Friday, July 30, 2004

Hip-hop's Gaelic Names

A sign we've been in the USA too long: when in the Islands recently and seeing references to a musical group McFly, we were reading that as M, C, Fly and assuming that he/they is/are a hip-hop outfit. But no, it really is meant to be read like a surname and they are in fact a quasi-rock boy band. Then there's the film director McG, which again contains hip-hop-esque letters, but it didn't catch us out the same way as the teenyboppers.

Incidentally, the latter Mc, who is actually the quite Irish sounding Joseph McGinty Nichol, director of Charlie's Angels, just fell out with Warner Brothers over his planned direction of a new Superman movie and was quickly replaced by Bryan Singer (Usual Suspects, X-Men).

But we digress. Mike Skinner is doing a good job of creating a respectable and distinctive white English rap, so it's not fanciful to imagine someone developing an Irish version, not forgetting of course the pioneering work of House of Pain. Anyway, finding a name won't be a problem. Someone should start with O'G.
Pussy Talk
or, How Journalism Works in the U.K.

The British papers were recently abuzz with the news that the United States had banned that subtle humor classic "Are You Being Served?" as too hot for TV. The Sun seems to have gotten the story first, on July 15, with the headline MRS SLOCOMBE'S PUSSY SHOCKS U.S.:

US TV bosses have banned Mrs Slocombe's pussy as too shocking for Americans.
The British sitcom Are You Being Served? faces being toned down or even axed because of the double entendre jokes.
Typical lines from the 30-year-old show set in a department store include Molly Sugden as Mrs Slocombe, below, saying: "It's a wonder I'm here at all. My pussy got soaking wet. I had to dry it out in front of the fire."
The moral clampdown follows Janet Jackson's nipple-revealing performance at the 2004 Superbowl.
Some viewers sued networks, claiming they were upset.
US Public Broadcasting Service exec Doug Myrland said: "We're worried. British sitcoms are problematic--they thrive on double entendre."

This was followed by an item in the seemingly more respectable London Times three days later:
Mrs Slocombe's pussy--one of the unseen stars of the BBC sitcom Are You Being Served?--faces a ban from US television as it is too saucy. American broadcasters have been sensitive to criticism of their moral standards after Janet Jackson revealed her nipple during this year's Super Bowl. They fear viewers could sue over lines from Mrs Slocombe, such as: "It's a wonder I'm here at all. My pussy got soaking wet and I had to dry it out in front of the fire."
Public Broadcasting Service spokesman Doug Myrland said: "British sitcoms are problematic. They thrive on double entendre."

Well, this all seemed a bit, er, fishy to us, given the years we've spent asking "Are you free?" in front of our all-too-American televisions. A little digging revealed the source of this "scoop": a July 13 Christian Science Monitor article about, yes, potential editing of British programs on certain PBS affiliates. Nowhere does it mention AYBS, Mrs. Slocombe, or the aforementioned pussy. And this PBS "exec"-cum-"spokesman" Doug Myrland? He's the station manager at the San Diego public TV station.

His actual quote in the CSM, regarding the Brit-coms shown on his affiliate:
"They thrive on double entendre, and we're saying, 'Do we have to do something with those?' " Mr. Myrland asks. "We're worried that we're maybe on thin ice.' "

Not as thin, perhaps, as the editorial walls between Rupert Murdoch's English newspapers.
Hang the DJ

So we'll let the raft of conventioneering bloggers analyse the substance of Kerry's speech, and we'll watch for Andrew Sullivan to explain how all the good stuff in Kerry's speech is either just solid One Nation Toryism or something he wrote two years ago -- but let's talk about the post-speech musical choices in Boston. Of course we're biased, but U2's Beautiful Day is an excellent choice to get the crowd pumped. But then, the segue into Van Halen? Post David Lee Roth Van Halen? The same Van Halen as used for Dick Cheney's crowd pumping soundtrack (albeit a different song)? The band in which the key member is, like, Dutch? And does anyone read the lyrics when these songs are being chosen:

Run, run, run away
Like a train runnin' off the track
Got the truth bein' left behind
Falls between the cracks

Enough to make us long for the Clintonian days of Fleetwood Mac.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Symbolism, Oirish style

It's Galway race week.  This nugget from Wednesday's Irish Times (reg. req'd):

