point during the last hundred years, or moved it to the righthand tower, or forgot to record the readings while they were away on vacation for a month, or ever made up any readings because they got behind or just didn't care enough during that ugly divorce in nineteen-ought-seven. Because the one degree change we're after is less than two percent of the theoretical average, which is already just a bit flimsy as a computation strategy. Bad data would ruin everything. Equipment changes, human carelessness, or changes in measurement location might invalidate the numbers completely, and that would never do because we're talking semi-apocalypse here.

You have to admire the discipline of science. To think that they were able to assemble all the thermometer readers all over the world in 1897 and train them to be unfailingly accurate and reliable is pretty impressive. To think that over the whole hundred years, no Tibetan shepherd ever said, 'oh, about thirty-two degrees,' when -- thanks to his untreated nearsightedness -- he was inclined to guesstimate a likely reading for those pesky western meteorologists. Amazing.

But the most astounding thing of all is that this degree of accuracy has been achieved in a field whose practitioners claim is not an exact science. Meteorologists who can't tell us for sure if the tornado they've sighted is going to mow down my hometown or the City of South Bend, Indiana, are certain they know what the average temperature on earth will be forty years from now. This is made all the more miraculous by the statistical concept of standard deviation -- meaning the amount of normal built-in variability -- which is pretty high when it comes to temperature. That's why we continue to set record highs and lows in temperature on individual days in every single year. Christmas in New York can be as warm as sixty-five degrees Fahrenheit or as cold as ten below zero. It's this kind of variability that makes it difficult even to compare seasonal averages. Was last summer five percent cooler than this summer? In my neck of the woods we had more cool days last year but hotter hot spells. How should I compare this year to last year in terms of average. Who the hell knows for sure?

All we do know for sure is that it's one degree hotter in summer, on average, last summer aside, than summer was, in general, a hundred years ago. Or is it winter that's getting warmer instead? Like the one a few years back when the northeastern U.S. got raked by five ice storms of a severity not seen since they began taking weather measurements. Which reminds me -- how long has that been? Of course. About a hundred years. The temperatures on earth have been pertinent to the Global Warming question since the end of the last ice age about ten thousand years ago. This means we're depending on data from one percent of the relevant time period to calculate the standard deviation. And the standard deviation we come up with has to be so dead-reliable that it can be used to verify a less-than-two percent change in 'average' temperature.

Scientists like thought experiments. I have one I'd like to try on them. Ask a friend to record the mileage of all (or most) trips he takes in his automobile during the last week in December. Then calculate the percentage change in length of trip, up or down, from the beginning of the week to the end of the week, and use this number to project the average length of an automobile trip on January second. Now: would you bet your life that this prediction will be accurate within one mile? Really?

There's always the possibility, I guess, that scientists are citing the temperature change 'evidence' to us because we're too stupid to understand the real evidence. I know they've been busy calculating the number of tons of carbon dioxide in the air, and they've got their chemistry down cold -- except, of course, when the number of variables gets too large. Which is the only reason their projections about how much impact atmospheric events like volcanic eruptions have on the earth get a little overstated at times. Or am I wrong about that? Was I mistaken when I heard the dire prediction that the area surrounding Mount St. Helen would be a wasteland for decades? But maybe what I'm wrong about is the extent to which the area has already recovered from the devastation of the eruption.

You see, not being a scientist, I can't prove anything. My duty is therefore to shut up and nod vigorously when the scientists talk. And then to feel ashamed and fearful because I'm not doing anything to prevent the environmental catastrophe I'm causing by driving to work, buying a Christmas tree once a year, and exhaling carbon dioxide every day. I know I should prefer the worldwide depression that would follow the prudent shutting down of the entire fossil fuel industry and all the markets and products and jobs that flow from it. I know I should.

One of the scientists at the President's Global Warming Nursery School said that those of us who don't care about the Greenhouse Effect are like passengers on a bus bound for disaster: we think there's nothing to be afraid of as long as the bus is surrounded by fog. Whose fog, buster? Ours or yours? And does the bus driver have the foggiest idea where he's taking us? Sorry for asking.

As I said, I'll keep following this story. But it's also time for the rest of you to do some work I did a long time ago. It's called thinking. And your thinking is the solution to the problem, all the problems.

O NBCanada!

