Category Archives: Popular Culture

Our Face In The Crowd

Thoughts on Obama’s failing credibility:

On a deeper level, Obama habitually says untrue things because he has never been called on them before. He has been able throughout his career to appear iconic to his auditors. In the crudity of liberals like Harry Reid and Joe Biden, Obama ancestry and diction gave reassurance that he was not representative of the black lower classes and thus was the receptacle of all sorts of liberal dreams and investments. According to certain liberals, he was like a god, our smartest president, and of such exquisite sartorial taste that he must become a successful president. In other words, on the superficial basis of looks, dress, and patois, Obama was reassuring to a particular class of white guilt-ridden grandees and to such a degree that what he actually had done in the past or promised to do in the future was of no particular importance.

Then there is the media, the supposed public watchdog that keeps our politicians honest. In truth, Obama winks and nods to journalists, in the sense that as a good progressive Obama is about as liberal a president as we have ever had — or will have. Obama sees cross-examination as a sort of betrayal from journalists, who, for reasons of some abstract adherence to “journalistic integrity,” would by their own reporting subvert a rare chance of a progressive agenda. Obama’s anger is not just directed at Fox News and talk radio, but rather reflects a sense of betrayal that even slight fact checking by liberal journalists exists: why must Obama tell the truth when he never had to in any of his earlier incarnations?

In A Face in the Crowd, the charismatic Andy Griffith character could more or less get anything he wished by saying anything he wanted, largely because he said it mellifluously and in cracker-barrel fashion of an us-versus-them populism. His admirers knew that they were being lied to, but also knew that Lonesome knew that they did not mind. Lonesome had contempt for hoi polloi, largely because of his own easy ability to manipulate them for whatever particular careerist cause he embraced.

So Obama has disdain for those who passed out at his lectures, who put up the Greek columns at his speeches, who came up with his Latin mottoes, and who gushed at his teleprompted eloquence. He knows that we know he is not telling the truth, but likewise he knows that we don’t care all that much — at least until now. The secret to Lonesome’s success was to hide his contempt for those he lied to. When he is caught ridiculing his clueless listeners, he finally crashes and burns — sort of like Barack Obama serially vacationing with the 1% whom he so publicly scorns, or golfing in the aristocratic fashion of those who, he assures us, did not build their businesses.

It’s a little appalling, and frightening, that almost 40% still take him seriously.

Everything That Can Be Customized

must be.

This is where I differ with Lileks (and Virginia Postrel). I have no desire to customize anything. To me it’s pointless work. Perhaps because I have absolutely no artistic talent (at least visually) or even that much aesthetic sensibility. My computer screen has the same background that was installed with the OS. I did put an effect on my phone when I first got it, because I was playing around with it to see how it all worked, but I’ve never downloaded, let alone paid for, a ring tone. Or a fancy case. I really just don’t care.


Lileks, back from his Aegean trip, has started a new B&W series.

Also, summer camp reminiscences. Which makes me happy that the place I went to is still around. I still remember the swimming test. I had just had lessons at the high school, and passed everything to be allowed the run of the lake. One part was treading water for some duration (ten minutes, maybe). Another was diving down deep (maybe fifteen feet) to bring up a handful of muck. Probably with bloodsuckers in it.


Lileks takes a vacation in Greece:

A few switchbacks up we found a nice niche that would have been an excellent spot for a small bar; seems it had served that function once, as it had benches and something like a table. We chatted with some Brits who were also dying but cheerful about it. They’d met some donkeys coming down, and the lass astride one of them leaned over and said “Worst Day of my Life.”

We continued on, up the shite-strewn path. By “567 steps” they mean a step, then a yard of irregular, ankle-snapping stone, followed by another step, followed by a yard of irregular, ankle-snapping stone smeared with ordure, and so on. Another herd of donkeys, this one thicker than the last, and not particularly concerned with our presence. Suddenly you realized you had two options: you would be crushed against the wall by donkeys, or pushed over the side by donkeys. Neither seemed appealing, just like the growing belief you would either suffer failure of the heart or the kidneys.

With pictures and video, of course.

Steve Martin At The Hollywood Bowl

In our seats, waiting to hear him play banjo with a bluegrass band and Edie Brickell. Then, the fireworks.

[Saturday-morning update]

What a great show. I hadn’t realized how seriously Martin had gotten into his music in the last few years. He’s equally adept at both bluegrass fingerpicking and clawhammer, and he and Brickell did some beautifully spooky songs in the latter style. He also hasn’t lost his comedic touch. “It’s always been my dream to play the Hollywood Bowl on the 4th of July. Call me crazy, but I feel that, as I step on this stage, I’ve taken a big step in that direction.” (Paraphrase).

Only disappointment was that the show wasn’t long enough, and the fireworks (accompanied by a medley of Sousa tunes from the Air Force Band of the Golden West, ending with the classic Stars and Stripes Forever) less spectacular than I’ve gotten used to in recent years, but still well worth the money and effort to attend.

[Update a while later]

One other thing. Paul Simon made a guest appearance, and sat in for a song.

Mad Men Ads

Lileks (who has finally replaced the irreplaceable Jasper with a new puppie) has thoughts on the decline of advertising and the suckitude of the early seventies:

What’s the opposite of nostalgia? What’s the word for an exaggerated dislike of a particular time? I know I am nostalgic for things I did not experience, and only see through the pop-culture elements left behind, which communicate incomplete and occasionally misleading messages. But I have antipathy for things I experienced at the fringe of adolescence – not because it was a bad time, or I didn’t like them then, but because they seem now to be the products of a culture that was getting cheap and lazy; it was full of gimcrack baubles turned out by an exhausted system that tried to adapt to the times, but had no strength to put forth any ideas or uphold any ideas that went before. The period from 1967 to 1975, with some stellar exceptions, was just a horrible time for everything, and you can reduce it all down to one middle-aged balding dude with wet hair plastered over his head in brown polyester pants and a mustard-yellow shirt approving one thing after the other because the kids will go for it.

