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September 2008

fucking dickheads, ignorant moron division

A tip of the cap to Kos, who points us to an article that shows us the Republican Vice Presidential candidate is an idiot:

Sarah Palin said she thinks creationism should be taught alongside evolution in the state's public classrooms.... Palin said ... that discussion of alternative views should be allowed to arise in Alaska classrooms.

I don't care if she looks like a cross of Tina Fey and Laura Roslin ... the fact that 2+2=5 is an alternate view doesn't mean it should be taught alongside the reality of 2+2=4.

friday random ten, 1991 edition

1. Joni Mitchell, "Night Ride Home." Greatest ever cameo appearance by a cricket.

2. Cypress Hill, "How I Could Just Kill a Man." All he wanted was a Pepsi.

3. U2, "One." It's kinda like when Obama gets fired up with the flowing rhetoric ... I don't trust it, but I can't resist it. This is the kind of ballad by a too-pretentious band that I should hate. But I can't resist it.

4. John Prine, "It's a Big Old Goofy World." In a perfect world, John Prine would be considered a national treasure. OK, some of us already think of him that way. But it's not a perfect world. Instead, there's a big old goofy man dancing with a big old goofy girl. Ooh, baby, it's a big old goofy world.

5. Boyz II Men, "Motownphilly." Think about that title.

6. Nirvana, "Territorial Pissings." A great band, sounding their most Hüsker-esque. Remember, just because you're paranoid don't mean they're not after you.

7. Guns N' Roses, "November Rain." I really can't stand to listen to Axl Rose's voice ... my problem, not his ... so I'm not a good judge of their music. Slash is good, though.

8. Michelle Shocked, "Come a Long Way." A confession: I don't know what this song is about.

9. Pearl Jam, "Jeremy." In many ways, Pearl Jam is the anti-Guns N' Roses ... they stand for good things, don't write gay-bashing lyrics, they even love Sleater-Kinney. But I don't really care about them. And while I can listen to Eddie Vedder's voice, it isn't my favorite.

10. Marky Mark & the Funky Bunch, "Good Vibrations." Instead of making a career in movies and then cutting the vanity record, Marky Mark started with the vanity record and THEN had the movie career. This is actually a good track, although that's mostly thanks to Loleatta Holloway.

1968: august 29

Hubert Humphrey accepts his party's nomination as their 1968 presidential candidate:

I choose not simply to run for President. I seek to lead a great nation. And either we achieve true justice in our land or we shall doom ourselves to a terrible exhaustion of body and spirit.

I base my entire candidacy on the belief which comes from the very depth of my soul, which comes from basic religious conviction that the American people will stand up, that they will stand up for justice and fair play, and that they will respond to the call of one citizenship, one citizenship open to all for all Americans.

So this is the message that I shall take to the people and I ask you to stand with me. And to all of my fellow Democrats now who have labored hard and openly this week at the difficult and sometimes frustrating work of democracy, I pledge myself to the task of leading the Democratic Party to victory in November.

And may I say to those who have differed with their neighbor or those who have differed with a fellow Democrat, that all of your goals, that all of your high hopes, that all of your dreams, all of them will come to naught if we lose this election. And many of them can be realized with a victory that can come to us....

And now I appeal to those thousands, yes, millions of young Americans to join us not simply as campaigners but to continue as vocal, creative and even critical participants in the politics of our times. Never were you needed so much and never could you do so much if you were to help now.

Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream. Robert F. Kennedy ... had a great vision.

If America will respond to that dream and that vision, their deaths will not mark the moment when America lost its way, but it will mark the time when America found its conscience.

These men have given us inspiration and direction. And I pledge from this platform tonight we shall not abandon their purposes. We shall honor their dreams by our deeds, now and in the days to come.

I am keenly aware of the fears and frustrations of the world in which we live.

It is all too easy to play on these emotions. But I do not intend to do so.

I do not intend to appeal to fear, but rather to hope.

I do not intend to appeal to frustration, but rather to your faith.

I shall appeal to reason and to your good judgment.

the speech

He got the historic part out of the way immediately:

With profound gratitude and great humility, I accept your nomination for the presidency of the United States.

Then he got down to the nitty gritty. It wasn't his best speech, if, like me, you're taken in by his facility with high-flying rhetoric. But it was effective, especially in the gloves-off approach to McCain. Obama is a fighter.

And then there was this, which is when my eyes teared up ... OK, I started crying like a baby:

We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country. The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than for those plagued by gang-violence in Cleveland, but don't tell me we can't uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination. Passions fly on immigration, but I don't know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers. This, too, is part of America's promise -- the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort.

wake up america

In a couple of hours, Barack Obama will give an historic speech, and I, for one, can't wait to see it. I have a friend visiting from New Mexico, and I told her I'd have to put off our visit until after the speech ... I'm not sure how you can't watch this one, and I don't mean by using the DVR. It's gotta be live.

I am not a Democrat. Whenever I took one of those polls that matched my views with the candidates and then told which candidate most closely shared my opinions, I would be matched up to Dennis Kucinich. I imagine if Kucinich represented mainstream Democratic Party thinking, I'd consider joining the party. He is not a centrist, he is of the left. For a variety of reasons, Dennis Kucinich would never be elected president. But I'll say one thing for the Democrats: there is still room in their party for people like him.