AN OLD OLD NARRATIVE. I don't know why I should be surprised. I guess I'm not. They were rooting all out for Communist China during the Summer Olympics. Now they're rooting for Canada. Who? NBC. Bob Costas. Al Michaels, Tom Brokaw. Brian Williams. Chris Collingsworth. And all the dumb munchkins they've dredged up from every remote and ancient corner of NBC sports history to bring us their usual mangled coverage of events they seem to know nothing of and care less about -- except the vital question of "When, O when, will Canada breaks its storied(?) curse of never winning a gold medal on Canadian soil?!"

I know it's impolite to break into this hysterical narrative with a few wet blanket observations. The "storied" curse is about a generation old (encompassing only two recent Olympics) and I never heard about it. And I still don't care about it. So what. Canada came in third behind the U.S. at the last winter Olympics, so it's hardly the case that they weren't going to win a gold medal at some point in a venue where their athletes got to practice 20 or more times as much on courses like, say, the luge, as the (sometimes unfortunate) foreign competition did. I repeat: So what.

But Bob and Al and Tom and Brian and Chris and the munchkins seemed so invested in Canadian success that it seemed -- at least to my lying ears -- they were actually crestfallen when an American chick(shudder) stole the gold away from that disappointed, over-pressured Canadian lass on the women's mogul event. Aw. Awwwwww.

Then, when a Canadian finally won the first gold in the men's moguls, you'd have thought that it was 1980 all over again and the purely amateur American kids had just defeated the grimly professional Soviets to earn the most improbable gold medal in Olympic history. 24 hours later, they were still talking about it, exclaiming over it, and hugging themselves with glee. WTF?

I concede NBC cut us all a break by not enlisting Keith Olbermann with all the other has-been and never-were correspondents they're using to report on the Olympics. But it still feels like he's the producer behind the scenes. I can't think of any particular reason why we should respond with tremendous joy when another Canadian(!) makes it into the finals against Americans in events like the Snowboard Cross. It's our sport. If any Canadians are good at it, it's because they're down here learning from our jocks, practicing on our courses, and thriving on our prize money. I'd much rather see a final between our guys and the upstart Austrians and French. At least I can respect their underdog grit. While still hoping for their abject and humiliating defeat. I'm an American.

You see. (And this is something I've had to explain to Mrs. CP, who was initially under the impression that NBC is the reporter of record for the entire world, which it it isn't.) NBC is the American network covering the Olympics for Americans. What kind of business model tells them rooting for opponent countries is good economics? There is no such business model. There is only the delusion of their damaged educations and social affiliations. They favor Canada -- uncles and cousins who fled there from Brown and Dartmouth during the Vietnam War after burning their draft cards? Anglophile-Europhile yearnings toward the nihilists who thought George Bush a Hitlerian criminal for defending the west against fanatic jihadists? (Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?) And it doesn't even occur to them that the potential 300 million-strong television audience that provides all their (steadily declining) advertising revenue might be rooting overwhelmingly for American athletes. NOT Canadians. NOT the sullen northern neighbor who contributed 500 troops to the entire war on terror and have libelled us and our last president obscenely while still clinging pitifully to us whenever something important to them is on the line. Like the life of a premier who got the operation here he couldn't get at home while all the superior Canadians were trashing us for noticing that their socialized healthcare system was killing Canadians faster than Americans think acceptable for our own wives, children, fathers, and mothers.

If NBC were truly an American network, there are some calculations they could perform for us ordinary Americans. They could start keeping track of how much of, say, the Winter Olympics actually occurs here in the United States before competition begins in some politically chosen location. The athletes who train here, the coaches who immigrate here, the facilities located here, the technology originated and disseminated from here (seen some Nike swooshes anywhere in Vancouver, folks?), the dual-citizenship Americans who can't make our teams and so compete for other nations from their digs in L.A., the foreigners who want to live here and become overnight Americans in order to jump to the head of the immigration line...

Hell. Based on pure geography, America wins somewhere between 40 and 60 percent of all the medals in the Olympics. Is there any way you would know this from the internationalist elitists of NBC? No.

They're killing their own business, and soon enough, they'll be expecting us to bail them out too. For our own good.

It's not all about sport. It's also about soul sickness. Please don't let the contagion infect you too.

Enjoy the events. The best thing I can say is that the nations of the world continue to produce remarkably attractive and determined youngsters who are a credit to our much maligned species. They make me proud to be human.

But I'm still rooting for the Americans.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

3rd World Olympics

Furtado having a beer in Vancouver.

