Friday, December 31, 2010
Conservatism for Punks: The Tea Party/Velvet Underground Connection
And with Jerry Brown back in the governor's mansion, "California Uber Alles" never quite stops being relevant either.
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Stopping to Give Thanks for John Carney
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
•Weird-looking as Ocasek might be, it was Ozzy Osbourne who was declared a mutant last month, with scientists pointing out genetic abnormalities that may explain his tolerance for dangerous substances. I think this warrants a cameo in next year's X-Men: First Class.
•Ronald Radosh -- best known for writing articles about politics (such as this one criticizing Glenn Beck) is also a music aficionado, and he reviewed a new book about Dylan for The American Interest.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Perhaps of interest, Esquire magazine gathered a group of former senators -- Bill Bradley, Bob Packwood, Gary Hart, and John Danforth -- under the chairmanship of MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell to devise an actionable plan to balance the federal budget. Freed from the politics that has legistlators always worrying about re-election, they did just that. Interesting read for anyone economics- or pragmatics-minded:
(I'm most intrigued by the idea of "medical courts" as part of medical malpractice reform, similar to the way bankruptcies are adjucated in courts. Plus, of course, I'm glad that some mention was made of the idea of transitioning health care from its current fee-for-service system toward a pay-for-performance system.)
I open-mindedly draw attention to the discussion above even though it was chaired by Lawrence O'Donnell, whose show took the facile Todd-mocking position on the C-SPAN2 controversy -- but, again, my detractors will get theirs during my "Month of Haters" blog entries, starting Saturday.
Meanwhile, Jonathan Funke asked readers of his centrist blog to rank legislators according to their moderation and ended up giving the nod mostly to Democrats. Moderation is not inherently good, of course:
•Chuck Blake reminds me that The Daily Show nicely skewered national energy policies as something endorsed by both parties in almost the same language, leading nowhere.
•David Broder is a well-known, long-respected moderate who nonetheless wrote an insane article two months ago suggesting that Obama pull us out of recession by waging war against Iran.
•And the goofballs interviewed in this funny video no doubt they thought they were defending civil discourse when they reacted with outrage to suggestions Obama is a Keynesian.
Monday, December 27, 2010
Tea Party Reflections
[Of her realization she was a conservative, she] told the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune that she was reading Gore Vidal's 1973 novel, Burr: "He was kind of mocking the Founding Fathers and I just thought, I just remember reading the book, putting it in my lap, looking out the window and thinking, 'You know what? I don't think I am a Democrat. I must be a Republican.'"
You know, with O'Donnell, Angle, Miller, and Paladino defeated -- yet the Tea Party movement clearly having energized Republicans and helped them take back the House -- really no one from the whole center-right coalition should be complaining about the outcome of the elections. The candidates who seemed most outrageous lost, like frontline sacrifices, while their party soldiered on to victory.
(As for me, remember that I'm at the home of the original Tea Party, Boston, this week -- not to mention cat-sitting for Pagan Kennedy -- and so may be slow to respond to e-mail and the like. Back on New Year's. And anyone who thinks today Tea Partiers are unphilosophical dopes, remember that I've been to three and yet am happily attending the American Philosophical Association convention as you read this. When I get back, barring conversion to Marxism, I will resume defending property rights.)
Sunday, December 26, 2010
•Diana Fleischman recently told me about the Bangladeshi government trying to get people to pay taxes out of the kindness of their hearts, hosting festivals to show off the things taxes can pay for, in a country where only about 1% of the population pay their income taxes. That system doesn't sound half bad.
•Paul Krugman got a new bra this year.
•On a related note, Diana also told me of Pink's video for "Raise Your Glass," in which lady tatas are treated like cow teats. You may recall that I half-jokingly predicted a Lady Gaga lactation video before Gaga wore meat. My prophecies continue to come semi-true.
•And Gaga continues to be unimpressive, unless I just underestimate my own creative powers. I think I could easily run the House of Gaga fashion ideas department (coming up with extra ideas just in time for the holiday shopping season): She'll have shoes -- but they'll look like foxtraps! She'll have an octopus-themed tux -- with eight arms! I could keep this up all day, people. Apparently Gaga got Anderson Cooper drunk or something, by the way.
•A far cooler bit of innovative rock gadgetry is this van der Graaf generator-powered electric guitar and electrical-bolt-resisting guitar-playing suit, here used to perform not a Tesla song (nor a song by Van Der Graaf Generator) but "Iron Man." Now that's rock n' roll [UPDATE: Dammit, video was taken down, but Black Sabbath performing the original is unstoppable].
Saturday, December 25, 2010
A Brief Reminder That There Is No God
It is as wrong -- and indeed deeply shameful, not to mention rude -- for adults to engage in the perpetuation of god myths (or lies, if you will) as it would be for adults to insist that their invisible unicorn friends are constantly at their side, and rare is the religious believer smart enough to recognize that trotting out a list of emotional and moral rewards that will purportedly flow from holding such beliefs is hardly a reason to be less skeptical about the truth of those beliefs. Too often, religious believers think they're making a strong case for the existence of God by saying, "But if there weren't a God, I'd go off my meds, start drinking alcohol again, beat up the neighbor kids, be unable to think of a reason to go on living, simultaneously be paralyzed by fear of death..." And all this is supposed to make the believer a more credible witness? Embarrassing. Irresponsible. Juvenile. And manifestly evil. A sane society does not build its morality upon foundations -- or psyches -- that shaky.
