Author Archive

Let’s stop saying ‘retarded’

by on May.03, 2011, under Uncategorized

I think it is time for us to stop saying retarded. By ‘us’, I don’t mean society in general, who seem to be lurching toward that understanding and over whom I have little influence. I mean my own subset of society, typically (but by no means exclusively) white men who fancy themselves efficiently ironic users of language. I mean “efficiently ironic” in the sense that when we use a word, especially a word with a history, we pack into it all of its meanings which are not our intention but which we know hang onto the word. The ship and its voyages too.

So when we call something “retarded” we mean to be funny. At the same time as we say, “That is super fucking stupid,” we are implicitly adding “You know that I know that that’s a bad word and that I shouldn’t say it and since we all know that, I will say it and skip over that part.”

On the ironic reappropriation of the word “retarded”, let me offer two observations. (continue reading…)

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In fact, snipe is a bird that is hard to shoot

by on May.02, 2011, under Politics

This status update is making the rounds on Facebook:

‎”I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

I admire the spirit and I’m glad to see it circulating. I didn’t repeat it because it doesn’t accurately describe my emotions right now. I will admit to a small patch of gladness to see the guy dead. The feeling is swamped by shame and rage at the past ten years of pointless warfare, loss of life, madness and torture, not to mention being creeped out by the dickswinging “Obama 2012″ (ok, I like Moshe Kasher) but I’d be lying to say it wasn’t real.

I’m also not impressed by this petition, also moving fast on FB:

After 10 years of war and the death of Osama bin Laden, it’s time to bring the troops home from Afghanistan. With al-Qaeda driven from the country and Bin Laden now dead, the rationale for war has evaporated. It’s time to stop now.

Well, no. The hunt for OBL long ago evaporated as the pretext for the United States’s two or three Middle East wars. This is coy to the point of useless. This is forgetting as the answer to forgetting.

A fair and related point to make right now is that the wars have in virtually no way led to this day. Rather, it seems to have been through careful, focused intelligence work. The capture or killing of Osama could have been accomplished with a much lower cost.

John Kerry was roundly condemned for saying as much in 2004. As in so much, his phrasing was infelicitous, but he was right. It’s imperfect to call this operation a simple matter of law enforcement and intelligence–for one thing, the ease with which everyone, myself included, dismisses its questionable legality only reveals how many sacred prohibitions we’ve cast aside in the past decade.

To now begin to end the wars will require more than forgetting how much we’ve forgotten. It will require accepting that they were snipe hunts from the beginning, and that their stated aims were either accomplished through other means or never obtainable at all.

UPDATE: Amanda Marcotte’s take: it may be bullshit but let’s run with it. OTOH, zunguzungu. Also MLK never spoke the first line of the quote (which I’ve put in italics). It was apparently added by some tweeter and then copied into the quote as re-posted.

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Monday Movies

by on Mar.28, 2011, under Movies

I’m writing the Monday Movies entry over at Adam Kotsko’s The Weblog. Come hang out and comment about Winter’s Bone, Rango, Morocco, and anything upon which your eyes have recently feasted.

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Dork Test

by on Feb.23, 2011, under music

Help me out here, commenters and co-guest-bloggers. I am a bit puzzled.

Via Ann Friedman’s Lady Journos! tumblr (which come to think of it is also how I found my way to Molly Lambert), I just read Sady Doyle’s Birth of the Uncool.

Sady argues that Tori Amos was mocked for the powerful feminine qualities of her music. I get the argument. I love the Helene Cixous shout-out: “The gender binary also tended to perpetuate itself in other divisions, such as ‘Head/Heart,’ ‘Intelligible/Palpable,’ and ‘Logos/Pathos.’ The music of Tori Amos asks its fans to stand on the wrong side, the female side, of all those dichotomies.” Makes perfect sense to me.

Here’s the thing, though — I don’t remember ever feeling uncool for liking Tori Amos. I played the hell out of Little Earthquakes at my all-male school, to no resistance. I can still get through most of “Leather” on the piano. I loved her take on “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (it was before everybody did that). I never saw her play live and I didn’t stick around for the rest of her career, but she was in heavy rotation when I was a young man.

“But it’s hard to underestimate the role that homophobia and gender policing have played in the assessment of her fans.” Really? I get why that might have happened. I just never noticed it. Tori took me from senior year of high school into college, and I never noticed any policing around here. And it’s not as if I didn’t pass under the gaze of music snobs. Trust me, I knew better than to admit how deep a groove I wore into my CD of “Pocketful of Kryptonite.”