THEY'RE BA-A-A-A-CK. I had no idea -- no idea! -- there would be so much to say about the Vancouver Olympics. So this post is just getting started. Call it the Opening Ceremonies. Speaking of which, I actually watched a lot of them with Mrs. CP, and after a lot of thought I've determined that the best way to limit my scorn is to fisk one of the more succinct reviews.

Vancouver Olympics Opening Ceremony: Best and Worst

Before we offer our usual playful take on the televised spectacular, we need to acknowledge the serious side of last night’s Olympics Opening Ceremony. It was dedicated to 21-year-old Nodar Kumaritashvili, the luger from Georgia who died Friday after a 90 mph crash at the end of his final training run. When his seven teammates entered BC Place, and the crowd stood to applaud their decision to honor him by competing, it was by far the most moving moment of the evening. For many athletes who have no hope of medaling, walking in the Parade of Nations is their podium, which made the absence of Kumaritashvili, who was ranked 44th in the world, all the more poignant. The Olympics are about nations coming together to celebrate the human spirit; watching 82 of them pay tribute to Kumaritashvili’s and his countrymen’s was reaffirming. We'll have a lot more to say about this unfortunate eventuality later. Maybe today, maybe not.

Now, the show must go on…

Ceremony mastermind David Atkins spent somewhere between $30 million and $40 million on the production, roughly a tenth of Beijing’s budget. He wanted it to feel intimate and personal as the story of Canada unfolded before our eyes, starting with a welcome from the Four Host First Nations. He succeeded. Eh? No. He didn't. There was no "story of Canada." There was a story of political correctness, beginning with the pretense that Canada's history is a function of a bunch of IndianAboriginal tribes nobody anywhere has ever heard of. Which was so weird that it almost made us forget the bizarre performance of the Canadian National Piano Bar Background Music Anthem by the girl in the red dress who knew all 42 verses (and five minutes) of a song most of us think of as the drab 38 second beer jingle sung before NHL games. Color us surprised red-faced embarrassed for our northernmost 3rd world neighbor. But we forgot all about her when we saw the endlessprotracted, made up dance rituals of the Tribes of the Colors of Benetton (although some of the feathers were clearly by Armani), who are apparently solely responsible for the cultural nonentity of a nation that has no head of state (a governor-general from Haiti?), no common language, and no national emblem more enduring than a 50-year-old placematflag named after a suburban Detroit hockey team.

Best entrance: Snowboarder Johnny Lyall, who jumped through the Olympic rings after a stunning video-taped mountain run. Wrong. Other candidates? Nellie Furtado, widest-hipped pornstar with the most mediocre vocal cords in the Americas. Those strappy stiletto heels almost but not quite distracted attention from a pelvis so expansive it could have birthed a keg of Molsen without breaking stride. But it didn't, so no Best Entrance Stanley Cup for her. Bryan Adams, stupefyingly weird in his little black suit. Who was he trying to be? The blanding of the pop vampirism fad, Canadian style? The U.S. North American rocker voice of the New World and the aboriginal drums that gave us the Inuit backbeat of Gordon Lightfoot and Neil Young? Too confusing. No prize. The tattooed acidhead version of Michael Flatley whose supporting cast of sloppy Irish step dancers were somehow supposed to suggest, in their kilts and Harley conchos, the merging of French [stet] French (?!) and British cultures in Quebec? Eh? Sorry. Donald Sutherland, who intoned forgettable Canadian poetry that had nothing whatever to do with what was occurring onstage? But "no entrance" can't qualify for Best Entrance, can it? The half-man (face and waist to neck), half-woman (face and hips to thighs) androgyne who twirled in mid-air to the lyrics of the famed Canadian Lesbian has-been Joni Mitchell? No. If he'd been the only androgyne of the evening, maybe. But we're reliably informed k d lang showed up, too, (still in suitable lower case attire) long after Morpheus blessed us with healing sleep... Was it the fat YouTube star who plagiarized a beer commercial into what now passes for a Canadian Pledge of Allegiance -- unless it's really the confession of a nation-wide Inferiority Complex so deep and disturbing that none of its 33 million sufferers realize what a jackass they are to admit preferring "zed" to "zee" and claiming to have invented "please," "thank you," and "you're welcome." Bi-lingually no less (except for the "please," "thank you," and "you're welcome" part, which are definitely not French.) Can't be sure. Can a semi-literate viral fluke make a Best Entrance on a world stage? Don't think so. Who then? Gandalf. When he showed up and stomped his staff on the stage and lit up the whole floor with his light effect. That was the Best Entrance. Now if somebody could just tell us what the hell Gandalf has to do with the history of Canada, we'd be all good with it... eh?

