Lancelot Links postsSunday August 22, 2010
- How did the building of a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero go from "More power to ya" (on FOX-News in December) to "AAUUGGHHHHHHH!"? Two words: Pamela Geller. Salon has the full history here.
- Nicholas Kristof, meanwhile, says those who object to the mosque are basically taking the Osama bin Laden position. Money quote: "It is mind-boggling that so many Republicans are prepared to bolster the Al Qaeda narrative, and undermine the brave forces within Islam pushing for moderation."
- So how dangerous is Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf? FOX-News plays the guilt-by-association game and says "dangerous." Jon Stewart plays that same game and answers: less dangerous than Rupert Murdoch, owner of FOX-News.
- Finally (on this subject), Noah Millman says what I've been saying all along: "Any debate should be about who we are, not about who they are or what we want them to think of us." Exactly. Which path brings us closer to the American ideal? To First Amendment rights? Then you move on to more important matters. As I thought we did last December.
- Here's a more important matter: Who counts as rich? James Surowiecki asks the question everyone, particularly everyone on Capitol Hill, should be asking. If the top tax rate is for the richest one percent, and the richest one percent include anyone making more than $250,000 a year, then it's time to parse this one percent. Tax those making $1 million at a higher rate, and tax those making $10 million at a higher rate, and those making $100 million at a higher rate. And on and on, world without end. Then let Republicans claim that upping the tax rate on the top .1% is hurting "small business owners."
- Speaking of. How insane has the right become? The black helicopters for Colorado's Republican gubenatorial candidate aren't black helicopters. They're bicycles.
- This is fun. Illustrator Christopher Nieman in the New York Times on taking a red-eye from New York to Berlin.
- And this is laugh-out-loud funny: Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) makes a recuitment video for the NYPD.
- I can't believe I haven't linked to this yet. Masato Akamatsu of the Hiroshima Toyo Carp makes one of the great catches of the year, maybe of the decade, maybe further. I love the way he tries to nonchalant it but his emotions get the better of him and he breaks into a smile as he throws the ball in. I love the emotions of the announcers. I love the way Akamatsu seems to go "Wow" at the end. They call it a "Spider-Man" catch but that's Griffey territory to me. This is almost a parkour catch.
- Finally, R.I.P, Bobby Thomson. The opening of Don DeLillo's novel, "Underworld," was originally published as a novella in, I believe, Harper's, and it's all about Thomson's Shot Heard 'Round the World on October 3rd, 1951 that gave the New York Giants the pennant over the Brooklyn Dodgers. DeLillo called it "Pafko at the Wall," which is a great title. Russ Hodges, the Giants' announcer, never used that phrased. He used others. Touch 'em all, Bobby.
October 3, 1951
- Stan James on why Facebook is the new TV. Basically it's the disconnect between the pristine lives on display and the unspoken torment within. But it's mostly about envy...of those pristine lives on display. It's Winesburg, Ohio, 2010. “I used to be on Facebook a lot,” a friend of James tells him, “but found that it left me feeling bad about my life.” Amen. I experienced that this morning—less about the lives, I guess, than the careers of people I don't really know. On the other hand, is this bad? It's me telling myself to get out there again instead of staying in here.
- Last month British actor Andrew Garfield, 27, was picked as the new teenaged Spider-Man. Do we care? Not yet. Nothing against Garfield but I thought Tobey Maguire was perfect casting for Steve Ditko's Peter Parker. Plus the first “Spider-Man” was released only eight years ago, while the most recent “Spider-Man” (3) only three years ago. We're in the age of the perpetual reboot now, which devalues everything. Don't know where to go with your story? Start over. Apparently even Marvel, which invented the idea of continuity for costumed superheroes, and which is attempting same in the movie realm with their “Avengers” project, is getting rid of the most recent Bruce Banner, Ed Norton, who is the second Bruce Banner of the decade, for a third Bruce Banner as yet unnamed. Mark Ruffalo? John Cusack? Hey, how about Andrew Garfield?