That’s a generalization. Somewhat. But. I’ve said this before: “Mad Men”’s exploration of the late 60s somehow avoids the fact that advertising in that era was horrible. Compare an issue of Life magazine from 1968 to its 1958 counterpoint – it’s as if style, color, art, romance, seduction, adulthood, and bright-eyed joy had been drained from the world. The ads weren’t about the product anymore; the ads were about the ads.

[Yes, I know it's not fresh material -- I'd gotten behind on my Bleatage.]

The End Of Captain Video

It’s OK, though because now we get reviews of Captain America:

It begins with a reprise of the fist-fight, which is a bit dismaying; does this mean we won’t get a new fist-fight? The elements of any serial are the Suddenly Important Piece of Technology, a fist-fight, a car going off a cliff, gunplay, and certain death faced by the hero or the Gal Friday. The best episodes have all of them; most have two.

Anyway, Gail was saved, as usual, by selective editing; Cap manages to stop the blade before she’s bisected, leaving everyone too shaken to ask why there was a guillotine in a box factory in the first place.

Well, everything that has gone on before is dropped like a hot poker; Maldor says “it’s time for the next phase of the operation,” suggesting that they’re no longer into using high-powered scientific inventions to steal art and precious metals. Rest on their laurels? Not our Maldor! He wants to go after Henley, the Oil Magnate, who’s never been mentioned, but “he also was a member of the Mayan expedition that discredited me.” As if we remember that from six weeks ago. As if the fact that all the members of the expedition are dying off except the one guy who they discredited wouldn’t occur to, oh, MAYBE THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY WHO IS ALSO CAPTAIN AMERICA.

Maldor sent Henley an extortion note, confident he will show it to Captain District Attorney, and by bugging Captain District Attorney’s apartment, Maldor will know what he is doing.

Because if there’s one thing you want when committing blackmail, it’s the constant involvement and attention of the District Attorney.

As only Lileks can do it.

The Space Movement

Is it moribund, and losing ground?

I’m not sure it matters, except to the degree that it influences government policy. Ultimately, it’s going to happen privately, if the government doesn’t prevent it. The flaw of past thinking of the movement was the notion that NASA was going to lead the way, and that it would need more money to do so. It’s pretty clear that that was never a realistic possibility.


All the president’s dudes:

Let’s start with that ten p.m. phone call between Obama and Hillary on the night of the terror attack. (I’m sorry –video demonstration.) We don’t know what they actually said. And since it was only the two of them, we probably never will. But we do know this — they hate each other. But at the same time their futures were inextricably tied in this case. Talk about drah-mah…. all that gnashing of teeth and swallowing of emotion while being forced to agree on their farshtinkener story. The dialogue writes itself.

And speaking of the former secretary of State, how’s this for a scene — Hillary at the Benghazi victims’ funeral reassuring the grieving parents they’ll get that “evil filmmaker” who’s behind their sons’ murders when all the while she knows that’s baloney? Wow. Great stuff. Straight out of a vampire movie – Dracula or even the classic Nosferatu. Angelica is just made for it. (I know wrong hair color, but that can be fixed and she’s been there before. She killed as Morticia Addams. Just think what she would do with the scenery chewing iconic “What difference does it make?” scene? Ladies and gentlemen of the Academy, need I say more?)


The SF “Community”

…has apparently become community organized:

I’ve said for a long time that the awards are biased against authors because of their personal beliefs. Authors can either cheer lead for left wing causes, or they can keep their mouth shut. Open disagreement is not tolerated and will result in being sabotaged and slandered. Message or identity politics has become far more important than entertainment or quality. I was attacked for saying this. I knew that when an admitted right winger got in they would be maligned and politicked against, not for the quality of their art but rather for their unacceptable beliefs.

This is one of (though not the only one) reasons that I don’t read as much SF as I did when I was younger. The best way to fight this nonsense, of course, is to buy Larry’s books.

[Monday-morning update]

An open letter to the SFWA:

The mission of SFWA was to act as a professional organization, to enhance the prestige of writers in our genre, to deter fraud, and to give mutual aid and support to our professional dreams.

It was out of loyalty to this mission that I so eagerly joined SFWA immediately upon my first professional sales, and the reason why I was so proud to associate with the luminaries and bold trailblazers in a genre I thought we all loved.

When SFWA first departed from that mission, I continued for a time to hope the change was not permanent. Recent events have made it clear that there is not reasonable basis for that hope.

Instead of enhancing the prestige of the genre, the leadership seems bent on holding us up to the jeers of all fair-minded men by behaving as gossips, whiners, and petty totalitarians, and by supporting a political agenda irrelevant to science fiction.

Instead of men who treat each other with professionalism and respect, I find a mob of perpetually outraged gray-haired juveniles.

Instead of receiving aid to my writing career, I find organized attempts to harass my readers and hurt my sales figures.

Instead of finding an organization for the mutual support of Science Fiction writers, I find an organization for the support of Political Correctness.

Instead of friends, I find ideologues bent on jihad against all who do not meekly conform to their Orwellian and hellish philosophy.

Politics trumps Science Fiction in the modern SFWA.

Sounds like it’s time for an alternate organization.

[Update a while later]


More thoughts from Glenn Reynolds, over at USA Today.