Worst entrance: The fourth leg of the indoor cauldron that failed to rise. Nobody saw it. We were all asleep by then.

Best effect: More than 100 projectors were used to create the ceremony’s “landscape of dreams” theme. The orcas spouting across the ocean after the ice broke up = the night’s first rewind. Honorable mention: The faux precipitation that made Matt Lauer feel like he was sitting in a 60,000-seat snow globe. Noteworthy: The rising bear constellation that deserves its own Coke commercial. OOOOOH. That was the ice breaking up. WE thought it was the continents getting devoured by rising sea levels caused by Global Warming and the greedy planet-killing Americans not euthanizing their citizens with bad government healthcare. And we thought the bear was an endangered-- oh, never mind. We understand now. That's not so bad. We liked the orca effects too. But we've always liked whales. Never thought whale avatars swimming under faux snow would be the highlight of anybody's evening... until we remembered it's Canada we're talking about. Sure. Best Effect. Whatever.

Worst effect: The collective groan heard throughout living rooms in America when we found out we were about to hear spoken word. But slam poet Shane Koyczan’s Canada-defining, stereotype-defying “We are More” was better than expected. You felt the pride, and suddenly wanted to say “zed.” The transcript. Honorable mention: The disappointment at seeing the Mounties not on horseback. It would have sped up their walk with the Canadian flag, but I suppose they couldn’t risk a horse going potty on the floor, which was such an integral part of the show. Shane Kyczan? That was his name? At any rate, there is NO time when we'll ever want to say "zed." Sorry. You can call it "pride" if you want. We call it horseshit caribou merde. As for the Mounties, have to admit we didn't notice the no horses. What we noticed was the politically correct representation of the sexes. Not that female Mounties aren't an interesting idea. But they do beg the question of what sort of mounting is going on. Come to think of it, maybe some horses would have clarified things a bit. Still, does anyone really think that half of all mounties are smallish women with aquiline noses? Hardly the Worst Effect of the evening, regardless.

Best less-is-more performance: Proving the quality of the song was more important than the presence of a singer, Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” was the perfect soundtrack for the prairie tribute, which featured aerialist and Ècole nationale de cirque student Thomas Saulgrain walking, running, then soaring through fields of gold. Honorable mention: k.d. lang, who captivated the arena singing Leonard Cohen’s ”Hallelujah” barefooted, as the audience lit up the stadium. Noteworthy: Donald Sutherland’s voiceover. uh, still waiting for some mention of "best" candidates in this list. That tapping sound you hear is our foot, tapping. As we wait.

Worst less-is-more performance: Nelly Furtado and Bryan Adams, who failed to pop, even on a bare white stage, during their duet of “Bang Your Drum.” (Sarah McLachlan’s necklace saved her.) Honorable mention: The dancers in all white who lined the tunnel for the athletes’ entrance. Aside from the guy who kept doing the Molly Ringwald Breakfast Club move — he was at peak form during Spain and Tajikistan — their enthusiasm had a certain ebb and flow. Covered most of this already. Except for Sarah MacLachlan. Her necklace saved her? Hell. We thought it was a miracle she could sit upright at the piano wearing that series of quartz boulders around her neck. Of course, we've probably made it obvious to sophisticates that we are completely lacking in what Canadians would call "taste." Grace a Dieu.

Best trivia shared by Bob Costas and Matt Lauer during the Parade of Nations: It really is one of our favorite parts of the ceremony. They’re good when they’re sharing vaguely relevant information, like the fact that in 1964, a group of Mongolian cross-country skiers showed up unexpectedly at the Innsbruck Olympics but were allowed to compete anyway, or that Poland’s flag bearer has a museum in his hometown where he charges $2 admission to see his skis and bibs. They’re better when they’re riffing on the fact that Finland hosts the World Sauna Championships. We agree about the Mongolians. Everything else mentioned here seemed belittling and, well, trivial.

Worst trivia shared by Bob Costas and Matt Lauer during the Parade of Nations: New Zealand was largely responsible for the visual effects in Avatar. Reaching! You want "reaching"? How aboot this: That anything Bob COstas and Matt Lauer might choose to observe about anything is worth subjecting us to their self-satisfied voices.