Two centuries of Irish history collided in the first race at Ballybrit last night, when a horse called Ocras Mor could finish only third behind a well-fancied winner, The Posh Paddy.
For our readers lacking the cupla focal, Ocras Mor means The Great Hunger, i.e. the Famine.
Betterer and Worser

More on the Ireland v. U.S. culture wars:


BETTER in Ireland. From Rhubarb yogurt to Blackcurrant juice to Blood Orange popsicles, the Islands have the U.S. beat. (With the significant exception, of course, of such crisp (potato chip) flavo/u/rs as prawn cocktail, greek kebab, marmite, and roast chicken. No, we're not kidding.)


BETTER in Ireland. First of all, 'cause it's easy to get BBC4 (even if you don't think much of The Archers, how about Quote Unquote? The plays and book readings? The Shipping Forecast?). But there's much to listen to on RTE, too, like the charming tales of Sunday Miscellany. And of course there's RaidiĆ³ na Gaeltachta, which is kinda fun to listen to even if you don't have your cupla focal...

Important warning for American readers: David Sedaris is rarely heard on any of these stations.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Those New York Times corrections, with annotations

One shouldn't mock the NYT too much, because in their highly visible corrections and editorial followups to past reporting missteps, they do much more than just about any other media outlet.  But their daily corrections section nearly always leaves out the juicy bits, like their occasional tendency to say that such-and-such article was indeed total shite, without saying which particular journalist wrote it.    But in one of our many services to readers, we feel compelled to offer our own annotations to Tuesday's corrections.  Since the NYT, in most un-bloglike fashion, doesn't seem to offer a permanent link to each day's corrections, we'll reproduce the relevant ones below.

A front-page article on Saturday about President Bush's appearance before the National Urban League in Detroit misstated the name he used for the rival party. Mr. Bush said, "Does the Democrat party take African-American voters for granted?" — not "Democratic."

This is revealing.  It's standard Republican spin to always refer to the other party as the Democrat party.   The blog Political Winds was presciently tracking this tendency just two weeks ago.   It traces to the charming Joe McCarthy, who hated the proper party name's association with democracy.  But what we learn from this correction is that someone, almost certainly in White House media operations, is specifically calling outlets to enforce this particular spin word.

An article on Wednesday about the plight of single men facing a shortage of single women in Alaska misstated the surname of a ticket agent who said he was looking for a long-term relationship. He is Seth Augdahl, not Augdah
So, that's why the phone calls from eager women weren't flooding in.

And finally:
Because of an editing error, an article in Business Day yesterday about plans by Banco Santander Central Hispano to buy Abbey National of Britain misstated the stock price of Abbey National on Friday. It was 580 pence ($10.62), not £580 ($1,061.86).
So if you're an Abbey National shareholder and you calculated your wealth based on the original article, divide your previous answer by 100.  D'OH!

Acknowledging the Empire

The last few days have put in wide circulation two unlikely, if very backhanded, compliments to Imperial Britain from key figures in the Irish Republican Army lineage: Michael Collins (yes, the one played by Liam Neeson) and Joe Cahill, just deceased after most of a lifetime spent in the IRA.  A historian has unearthed the teenage scribblings of Collins, who seems to have been trying to impress the examiners in a British Civil Service exam by writing:

Without a knowledge of history we could not tell how such an island as Great Britain came to be the greatest power on the face of the earth, how her small armies won the battles of Crecy and Agincourt, of Quebec and Plassey and how her fleets destroyed those of all the great European powers in the time of Napoleon, and how this general was in the end defeated by Wellington.
And then, an aphorism of Cahill's, which featured in his many obituaries, and reflected his birth in Belfast in 1920 in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland:

I was born in a united Ireland, I want to die in a united Ireland

In fact, the British have insinuated themselves even more successfully amongst the present day Irish leaders, with none other than Taoiseach Bertie Ahern having Bass Ale as his favourite alcoholic beverage.   But whereas Collins and Cahill had to face truly difficult choices about when the violence should end, Bertie's weakness for England will at most force him to decide whether he wants to pick a fight with Belgian brewers (see the linked article for details).  History can be kind.