Maybe it’s because my time with Tori was at the dawn of the Internet, before correct positions could be circulated with vicious speed. But I really didn’t sense that the invisible hand of masculine cosmopolitanism had consigned Tori to the yonic kitschyard. Did you?

x-posted at Alyssa Rosenberg

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Omnivore’s Dilemma

by on Feb.23, 2011, under music

I am falling bloghead over blogheels in love with Molly Lambert and her website (blog? magazine?) This Recording. She’s sly and epigrammatic and has a mix of irony and sympathy that feels contemporary but elevated. The stuff that is rough at Gawker and refined in The Awl gets even better as you go towards her.

Her tribute to Latina Rap has an assertion which is extremely contemporary:

There are no more “I listen to everything but rap and country” people left, because the mp3 economy and widely free access to all kinds of music has rendered that stance and all similar genre-excluding stances irrelevant.

This is true in the manner that “God is dead” (speaking of epigrams) is true. It’s an emerging subject position with an impressive cultural influence, but tell it to Osama Bin Laden. (That incorrigible rockist.)

Scratch an eclecticist, find an “I listen to everything but rap and country” person. My MP3 collection includes songs by each of the Highwaymen, and an eclectic-appropriate smattering of last year’s and 90’s hip-hop, but its bones are pretty easy to identify.

I enjoy leading pronouncements and the-future-is-here declarations. But I also want to know how everyone else is receiving the now now. (It’s one of the things I find Alyssa’s writing attuned to.)

x-posted at Alyssa Rosenberg

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Having Killed The Radio Star, Video Dispatches Itself

by on Feb.22, 2011, under Uncategorized

Alternate title: “Queue Can’t Always Get What You Want”

I waste enormous amounts of time flipping through blogs and Facebook, but I don’t actually watch that much YouTube. That’s because when I’m skimming text, I feel as though I’m controlling my use of my own time, but once I hit play on a video, it unfolds at an unchangeable rate. I can’t skim it, so I genuinely feel as though I’m wasting time. This is not a sound time management strategy, but it’s the nature of my particular beast. I’m sure there’s a psychological term for it. Maybe at Lifehacker?

Which is why I’m so thrilled about the new YouTube “Queue” feature. A video comes up on FB or in my RSS feed. I want to watch it, but I’ll feel like I’m procrastinating if I press play immediately. I happily save it for later. Even better, the feature is utterly non-functional, so I never actually have to watch anything, but feel much better about skipping it.

x-posted at Alyssa Rosenberg

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So We Beat On, Boats Against The Current, Borne INTO YOUR FACE

by on Feb.21, 2011, under Books, Movies

I’m tickled by the news that Baz Luhrmann is preparing to shoot The Great Gatsby in 3-D. It made a great video game, so why not?

I liked Spike Jonze’s Where The Wild Things Are, but I also wished at the time that it hadn’t been the definitive take — even that they’d have let a couple of other writers and directors use the costumes and sets to film their own takes on the material.

The industrial strength of a film adaptation has a way of establishing itself as the canonical vision of a printed work. It’s healthy for a print work, especially a classic, to be allowed more than one crack. Imagine how great it would be if, some years down the line a Watchmen adaptation came out that was as different from Zach Snyder’s take as Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight was from Danny Elfman’s?

Given the giddy pasticheworks of Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge, and given the prima facie senselessness of telling a muted work like Gatsby in 3-D, I can’t help but be optimistic about this. Maybe, perversely, it will even have a touch of Hemingway’s apocryphal rebuttal in it.

x-posted at Alyssa Rosenberg.

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Apparently, a Tumblr Wasn’t Enough…

by on Feb.20, 2011, under music

…because Steve Stoute took out a full-page ad in the New York Times asking “Who is Arcade Fire????”

Who Is Arcade Fire Tumblr

Steve Stoute’s Ad Text at HuffPo

(Yes, I read the Sunday New York Times dead-tree edition. And yes, I read Sunday Styles. After the front page, before Week In Review.)

x-posted at Alyssa Rosenberg.

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Things That Look Like Other Things VI

by on Feb.18, 2011, under Uncategorized


The upturned edges of the eagle’s wings actually make the SSA logo look like a proper handlebar mustache. However, handlebar aficionados in their classicism seem loath to grow the accompanying thick soul patch that would match the logo exactly.

Cross-posted at Alyssa Rosenberg.

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Blue Valentine and manliness

by on Feb.17, 2011, under Movies

Blue Valentine is a mirror image of (500) Days of Summer. Both tell the story of a relationship’s rise and fall; both hop back and forth in time. The latter movie, a comedy, front-loaded the joy of the beginning of the relationship, then showed most of that joy to be one-sided. It had a great feel for infatuation but had less to say about sorrow, and ended up something of a slight novelty item because of that.

Spoilers, big blocks of screenplay, and the c-word all below the fold… (continue reading…)

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