Best outfit: Italy. Sleek and stylish jackets, but the athletes still looked comfortable and sporty. Honorable mention: Bermuda, which opted for Bermuda shorts. uh, the Italians looked like they were tuning up for the return of Mussolini. The Bermuda shorts won in a walk.

Worst outfit: Azerbaijan. Loud, loud pants, which caused Costas to joke that as president of the country’s figure skating federation, their flag bearer was allowed to make whatever sartorial decision he wanted. Honorable mention: The pants on the Czech Republic. Full agreement on the Azerbaijan excrecence. Don't remember the Czech Republic duds. Which suggests: see Italy above.

Best discovery: Split decision: Newfoundland’s punk tap dancing fiddlers or this rum they call Screech? uh, no. We liked it better (a LOT better) when the elf of Celtic Woman did it years ago -- without the poisonous Canadian moonshine.

Worst discovery: Jamaica did not send a bobsled team. Agreed.

Best reaction shot: Honestly, any one of Shaun White, but we’ll go with him and Louie Vito enjoying the aerial snowboarders during the tribute to the Rockies. Please. Just quit it with the Shaun White crap. He needs a haircut. Women who think a man with a Rita Hayworth hairdo is sexy are wrong. Period.

Worst reaction shot: Wayne Gretzky couldn’t hide the worry on his face during the mechanical malfunction. Fortunately, we’ll remember a different image of him: Riding on the bed of a truck through the streets of Vancouver to light the outdoor cauldron with people spontaneously running behind him. It was like a scene from Rocky. Didn't see it. As we said, we were compelled to give up when the Molsen beer commercial took center stage. If Gretsky was worried, he was almost certainly right to be. He's the only Canadian we like.

Your turn! How nice of you. In our humble opinion, the whole thing was a laughable, ludicrous bore, except where it was positively offensive in terms of its oafish political correctness ("aborigines," Lesbians, etc) and even more oafish Canadian resentfulousness of Big Brother U.S.A. We're sorry they have so little to boast of -- no female singers who like sleeping with men, no poets anyone's ever heard of, no history that doesn't require a mile of half-apologetic explanations there's no time for in a $30 million pageant (Dominion Day, the Queen who's too busy with her Corgis to show up, the flag(s), etc), no visible proof, even theatrically, that the French-British schism which will eventually destroy the nation has ever produced a blend capable of creating a distinct cultural identity that transcends beer, hockey, and forgettable TV stars. But there are things we were thankful for. Celine Dion didn't perform. (Vegas commitments? Or Branson?) Helen Reddy didn't either. Or Neil Young or Gordon Lightfoot. Don't ever accuse us of being ungrateful for small favors. Here's the best one of all. The Canadians who make their money down here in the U.S. go back to Canada when they have the opportunity to boast to the world how much better Canada is than we are. This was such an opportunity. Now -- if they would only stay there...

We'll get to the sports part later. And the NBC part. Count on it.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Nobody Move

NOT GUILTY. Our whole staff has been snowed in, besieged by illness and computer failures, and generally downed by winter in this wintriest of global warming stepping stones to disaster. But the queue builds nonetheless, things we have to say and will.

This post is a placeholder only. However. At the moment I write it, there are 22 comments on the first post CP wrote about Guilty Pleasures. And 22 comments on his second post about Guilty Pleasures.

I'd just like to point out that if there is one magic number in The Boomer Bible, it is 22. The Number of Harry. Which, to my biased mind, means that everything you have all had to say adds up to an indispensable part of the sum, including Helen Reddy and Karen Carpenter.

Think about that.

Then we'll be back. Sorry for the silence. Much to say about the Olympics, and what's really going on with the Obama administration, guest posts, and, uh, the nature of life itself.

See you soon.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Guilty Pleasures 2

THE SELF-FLAGELLATION CONTINUES. Freezing rain has just turned to snow and we're battened down for our second great blizzard within the week. As usual, serendicity has just played another card from its enormous deck, reminding me that I've always had a silly crush on Esther Williams, who (as my mother used to say) couldn't act her way out of a paper bag. But at this very moment TCM is showing a celluloid souffle called "Neptune's Daughter," featuring Esther in some of the most gorgeous duds any woman ever had the privilege of wearing. (Mrs. CP is exclaiming over her wardrobe in each unfolding scene as I write this. Edith Head, she muses? Has to be.) Interestingly, her love interest in the pic is Ricardo Montalban, a man whom most people still confuse with her real husband, Fernando Lamas. Sigh. I guess that means she'd never have fallen for a charmless Scot who's about as far from "tall, dark, and handsome" as it's possible to get without being formally listed as an exemplary antonym in Roget's Thesaurus.