Friday, July 23, 2004

For better or for worse

Welcome to a new feature here at BOBW, which delves into the delightful cultural differences between the U.S. and Ireland. Or something like that. What we hope to do is offer readers an easy-to-use guide to various aspects of life at home and abroad, regardless of where said home happens to be. (In most cases, you can substitute the U.K. for Shamrockshire and get the same result.)

Let's start with an easy one:


BETTER in Ireland, due mostly to the use of sugar, not corn syrup. Europe may be the land of subsidies, but it's not the land of sugar industry protectionist quotas. (We recommend the mini m and m's chipwich, which you can buy in each country so you can do your own taste test.)


BETTER in Ireland. This is an interesting one. In the U.S., sure, we can easily keep up with hip-hop on our various MTVs. But if we may let's introduce you to VH2, which runs a steady diet of Pixies, Smiths, and Stone Roses--sort of like what it would be like if BOBW had a music video show. Even MTV Deux--a favorite in the U.S.--is better abroad, thanks to a greater devotion to pure rock and lesser reliance on commercials.


A TIE. Yes, it's true, without a green Starbucks awning in sight, even rural Ireland has managed to set up an espresso machine or two. God love 'em.


WORSE in Ireland. Whereas a year ago we might have given this one to the old country, with the advent of BBC America, the balances have tipped in favor of the New World. Add to that the Islands' 24-hour Big Brother channel; the practice on UK channels of speeding up the tape on certain American one-hour shows (which makes the soulless Angel sound more like a superwimp than a superbaddy) ; and such astonishing fare as ITV's Dirtbusters, which on a recent evening treated us to closeups of dog poo (in different shades and shapes, to be fair), a squirrel in a gutter in Oldham,  plus some backed-up sewage in Liverpool that locals likened to Mulligatawny soup. 


WORSE in Ireland, with the following exceptions:
  1. Curly Wee. A reason to buy the Indo, even (or because?) if they're only rerunning old ones from the 1940s.
  2. The London Times Saturday and Sunday supplements, esp. Style. Brilliant!
  3. The upscale tabs. By which we mean OK! and Hello!--and the Tatler. We particularly enjoy not having an idea about who most of these "celebrities" are....

MORE TO COME. Feel free to send us inquiries if there are specific areas you want compared. 

Read headlines with care

(22 July Irish Times, reg. req.)

*As in, that of a deadly jellyfish, not the potent tantric rocker.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Outstanding achievement in the field of excellence

BBC: In a hard-hitting report, [MP committee] says the Order of the British Empire is now inappropriate and should be replaced by an Order of British Excellence.

With the proposed new system of titles borrowing from those dim-witted California surfer dudes, Bill and Ted, perhaps the titles could be further spiced with input from Beavis and Butt-head, who after all, think of England as

that dumb little country where everything sucks

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Asked and answered

Thank you to the diligent BOBW reader who unearthed the following response to yesterday's query (courtesy of the OED online):

[Cf. ?F*ckwind, a species of hawk. North.? (Halliwell).]
1. A name for the kestrel: cf. WINDHOVER.
1599 NASHE Lenten Stuffe 49 The kistrilles or windf*ckers that
filling themselues with winde, fly against the winde euermore.
2. fig. as a term of opprobrium.
1602 Narcissus MS. Rawl. Poet. 212, lf. 80, I tell you, my little
windf*ckers, had not a certaine melancholye ingendred with a nippinge
dolour overshadowed the sunne shine of my mirthe, I had beene I pre,
sequor, one of your consorte. 1609 B. JONSON Silent Wom. I. iv. (1620)
C3b, Did you euer heare such a Wind-f*cker, as this? c1611 CHAPMAN
Iliad Pref. A4, There is a certaine enuious Windf*cker, that houers vp
and downe, laboriously ingrossing al the air with his luxurious
ambition. a1616 BEAUM. & FL. Wit without M. IV. i, Husbands for Whores
and Bawdes, away you wind-suckers [sic ed. 1639].

Nota bene: BOBW does NOT condone the bowdlerization of vulgar terminology (Cf. Cheney, 2004), but we realize that some readers may be saddled with Internet filters and do not want to deprive them of access to the blog.
Now we must turn to Chapman's Iliad and figure out what the f*ck he was talking about...

Monday, July 12, 2004

Um, "Warble-Wanker"? "Whoreson Wren"?