Barack Obama will, I am guessing, give a great speech tonight. He'll have 75,000 people in the crowd, and the whole world will be watching. He's up to the challenge. I do not expect Obama to say the kinds of things that Kucinich said in his own convention speech. I wouldn't be surprised if the Obama camp prefers that Kucinich mostly keeps quiet. But it was invigorating to hear at least one person say things I actually believed. Obama will hopefully lift our hearts and offer hope. He will, perhaps necessarily, be vague. I predict he will give a speech for the ages. But let's let Kucinich have his moment, as well:

mad canon

My training leads me to associate the term "canon" with the literary canon, a construct with which I have often argued (back in grad school, when it seemed that one was required to adopt a stance, I was Mr. Anti-Canon ... not content to expand the canon, I wanted to destroy it). But there is another use for "canon" that is more useful in the areas where I do most of my work these days. To quote Wikipedia, this type of canon, "in terms of a fictional universe, is any material that is considered to be 'genuine', or can be directly referenced as material produced by the original author or creator of a series." The canon I'm most familiar with in this regard is probably the Buffyverse canon, although I'm dreadfully behind the times since the TV series left the airwaves. Probably the most important additions to the Buffyverse canon since the end of the show are the comic books, many written by series creator Joss Whedon ... Joss himself has said the comics are canon.

Mad Men hasn't been around long enough to warrant its own canon, I suppose, but an interesting phenomenon has arisen which makes me think about this topic. Recently, many of the characters on Mad Men started showing up on Twitter, a "micro-blogging" community. Obviously these weren't "real" people ... the question remained, who were they? My first assumption, shared by many, I'd guess, was that this was a case of viral marketing created by AMC to spread the word about their critically-acclaimed but ratings-deprived series. If that was the case, a follow-up question might be, who was pretending to be these fictional characters? Were the actors doing it? Did AMC hire a bunch of interns to do it? Did they hire just one person and have them pretend to be all the characters? You'd think the actors had better things to do, but there have been stories in the past about how when The Office is being filmed, all the computers you see are live and hooked up to the Internet, so, say, Jenna Fischer can post to Pam Beesley's blog (as Pam).

Well, AMC's involvement soon became known, or rather, their non-involvement became known. Turns out these Twitterers were not approved by AMC, who shut them down. At least until they realized the resulting publicity 1) made them look bad, and 2) had people talking about their show. So AMC gave their permission to Twitter, and once again, one can read updates about the lives of Joan Holloway ("Jane finally caught up on typing Mr. Draper's dictation today. She needs to do more to impress him than bat those college girl eyelashes"), Peggy Olson ("Just when think I know how this place works, I'm surprised by the smallest things. I hear there's an office memo that may surprise us all") and Betty Draper ("In other news, Don's arm is almost healed; just swell. I'll be terribly glad when he drives again, though the train is safer, if you ask me").

I guess these aren't canonical ... more like fan fiction. It's kinda fun hearing from Joan, even if it isn't really Christina Hendricks doing the writing.

Addendum from the past ... here is a brief excerpt from the introduction to my dissertation, which was about American hard-boiled detective novels:

For many years, I have fought against the idea that any critic could ascertain some inherent qualities in particular texts that would clearly mark those texts as “good,” “bad,” or “indifferent.” Such qualities always seemed to match the preferences of the reigning kings (and more rarely, queens) of literary criticism, resulting in an institutionally supported canon which changed over time to reflect different preferences amongst the various kings in their eras, but which also paradoxically insisted on the timelessness of their chosen canon. Combining a realization of the changing nature of the canon over time with a desire to promote the needs of the “literary powerless” (i.e., anyone who was not a reigning king of literary criticism), I rejected value hierarchies in favor of personal canons, favorite books which could lay no greater claim than that one or another person found them appealing. You chose Shakespeare, I chose Hammett, but neither of us had the inside track on “timeless quality.”

And then I started reading Mickey Spillane.

1968: august 28, part two

Ten thousand protesters attended a rally in Grant Park. Police rioted. Later, several thousand gathered in front of the hotel where Hubert Humphrey had his headquarters. Police rioted. Humphrey, who won his party's nomination and lost to Nixon, was famously identified by Hunter S. Thompson as "a gutless old ward-heeler who should be stuffed in a bottle and shipped out on the Japanese current." Humphrey was the old guard ... strong on labor issues and civil rights, anti-Communist, and, as Vice President, identified with Johnson's war in Vietnam. Some say that as the tear gas from the police riots wafted upwards, they reached the windows of the Vice President. It's an image that may be apocryphal, but which sums up how many felt about Humphrey in those days: keeping his mouth shut while people were beaten.

Inside the convention, the various candidates had their moments in the sun. George McGovern, who would represent the party in four years, had his name put into nomination by Abraham Ribicoff, who said that McGovern would be a great president in part because if he were in charge, "we would not have to have such Gestapo tactics in the streets of Chicago." There is some controversy about what Mayor Daley said in response ... he clearly shouts at Ribicoff more than once, and some believe what he said was "Fuck you, you Jew son of a bitch, you lousy mother-fucker, go home.!" (Daley claimed he called Ribicoff a "faker".) "How hard it is to accept the truth," Ribicoff replied.

1968: august 28

Rude on-screen behavior didn't begin with Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter. For the 1968 Democratic Convention, ABC hired two pundits from opposing sides. Gore Vidal was a novelist and essayist known for his international perspective, liberal politics, and open embrace of fluid sexual identity. William F. Buckley was one of the most famous conservatives of his era, and also known for his complex verbosity (which made him an easy target for impressionists). During one discussion on August 28, 1968 (video below), Buckley made reference to Nazis, Vidal offered a crack about Buckley and "crypto-Nazis," and Buckley responded with the immortal "Now listen, you queer. Stop calling me a crypto-Nazi, or I'll sock you in the goddamn face and you'll stay plastered."

1968: august 26

The 2008 Democratic National Convention is historic because of what is happening within its walls. An African-American will be nominated as a major-party candidate.

The 1968 Democratic National Convention began 40 years ago today. It was historic as much for what happened outside the walls as for what happened within. Mayor Daley of Chicago opened the convention by announcing "As long as I am mayor of this city, there's going to be law and order in Chicago."