It's easy and acceptable to have a crush on Rita Hayworth (which I do). So why is it faintly ridiculous to have a crush on Esther Williams? Don't know. But it is. And I don't care. Which reminds me of two other female movie stars I'm embarrassed to love. One is virtually forgotten, and the other is, well, I'll get to that in good time...

June Allyson

You know. Jimmy Stewart's on-screen wife. No neck, awful hair-sprayed-to-death hair, and a collection of shirtdresses that would have made June Lockhart expire of envy in Lassie's paws. This woman:

After the credits, she makes her first appearance 6:30 in.

What about her then? Her voice. That husky murmur. Her voice and her eyes. Demure but absolutely resolute. She's the "good woman" of the adage about what a great man always has behind him. For many years I wondered, "Why was this plain Jane a movie star?" As I've grown older I've learned why. The world has grown full to bursting with Megan Foxes. But the June Allysons are a vanishing breed. Faithful, loving, invincible, and beautiful from the soul out. And how about this completely accidental YouTube find?

Judy Garland

Yup. I'm also carrying a torch for Judy Garland. And, no, I'm not even gay. As with June Allyson, it took me a long long time to appreciate Judy Garland -- at least the Judy who matured away from the adolescent prodigy who sang so heartbreakingly in the Wizard of Oz. A lot like June. No neck, perpetually bad hair, and weirdly frumpy clothes the whole time. I always thought her adult voice was harsh. And whatever anyone says, she was never a good-looking woman. But looks matter less and less as you get older. I began to understand that she wasn't really the victim her biographers seek to make her. She had a gift and she knew it. She kept on going, no matter how, to keep sharing that gift. A different kind of love but one I admire without even the slightest trace of pity. Like June. Vulnerability as strength. Who do we have today? Lady Gaga.

I rest my case.

Donald Barthelme

Another writer I've repeatedly slammed. Because he so completely disdained meaning. But lawdy lawdy, what a writer. One of the very few I can always enjoy reading out loud (along with Cynewulf, Swinburne, Verlaine, and some of Poe's poetry). Every single piece in City Life I've declaimed to my private ceiling, just wishing I had that touch with words. He systematically, immorally even, uncouples words from their meanings and finds new meanings inside the empty space he creates thereby. At his best he's just plain gorgeous under a mask of plain. My objections are all philosophical, which can and probably should be translated as "second rate." On the other hand, like Eliot, Joyce, and Hemingway before him, he's flung the door wide open for talentless imitators. I'm content to be the stolid sentinel at the door, saying, "No. You haven't earned the right to rewrite the scripture of genius."

Tijuana Brass

From the sublime to the ridiculous? Yes. That's what self-revelation consists of. There's no excuse whatever for liking Tijuana Brass. But hearing their songs make me happy. I don't care that Herb Alpert had no more talent as a trumpet player than the average high school band member. I. Just. Don't. Care.

You got a problem with that?

Patsy Kline

You're flying over the world in all your omniscient super-sophistication. Then you spy an Aborigine village where the natives, or their shaman, seem to know as much somehow about the universe as you do. But without your hubris. That's Patsy Kline. Even Johnny Cash put on some airs from time to time. Patsy never did. She lived in the dreamtime for sure, but she did the earthbound thing better than all her dimwit contemporaries. Why she had to die young.

Some people know everything. I do. That's how I can recognize the others.

Miami Vice

Don Johnson couldn't act and the fellow who played Tubbs was even worse. But the best series television episode in history was the pilot of Miami Vice. I'll listen politely to your rebuttals, but you're wrong. This was the absolute apogee of dramatic TV in America.

Jeez. Still not done with this confessional torrent. uh, did somebody mention Glenn Miller?

Glenn Miller

I'll end with the self-immolating admission that I loved the big band my own father dismissed as the closest thing to Lawrence Welk his generation ever produced (apart from Kay Kyser, that is). But I can't help it. I like Glenn Miller. I like the sound. Despite the extensive training I've received in jazz from people who know, I still feel a bump of optimism when I hear the unmistakeable timbre of the band whose leader perished without a trace in the second war to end all wars. And isn't that an irony even Alanis Morissette could recognize?