Though somewhat distracted by the demands of business-class travel ("Kir Royale or Buck's Fizz to start your journey, Madam?") We did notice this interesting tidbit in a 10 July New York Times obit for OED editor R.W. Burchfield:

Conceived in 1858, the original O.E.D. was every inch a Victorian enterprise. Though its editors had agonized over whether to include terms of scatology, sexual congress and racial opprobrium, delicacy won the day. With the exception of a very few entries late in the alphabet, when the restrictions had begun to ease (a breathtakingly vulgar synonym for "kestrel" can be found in the W's), offensive terms were excluded.

Subsequent inquiries among likeminded friends have turned up little information on what this "breathtaking" bit of naughtiness might be, though we do learn from the OED that "The kestril breeds in the hollows of trees." (1766 PENNANT Zool.) Do contact us if you can shed light on this burning question.

Friday, July 09, 2004

On the road

For about the next two weeks, the entire BOBW team will be based amongst the fascinating native peoples of Meath and points west. Blogging opportunities will be at best sporadic so it'll likely be the last week in this month before any major posts. However, we suspect that the silly season is going to be shorter than usual this year both in the US and Europe, so there'll be plenty of potential material once we get near a keyboard. We have a sense that citizens of both the US and Europe have spent the last decade or so with comparatively low expectations of their elected leaders, but wonder, as the consequences of this sink in, whether that expectation will now change.

At an almost incidental level, we were amused to see in the Irish media today (here and here) the news that the Dail (Irish Parliament) bar is considering the possibility that it has broken the law since the foundation of the state by not having a licence to serve alcohol. The traditional view derived from Dubya's favourite doctrine, the separation of powers, which he and the Dail bar interpreted to mean that no other branch of government had jurisdiction over an internal government affair. Now at least the Dail bar sees this as untrammelled authority only in its ability to serve creamy pints of Guinness, and not in the ability to cook up an energy policy with Ken "Kenny Boy" Lay or detain prisoners indefinitely. So anyway, the Dail bar has decided (unlike Dubya) that it would be better if it was aligned with the law like everyone else. Until then, the pints come with a frisson of illegality, at no extra charge.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

An American newshound in Dublin

Here's an interesting article in an American media trade publication describing one editor's impression of the Irish newspaper world, from the perspective of a consumer, on both sides of the border. It's a nice read, not least because the writer has no particular political axe to grind, and therefore gets things fairly right. In particular he highlights the high cost of Irish newspapers (close to $2), the often irreverent writing, and the relative slowness to adopt tried and tested techniques from elsewhere (e.g. tabloid size and comics).

But what's a blog for if not quibbling and we have a couple. Mainly, it's that he seems to have been lulled into thinking of the Irish Independent as a "quality" paper, with its broadsheet format and common ownership with the London Independent, which is a half-decent paper. But the Indo? Much of what's in there in a given day is simply a rehash of what's in the UK tabloids; for instance, going to the website for today we see that one of the featured stories is the divorce case of Arsenal star Ray Parlour, which has zero connection to anything Irish. Now of course the Indo's response would be that it's giving the readers what they want, but that's quite different from being a "quality" paper. We might as well just reveal our own bias, which is that the quality read is to be found in the Irish Times, which for all its Unionist past and whiny columnists, does manage to cover the things about Ireland that we find interesting. And there's another issue with the Indo -- its control by our little local Murdoch figure, Tony O'Reilly. Or "Sir" Tony, as he'd prefer to be known. Tony has had problems drawing the line between his business interests and the editorial line of the Indo, but that would take us into a long discourse on mid 1990s Irish politics so we'll save that for another day.

On a lighter note, older Irish Indo readers would be delighted to discover that the American kids saw the virtues of Curly Wee, a comic that appears each day in the Indo (the writer forgot to mention Curly's friend, Gussie Goose). And indeed, Curly's adventures can seem a bit sedate:

The extraordinary lameness of this combination of two-frame cartoon and poetry appealed to his 13-year-old sense of irony. Here's a sample of the caption's rhyme: "How Gillian Jane detests her school. She thinks it's simply VILE!/And when the others cry 'Buck up!' or 'Don't you ever smile?'/She answers back 'Let me alone!' in accents sharp and shrill/To which they squeak, 'Let you alone? Oh, righty-ho, we will!'"