- Argentina joins the 21st century. The U.S.? Stuck in 1968.
- Andrew Sullivan keeps doing it. This post is exactly my feeling on what is right about Pres. Obama and the Obama administration and what is wrong with the do-nothing, bitch-about-everything opposition. Money quote:
The public may be frustrated by the lack of progress in the economy, and who can blame them? But they are still looking for solutions more than someone to blame. And most are fair enough to understand that Obama has no magic wand, that these problems are bone-deep, and that he has passed actual, substantive legislation that fulfilled clear campaign pledges in an election he won handily.
- Since I don't watch cable news I missed most of the Shirley Sherrod debaccle: how she gave a speech in which she brought up a negative (hers) in order to accentuate a positive (ours, hopefully); how Andrew Breitbart used only the negative portion of that speech to condemn her, the NAACP and the Obama administration, and to drum up fears of a black planet; how FOX-News kept beating that drum (“What racism looks like” they said); how she was fired as a result from her position at the Dept. of Agriculture; and how, finally, everyone went “Oops” and went looking for scapegoats. But it wasn't until I read Frank Rich on the debaccle that I realized she was married to civil rights veteran, and legend, Charles Sherrod. That fact doesn't make the whole experience worse, necessarily. It just makes it more...poignant.
- Finally, two years ago, just before the 2008 election, we did a cover story on David Boies for New York Super Lawyers magazine, called “Boies v. Bush v. Gore.” Written by Tim Harper. It's a good piece, check it out. Then check out Boies recounting his cross-examination of witnesses during the Prop. 8 trial in California. He actually got an anti-gay-marriage advocate to admit, on the stand, that allowing same sex marriage is more in line with the American ideal than not. Wish we could profile him again.
Lancelot Links Celebrates the 4th (A Day Late and $10 Trillion Short)
- My friend Jim Walsh writes a short July 4th letter to the President and says it all. I particularly like this reminder about what candidate Obama actually said, as opposed to what a lot of people think he said: “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
- Hollywood.com created this fun interactive feature, “The United States of Movies,” for the 4th, with their editors' choices for each state's best movie embedded within the map. Just click on the state to get an image from the movie. Double-click to get title and synopsis. Nifty. You expect arguments—“Twister” for Oklahoma? What about “Oklahoma!”?—but the majority of arguments in the comments below aren't the smartest arguments. E.g., the feature is an “epic fail” because “Fargo” was chosen for Minnesota when everyone knows, duh!, Fargo is in North Dakota. Yes, kids, Fargo is, but “Fargo” isn't. In this way Hollywood.com's interactive feature is like a micro-version of the U.S. itself. It begins as a great idea but pretty soon you're just surrounded by idiots.
- The New York Times interviews author Sebastian Junger on his documentary “Restrepo,” about a platoon in the Korangal Valley in Afghanistan. Again, see the movie if you have the chance. It's brilliant.
- What does it take to get elected these days? Clint Webb for Senate!
- A reminder from a few weeks back: Joe Barton Would Like to Apologize...
- A real senator, Sen. Al Franken talks seriously (with the usual biting humor) about the sorry state of the current U.S. Supreme Court. Excerpt:
I don’t think you need to be a lawyer to recognize that the Roberts Court has, consistently and intentionally, protected and promoted the interests of the powerful over those of individual Americans. And you certainly don’t need to be a lawyer to understand what that means for the working people who are losing their rights, one 5-4 decision at a time.
- To be American do you have to hate everything the rest of the world loves? Hendrik Hertzberg takes down (but not sharply enough) the insane right's reaction to the World Cup.
- If you know one thing about me you know I hate the Yankees. But this video, from the New York Times, on Mariano River's cutter, is way, way cool.
- Finally, I'm reading James S. Hirch's biography, Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend, and enjoying myself immensely. Some takeaways. Mays was a legend (in the media) before he was a legend on the field. Baseball was his third-best sport in high school but the others (football, basketball) provided no avenue to a successful career. And most important: Never underestimate the ability of the enthusiasm of one man (albeit one extremely talented man) to transform a team.