Worse, it looks like there'll be a Part 3 before this blizzard concludes. My most obsequious apologies. How much confession can any audience be expected to endure?

UPDATE. By popular demand -- who'd a thunk it? -- Instapunk commenters love ABBA. A movie I'd never have put on my list without this nudge is Muriel's Wedding. A chick flick even a guy could like. Anyway, here you go:

Hey! Here we all are. Naked as jaybirds, just like that ABBA album cover. Is it great? Not here it isn't. The blizzard is ubiquitous and cold. Brrrrr.

UPDATE 2. Just for those who haven't heard of him, here is Roger Whittaker:

And one of his gigantic hits you could get on one of his reasonably priced CDs.

There. Duty done. He has many fans. You could be one too.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Guilty Pleasures

DEPRESSINGNESS? Things have reached a fairly apocalyptic pitch here in South Jersey. There's been flu, a blizzard, a lengthy power outage that may have cost me all first drafts and image files of my entire contribution to InstaPunk (plus my antique versions of PhotoShop and AnimationShop), and another blizzard on the way tonight. Perhaps that's why I was moved by the act of courage represented by BigHollywood's John Nolte and his piece today revealing his "Uncool" favorites. He lists a bunch of movies he loves and watches that conventional wisdom would laugh at him for loving and watching.

It amounts to a kind of defiant confession. Well, confession goes with apocalypse, does it not? And by serendicity, Mrs. CP and I had also had a confessional moment just a couple of days ago, when in response to a TV promo for The Bodyguard we both admitted -- me more reluctantly than she -- that we secretly loved Whitney Houston's recording of "I Will Always Love You."

A saccharine, sentimental, monotonal mess of a song written and first performed by Dolly Parton, who also happens to be one of my other Guilty Pleasures, a sweet and beguiling woman who cheerfully compares her own singing to the vocalizations of a nanny goat. She's right but I admire her anyway. She's an incorporated powerhouse with her own theme park, but she's still sweet. That buys her a pass on her ridiculous hair and chest balloons in my book. And I will "always" listen to the Whitney Houston version of Dolly's song when it plays on the radio or in the movie because there is something pure and wistful and stirring about it. It's an anthem of women's capacity for love that if you've ever been on the receiving end of it can bring you to your knees.

So. Without image-editing capability and staring into the teeth of another two feet of snow, I'm determined to confess my own bunch of Guilty Pleasures. They're not all critically scorned things, though most are. They're songs and movies and TV shows and books and authors and performers I've either jeered at in the past or never admitted liking because it was, yes, not cool to like them. In other words, they're things I like but find embarrassing to admit I like. Some of them are very embarrassing, fuel for future commenter cheap shots for, well, ever. You're all welcome to share your own Guilty Pleasures, as well as heap scorn upon me for mine.

My only defense here is that I'm not going to organize the entries. You'll have to do some work of your own to synthesize and summarize the weaknesses of my poorest taste in various media. Other than that, have at it and do your worst.

The Confessions:

Paul Gallico

As a writer, I think first of my guiltiest pleasure of all, two works by Paul Gallico, the most gushingly sentimental writer in all my reading who, for me at least, gets away with it by the brazen nakedness of his technique. Tops on the list is a story called "Thicker than Water," which when I still owned the book it appeared in (can't find it for you) I couldn't stop rereading. An awful story. Execrable in every critical regard, except that I just loved reading it. Got me every time. More like a song than a story. Now I find that it's included in a book of the 36 greatest boxing stories ever written. I'll never buy that book. I don't want to find out just how diseased my powers of discrimination are when the subject is boxing.

To prove how bad it is I can tell you the gist in about a hundred words. In World War II, Joey, the younger brother of a champion boxer who died in the war is prizefighting to keep his family afloat, but despite great technique, he consistently loses because he's yellow. The first time he gets hit a real shot, he folds and gets knocked out. Because of this he finds it harder and harder to get fights until he gets a chance to be a stepping stone (designated victim) in the surging career of a slugger who's working his way to a title shot. Oh. The thing that we, and Joey, never knew before the climactic round of the fight? Joey once got a blood transfusion from his now departed brother.