Oh, righty-ho, indeed. It doesn't help that the pace of the story makes the progress of "Mary Worth" look like a tale told by a methamphetamine addict. The Curly Wee rabbits took a week to arrive at a hotel by train, and one day's entire episode concerned not eating lunch, but the cute critters simply looking at the picnic basket packed for them.

Now, we'll have to consult with the Curly experts when we are back in Meath next week to confirm, but we're pretty sure that the reason that the strip seems so, like, old, is because it is: one of the nice little ananchronisms about the Indo is that it just reruns the old strips from a generation ago, since the creator has long since passed on. But if it takes a little irony to make Curly vital again, so be it.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Of that ilk

Ireland's celebrated ban on smoking in the workplace, which includes pubs, is facing its first serious test case. A pub in Galway, the suspiciously Oirish-named Fibber Magee's, is openly permitting smoking in the bar. They claim that revenue has crashed since the ban went into effect. But what caught our eye was the appropriately named co-owner:

Speaking to RTE News tonight, co-owner of the pub Ronan Lawless said the pub's owners were taking legal advice to decide what their response to this latest development [an imminent injunction] will be.

For their next stunt, the pub should fly over the recently drafted St Louis Rams quarterback, Jeff Smoker, who likewise has a past to back up his surname.

UPDATE [Oct 4 2004]. Mr Lawless fought the law and the law won.
The Wild Colonial Boys

The 101st Fighting Keyboarders have been in need of a new way to signal their toughness; baying for blood in Baghdad from Washington DC or Provincetown tends to run into diminishing returns after a while. So the fearless Andrew Sullivan and Christopher Hitchens make their latest leap for Orwellian flights of rhetoric via their explicit use of the F*CK word on the web. Hitch has an article about the word in Slate, and Sully links to it and gets in an additional usage along the way, and doubtless both feel thoroughly pumped up afterwards.

Sully follows with the latest of several approving nods to Hitch's bashing of Michael Moore, about which we'll have more to say below, but let's consider Hitch's Slate piece first. As he has long since completed his shift to the reactionary right of his brother Peter (the latter having been against the war in Iraq), his writing has become strained of any coherent substance and all that remains is the withered invective, much like the leftover botanicals used to make a batch of Bombay Sapphire gin. He does try one actual anecdote, and botches it:

The following anecdote appears in one of Niall Ferguson's absorbing studies of the British Empire. On the eve of independence for the colony of South Yemen, the last British governor hosted a dinner party attended by Denis Healey, then the minister for defense. Over the final sundown cocktail, as the flag was about to be lowered over the capital of Aden, the governor turned to Healey and said, "You know, Minister, I believe that in the long view of history, the British Empire will be remembered only for two things." What, Healey was interested to know, were these imperishable aspects? "The game of soccer. And the expression 'f*ck off.' "

This is classic lazy hack journalism. Notice that he couldn't even be bothered to say which Niall F book it is. As it happens, the story appears on page 358 of Empire, but Hitch has thoroughly embellished it. Ferguson simply reports it as a remark made by Richard Turnbull, the penultimate governor of Aden (not the last governor) to Dennis Healey. And of course, Turnbull used the expression "Association Football" but we'll give Hitch a pass on his translation of a supposed direct quote. Because everything else Hitch relays about this anecdote is made up. Ferguson reports no time or context for the apercu -- no dinner party, no flag lowering, no to-and-fro between Dennis Healey and the governor.

Since he made such a hash of a something that he must have known someone could look up, how seriously can we take his other anecdotes, which rely entirely on his own memory? And the tone -- references to Kingsley Amis and the botched foul language of an Egyptian trader in the colonial days -- suggests a particular persona that Hitch seems to want to project for himself: that of the 1950s era cynically wise ex-colonial officer now posted to the UK Embassy in Washington and the life and soul of the State Department WASP dinner parties. Which is quite a journey for the 1960s radical.

And what of Hitch's volunteer duty as lead basher of Michael Moore? He and Sully are on the same page on that one too:

[Sully] "The man is openly on the other side in this war, and the film shows it in every frame." - Hitch, on CNN, telling it like it is. Actually, I think Moore may be objectively on the side of the Jihadists. But subjectively, he simply loathes American market capitalism more than Islamist fundamentalism.