Lancelot Links (Gets Covered in Oil)
- With all of the people blah-blah-blahing about the BP oil spill, it's nice to read someone who knows a little history—like Elizabeth Kolbert over at The New Yorker. A few weeks back she had a smart “Talk of the Town” piece on what happened with the Union Oil Company spill off the coast of California in 1968, what we subsequently did (in part: Earth Day, the EPA), and what's gone horribly wrong since. Who's to blame? All of us in our SUVs, certainly. Plus a few others:
Members of the Drill, Baby, Drill Party have blocked efforts to raise the liability limits for oil spills, and have yet to muster a single sponsor for climate legislation. At the same time, they have sought to portray the spill as President Obama’s Katrina.
The President does, in fact, share in the blame. Obama inherited an Interior Department that he knew to be plagued by corruption, but he allowed the department’s particularly disreputable Minerals Management Service to party on. Last spring, in keeping with its usual custom, the M.M.S. granted BP all sorts of exemptions from environmental regulations. Ironically, one of these exemptions allowed the company to drill the Deepwater Horizon well without adhering to the standards set by NEPA.
- So who else is to blame besides BP, all of the pretty deregulators in a row, all of the MMSers partying on, and all of us driving our SUVs and Hummers? Timothy Egan at The New York Times names a few more names, including Halliburton, who cemented the well that blew, and our court system, which allowed Exxon to get away with paying a fractiion of what they should've paid for the Exxon Valdez oil spill 22 years ago. He calls the John Roberts Supreme Court, in a line worth repeating, “a compliant pet of the corporate world.”
- Joel Connelly of the “I'm not dead yet” Seattle P.I. also has a line worth repeating: Exxon still owes $92 million from its 1988 spill.
- Last one on oil: David Carr's column last Monday on how BP, a private company, has hampered the press in their coverage. “BP is running everything down here,” said an employee of the St. Bernard Parish government. “It’s their show.” That's scary. I guess we're all compliant pets of the corporate world.
- How about some fun? Stephen Strasburg of the Washington Nationals made an impressive debut a week ago Tuesday—7 IP, 14 strikeouts, no walks, 2 earned runs, amazing stuff—and Joe Posnanski, the best baseball writer in the country, was there to liveblog the event.
- Despite all of the noise from fans about how Jim Joyce sucks, about how Bud Selig should give Armando Galarraga the perfect game anyway, about how replay is desperately needed in Major League Baseball, the players themselves think: a) Jim Joyce is the best umpire in the bigs (53%), the call shouldn't be overturned to allow the perfect game (86%), and no way replay (77%).
- My friend Adam keeps pushing Sports Illustrated on me and I'm beginning to think he's right. I made fun of Tom Verducci a few weeks back but he has another good piece, similar to Posnanski's, on Jim Joyce's blown call in Galaragga's better-than-perfect game. Grace quote I:
If Joyce provided a tipping point toward baseball's embracing more technology, the irony is that baseball never seemed so human and empathetic as it did in the aftermath of his blunder.
Upon seeing a replay on the night of the blown call, Yankees closer Mariano Rivera said, “It happened to the best umpire we have in our game. The best. And a perfect gentleman. Obviously, it was a mistake. It's a shame for both of them, for the pitcher and the umpire. But I'm telling you, [Joyce] is the best baseball has, and a great guy. It's just a shame.”
- But Verducci isn't SI's best writer. Gary Smith is. And his latest piece is about Gareth Thomas, a rugby player for Wales, and the only openly gay professional athlete in the world.
This isn't BP's fault. This is rugby. And this is Gareth Thomas.
- Smart talk from Andrew Sullivan and friends on members of the Tea Party: Part I here, Part II here. Why are they so angry? Why, if they care about deficits, did they not protest George W. Bush, whom most of them supported, as he raised our national debt from $5 trillion to more than $10 trillion? Why wait two months into the new guy's administration to take to the streets? Read on, read on, teenage queen...