You see? I cringe just telling you about it. Maybe Paul Gallico could write. That's all I can hope for. People who remember such things still remember his novella, The Snow Goose. Which I can also reread at a moment's notice. I'm pretty sure it's a character defect of mine.

Jimmy Rodgers

Yeah. The yodeller.

I could make excuses. He essentially began the country music industry by recording his songs at Victor records in Camden, NJ. He also had a compelling life story, a railroad man who became a singing star only to die young of tuberculosis, about which he sang honestly and humorously. Thing is, I actually like his music. Something simple and vital and affecting about it. Sorry.

Independence Day, the Fourth of July

I could write a whole essay about everything that's wrong with this movie. The fighter pilot president who refuses to use nukes even against alien invaders. The mysterious compatibility between Apple computers and alien technology. The increasingly annoying Yiddish affect of Judd Hirsch in his post-Taxi roles. And the inclusion of every possible clichee of both soap opera and Irwin Allen disaster movies in a single monstrously absurd blockbuster. The first time I saw it was in the company of wits who would make the Mystery Science Theater crowd look lame, and we laughed ourselves sick late into the night. It was a veritable tsunami of scorn.

Only problem -- I like watching this movie. It's fun. The clichees are well played. The climax and the denouement are satisfying. It's Hollywood doing what Hollywood does best when it's not posturing but entertaining.

Kanye West

I've tired people out making a case for Eminem. Along the way I've dissed most hip hop recording artists. And I particularly dislike Kanye West for his loony-toon narcissism and his politics. But I like this cut.

Ernest Hemingway

I've written a bunch about this guy over the years. I've called him the end of fiction, the ego-bloated pied piper who led even his fiercest critics off the cliff of transforming imagination into personal reportage. I've ridiculed his concepts of "the one true sentence" and the "one thing" that lies at the heart of any true experience.

What I keep leaving out is that despite the fact that he was a poseur and a prick, he was also a spectacularly gifted writer. "The Sun Also Rises," amputated of its initial anti-semitic chapters, is still one of the ten best novels of the twentieth century.

And, worse for me personally, this isn't simply an intellectual assessment. The Truth: my pick for a book to read on an airplane, when you're above the clouds in the clear blue miles above the earth, is Hemingway. Anything Hemingway. That's his domain. That's where it all clicks. Clean and clear and blue. The meaning streams.

I just wish he'd kept his mouth shut about what writing "is." Like Picasso learned to keep quiet about what painting "is." I love them both for what they did. Hate them both for what they said.


Love it. No apologies. Iconic. Fun, funny, and sexy. If you can survive parody, you're the real thing. Everybody starts dancing when this starts playing. That's the real joke behind the parodies. It's so good it can't be reduced even by ridicule.

Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet

So he cut 30 or 40 percent of the play out of his script. And junked it all up with syrupy music. I was an English major. These things matter. But I'm still in love with Olivia Hussey in this movie. All these years later. Embarrassingly.

I wouldn't tell this to most English majors, but I'm thinking Shakespeare would have regarded this as the best of a very long line of pretentious movies made of his plays. That's just me, though. Most other Shakespeare critics wouldn't put much credence in a movie's power to give an adolescent a hard-on. Much better to wax lyrical about Olivier's Hamlet. (Yawn.)

Neil Diamond

This is one I'd never have admitted without Mrs. CP, who is always unabashed about what she likes and doesn't. She makes total strangers watch "M" and "Alexander Nevsky" because it's good for them, and she's equally forthright about wanting, when she discovered I had a zillion inherited LPs and a turntable, to hear this guy. She likes him. So do I. Only I have to peel away all my dismissive knowledge first -- his virtual illiteracy, his mountainous hair, his lack of genre identity (country? pop? Vegas pimp?) Sometimes you just have to let go and respond. He's dramatic, sincere, unique, lyrical, and operatic without knowing what opera even is. I'm persuadedconverted. Shut up.

uuuh. Have to break off here. Deals to be made about plowing in anticipation of future plowing. So let me know if you like this post and want more humiliating confessions. Of which there are many to come.

UPDATE. Another checks in. A critically hated film someone likes. I dimly remember it. But it's someone's Guilty Pleasure. Admire his passion:

Maybe it's better than I thought. Read his comment. I'm impressed. [You, too, can be enshrined here, for your courage and vision.]

Back to Archive Index

Amazon Honor System Contribute to Learn More