Here we see the return to the "objectively pro-X" terminology of the early post 9/11 days; in this case, the two Oxbridge boys tell the Michigander that he's a traitor. Sullywatch will have plenty to say about Sully's pathologies on this one, but Hitch's fury seems in a class of its own. Basically, we think he's jealous of Moore. Remember what Hitch used to be known for -- the iconoclastic treatments of Mother Teresa and Princess Di. Now the sacred figure is Dubya, but it's Hitch leading the mob to protect the church. Somewhere deep down, he knows that he used to be on the other side.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Noted without comment

UK Leader of the Opposition Michael Howard went on a morning soft-focus TV show with his wife, reflecting a Tory strategy to present a softer public image (relative to his enforcer persona from his cabinet days). Amongst the highlights:

Romance bloomed after Mr Howard sent her [his future wife] a copy of F Scott Fitzgerald's Tender Is The Night.
Mr Howard admitted that he is not a "domestic god" although he still would make his wife a cup of tea in the morning.
He and his wife also enjoyed playing table tennis "pretty strenuously" together, which he usually won.
It's the BOBW gift books roundup!

Coming in September!
An excerpt from Sammy's Hill, the upcoming "comic" novel by Kristin Gore:

The fact that I had managed to become a health care analyst for a United States senator at the age of twenty-six still surprised me, and I lived in fear that someone would realize how ridiculous it was to have given me this sort of authority and fire me on the spot. ... I owed my passion for government to my mother, a political science professor for whom fostering interest in public service came naturally. ... Under her tutelage, I'd learned early that participation was paramount and that change could be just an effort away.

October 2004 release!
"Miracle is a unique project, undertaken by two very gifted and talented artists, Anne Geddes and Celine Dion."

does not even come close to expressing the creepiness that is the collaboration between this "photographer" and "singer," to be published this fall (as a book, cd, calendar, greeting cards, etc.). If only we could invite you over to look at the advance press materials. If only!

Watch this space for more to come.
Who knew that teaching economics was this lucrative?

The Wall Street Journal (subs. req'd) has been doing an excellent job of tracking a simmering corruption scandal concerning payoffs that Dick "Go F*ck Yourself" Cheney's old company, Halliburton, may have made in connection with a Nigerian gas project in the mid 1990s. The details of the project itself are the stuff of Cheney's dreams:

[German company] was contracted by [Halliburton joint venture] in 1996 to build the infrastructure required for the world's largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant, built on an island in the Nigerian mangrove swamps.

The contract included leveling the approximately 385-acre site, laying about 15 miles of roads and building a nearly 800-yard-long jetty from which the liquefied natural gas would be loaded onto ships.

What Dick's company did for Nigeria then, it can do for the Everglades and Alaska now. But anyway, French investigators have discovered a suspiciously large payment to a London law firm without any clear delivery of services in return, and the money trail seems to lead back to both Nigerian officials and Halliburton executives. Or rather, ex-Halliburton executives, since the company has been distancing itself from anyone whose name pops up in the investigation. But anyway, in a sure sign that the trail is getting hotter, the euphemisms are piling up:

Last month Mr. Marembert [London law firm's spokesman] said in an interview that although Mr. Tesler [the London lawyer] had been to Nigeria only once, he had been paid $130 million by [the Halliburton joint venture] as a fee for work relating to the Bonny Island project.

He qualified Mr. Tesler's work as "economic education" of Nigerian government authorities, persuading them to accept a stake of less than 50% of the LNG plant operating company.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Of Irish Interest

A busy weekend of Irish links in the New York Times. This article discusses comedian Dylan Moran's attempt to make it big in New York City, including getting tutelage in delivering optimally timed laughs from a local expert. And the shock waves from RTE's Carol Coleman standing up to Dubya continue to reverbate; she gets an article and an editorial in the Sunday NYT.
We don't know whether he's also Hot For Teacher

At a Saturday campaign event featuring Dick "Go F*ck Yourself" Cheney, the intro music was Van Halen's Right Now. Amongst the lines to this song, perhaps Dick's analysis of the past and expectations for the future:

Miss the beat, you lose the rhythm,
And nothing falls into place, no
Only missed by a fraction,
Slipped a little off your pace, oh,
The more things you get, the more you want,

If he's taking that last line seriously, we're especially worried.