- He doesn't say it outright, but Jeffrey Wells over at Hollywood Elsewhere was a pretty big “Greenberg” fan. He saw it four times and hopes it stays in the heads of critics long enough to make top 10 lists in December. He also rightly slams Universal Home Video for marketing the film as if it's a slightly nutty relationship comedy. They've changed the austere, almost black-and-white, word-ballon movie poster to something colorful and snuggly. From “What's life all about?” to “Will they or won't they?” Has anyone done a piece on the most egregious DVD cover art ever? I'm not talking discussion forums, and I'm not talking about straight-to-DVD, only-10-people-have-ever-seen-it-anyway movies. I'm talking about theatricial releases with decent or great poster art that was reduced, in the transition to home entertainment, to something generic and awful. I don't want to do that piece but I'd like to see someone (someone getting paid) do that piece.
- The feds have approved box-office futures trading! I dibs James Cameron. I'd go short on this one.
- David Carr on “Restrepo,” the best movie I've seen this year.
- Finally, a really nice piece by Geoff Young on Ken Griffey, Jr.
- It's worth noting that, for all of the U.S.'s problems, many people would still like to live here. According to a recent Gallup poll, focused mostly on Mexican immigration, 700 million people worldwide said they would like to live in a different country, and 165 million chose the United States. The Compass sees this as “the country's capacity to regenerate itself and stave off a decline in population. America's two major great power rivals - China and Russia - can boast of no such attraction.” I'd go further. I think immigration is the only thing that can save us from inevitable decline, because it fills the country with people with drive rather than with a sense of privilege.
- Related: Who wants to work at the FoxConn plant in Shenzhen, China? It's a tragic situation, but, I have to admit, the dueling headlines at the New York Times yesterday made me laugh. In the morning: “After Suicides, Scrutiny of China's Grim Factories.” The story's all about the horrible conditions for these Chinese factory workers, 12 of whom attempted or committed suicide in the past year. In the afternoon: “Changes in China Could Raise Prices Worldwide.” It's all about how rising wages for these factory workers, including those at FoxConn (doubled to US$300 per month), will impact your wallet. It's our schizophrenia in one neat package. “Oh, how awful for these poor people!”/“Wait, I don't want to spend more money for a T-shirt, an iPhone, a slinky!” See also: “BP sucks!”/“I'm driving to the gym in my SUV!”
- Is this part of our schizophrenia or just part of our assholedom? I'm talking the controversy surrounding the mural at Miller Valley Elementary School in Prescott, Arizona. Lord. Roger Ebert has a nice, personal essay on race in response, but Arizona's becoming a real embarassment. Remember “Mississippi, Goddam”? Try “Arizona, Goddamn.”
- FYI, but I would read a Newsweek magazine redesigned by David Carr.
- Movies! Matthew Belinkie at overthinkingit.com on “Jaws” and Chief Brody's heroic journey, complete with phallic and impotent images.“ It's a fun read that clarifies the film. I'm also warming up to his contention that ”the summer blockbuster is about a regular Joe becoming a real man" (i.e., Neo, Peter Parker, Harry Potter), and that Chief Brody was the first of these regular joes. Sorta kinda maybe. He was still a man, of course, just not a man's man. He had a real job and a real family. But what does this trend mean? Is it a positive (characters aren't thrust whole into the storyline but must develop) or a negative (wish fulfillment for all the half-men out there)?
- Finally, there was a lot of puffed-up talk about Jim Joyce's blown call in Armando Galarraga's perfect game last Wednesday, but the best thing written about the entire affair was written within hours of the game. By my man Joe Posnanski. Read the whole thing. Please. Excerpt:
Galarraga pitched a perfect game on Wednesday night in Detroit. I’ll always believe that. I think most baseball fans will always believe that. But, more than anything it seems that Galarraga will always believe it. The way he handled himself after the game, well, that was something better than perfection. Dallas Braden’s perfect game was thrilling. Roy Halladay’s perfect game was art. But Armando’s Galarraga’s perfect game was a lesson in grace.
Twitter: @ErikLundegaardTweets by @ErikLundegaard