UPDATE: Sullywatch offers this extended post on hijacking of words for purposes beyond their original intention, beginning with poetry and moving to a funny riff on We Will Rock You at the end.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

The plague of migratory hacks begins

It is July. Which means a new season of op-ed columns -- that written by our glorious pundits while on their holidays, consisting of little more than their previously frozen views, spiced with some supposedly relevant observation from their Grand Tour. One of the noteworthy things about the pundit vacation is how quickly they flee hoi polloi when it's their own precious time on the table; sure, it's nice to sing the virtues of the common man and Dubya's effortless touch with said creature the rest of the year, but now it's our time to live and that means some combination of long flights, ferry trips, and fancy hotels -- whatever it takes to keep the average beneficiaries of Dubya's tax cuts at a safe distance.

For Tim Russert, who spends the rest of the year being from Ireland and Buffalo, that means Nantucket. While for Reagan groupie and Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan, it means Mayfair in London. Roger Ailes (not the bald repulsive one) catches the normally decorous Peggy using retard as a noun in her London postcard to her readers, but when following the link to the same piece, we were equally struck by this:

History has been too dramatic the past 3 1/2 years. It has been too exciting. Economic recession, 9/11, war, Afghanistan, Iraq, fighting with Europe. fighting with the U.N., boys going off to fight, Pat Tillman, beheadings. It has been so exciting.

After you've taken another look at the things Peggy finds exciting, contemplate the horror that this woman may actually be representative of influential neocon opinion -- which makes Dubya's apparent incompetence in pursuing the War on Terror seem like it might be part of a deliberate stratgegy. Terrorism is exciting!

Friday, July 02, 2004

Was he reading My Pet Goat to the kids, or for himself?

From the Wall Street Journal [subs.req'd]:

In an early scene in Michael Moore's film...President Bush sits before a Florida elementary school class on Sept. 11, perusing the pages of "The Pet Goat," the story's real title. After being told that both World Trade Center towers have been hit, Mr. Bush remains fixed in his chair....

The story is contained in a book called "Reading Mastery: Rainbow Edition, Level 2, Storybook 1," a school reading aid offered by SRA/McGraw-Hill...

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Plus ca change

[NY Times] Some administration officials, speaking to reporters on the condition that their names not be used, said they believed Mr. Bush and his aides were unprepared for how broadly and decisively the court struck down the practice of indefinite detention without hearings in almost all cases of the enemy combatants.
The sin of overidentification

We have in the past, along with other intrepid bloggers, noted Andrew Sullivan's fluctuating attachment to his English-Irish-Gay-Catholic identity, which is quite often deployed as a badge of distinctiveness from the Evangenical Protestant hordes of Bush and Rove when Sullivan is disillusioned with them, as he recently has been. We now find ourselves wondering if this led him to excessive gullibility in his recent New York Times book review of Tony Hendra's book Father Joe (anchor for cultural illiterates like us: Hendra was the manager in Spinal Tap). Hendra recounts how a sexual escapade with the neighbour's wife when he was 14 led, via his punishment for this episode, to a lifetime of spiritual ministering by the Catholic monk of the book's title. Sullivan gave the book a rave review from the prize pulpit of the lead review in the Sunday NYT book review a few weeks ago, which no doubt played some role in the book's excellent sales.

Subsequent revelations have not maintained the rapturous reception. First, Sullywatch highlighted a followup letter to the NYT from Tap's Lenny disputing Sullivan's unquestioned repetition of Hendra's claimed role in creating the movie. But now things are getting downright disturbing. Prompted by the supposed confessional tone of the book, Hendra's oldest daughter has come forward to complain that he molested her as a child, which is nowhere mentioned in the book.

So what's the Sully angle? Well, our view is that Sully's eagerness to find a fellow English self-styled non-conformist seeking refuge in the spirituality of the Catholic church led him to be too unquestioning about Hendra's story, right down to the claimed architecture of Spinal Tap. But more seriously, our first reaction upon reading the opening anecdote of the review was: he's 14 and he's about to have sex with the married woman next door? We know Ireland and England are different, but nothing about our own teenage years helped that story ring any more true. There's a field day of psychology here in how Sully may have projected his own turmoil onto Hendra's apparently redemptive tale, and it will be worth watching how he reacts as this surely messy controversy plays out over the next few days. We will update as necessary.