Luckily, we have things like the controversial atheist billboard at the Lincoln Tunnel to remind us how easily religion's superstructure of lies is rattled and how quickly its defenders get nervous. Ricky Gervais' recent summary of his atheist views in Wall Street Journal (pointed out to me by Ali Kokmen) doesn't hurt either. About the staging of a Klingon version of A Christmas Carol (pointed out to me by Chuck Blake) I will reserve judgment, though.
And let no one doubt that all the good things religious people are trained to attribute to their religions (their fictional God continually hogging the credit for things) can just as easily be done by atheists. By sheer coincidence, just hours before I hosted a debate on the moral effects of religion, I once found myself helping a retarded blind person across the street, whereas I would imagine many religious people would think I should logically have been engaged in cannibalism. (I helped get medical attention for a reluctant homeless person recently, though, and was inclined by that experience to conclude that aiding the homeless is one of the most meaningless and unsatisfying things a person can do. That may be a debate unrelated to religion, though.)
With a sort of repressed self-loathing, religious believers often like to point out that the non-religious
Friday, December 24, 2010
Ten Nerd Things Before Christmas
•At the risk of sounding insufficiently geeky, I would bet that we will never encounter any actual extraterrestrial life during my lifetime, but at least NASA found some microbes on Earth who like arsenic recently, so that'll have to do, I guess.
•I will not be traveling to other planets between today and New Year's but will be in New England -- in part to attend the American Philosophical Association convention -- so bear with me if I'm out of touch during that time, though I expect to see e-mail occasionally.
•I was saddened during my blog's hibernation to hear of the passing of Irving Kirshner, director of what many regard as the best Star Wars movie, The Empire Strikes Back. I used to share their view, but I have belatedly come to think A New Hope is obviously the best, since it alone forms a perfect, self-contained fairy tale with a nice story arc one need not be an obsessive geek to care about -- and ends with the Death Star trench sequence, perhaps the best sequence in film history. Boba Fett is wonderful but can't compare. (And, though it barely needs restating, if we had all simply died after the Jabba sequence in Return of the Jedi, in retrospect we would have been spared decades of pain.)
•A film that strikes me as looking less child-friendly -- indeed, that looks like it may be the most child-traumatizing film since Silent Night, Deadly Night -- is Rare Exports, about the monstrous "real" Santa Claus being discovered and horror ensuing. Nice.
•Not technically written by children -- but sounding almost as if it were -- is the recent Marvel Comics miniseries World War Hulks, at least if the unintentionally hilarious Wikipedia description of it is any indication. Just in case the Plot Summary section gets edited, here's the first sentence of the entry as it was when I saw it: "While in a fantasy world where Bruce killed the Hulk and the smart heroes joined the smart villians [sic] in a machine to help the world and where General Thunderbolt Ross is still alive, Bruce is visited by Doctor Doom who gives him a robot arm." Of course. Of course.
•I kid Hulk because I love (and I recognize that he has accomplished a great deal for someone with his mental handicaps) -- and I note that the 28th will be the eighty-eighth birthday of Stan Lee. Excelsior.
•In other comics news (not that I collect them any more, you understand), I am alarmed to hear that Superman has now been referred to as a defender of "truth, justice, and all" not only in the most recent film but in the comics themselves -- and on Smallville has been referred to as a defender of "truth, justice, and the universal way." Universal way?? Isn't that almost a contradiction in terms? Why not just change his Kryptonian name to What-Ev while we're at it?
•For a more concrete and local conception of justice -- street justice, baby -- I highly recommend the recent blaxploitation-parodying film Black Dynamite, pointed out to me by former DC Comics staffer Ivan Cohen. A line about attacking the bad guys' HQ from one of the deleted scenes on the DVD: "Chart a course, brothers. We gonna turn an island that's not supposed to be there but is into an island that's supposed to be there but isn't...anymore. Yeah."
•I wonder if that Spanish woman who raises vexing property issues by claiming to own the sun would consider giving it away for Christmas? Wasn't this a Simpsons episode almost? Ever since they crawled out of the caves, Spanish women have been dreaming of owning the sun.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Book Selections of the Month: Hitchens, Ridley, Narnia, and More
•Christopher Hitchens' highly entertaining memoir Hitch-22 contains, I think, numerous veiled hints that he is capable of deceiving himself and others -- "keeping two sets of books," as he says more than once, though I do not doubt any substantive details of the tome. Rather, it seems that he's long been suspicious of his own motivations.
He's moved sort-of rightward politically while clearly still loving his leftist past and most of his old allies (though he never thought highly of Bill Clinton in their Oxford days -- and he mentions that a note he jotted by the phone at someone's apartment in those days saying "RING IRA," meaning hippie-era Brown alum and Clinton ally Ira Magaziner, led to some questioning by police worried about possible Irish terrorism links). He may be hinting at an attraction to sadomasochism when he laments his early introduction via cruel British boys' schools to the strange connection between pain and pleasure (he's the man who correctly predicted that British conservative Paul Johnson would be found to be a sadomasochist, which I had taken to be disapproval, but he may still have been spotting one of his own -- and he admits at one point that O is one of his favorite fictional characters).
Atheism alone does not a leftist make, obviously, but Hitchens, despite his increasing acceptance on the right, does take the time to denounce religious social conservatives, especially hypocritical ones, as in my favorite footnote in the book: "[W]henever I hear some bigmouth in Washington or the Christian heartland banging on about the evils of sodomy or whatever, I mentally enter his name in my notebook and contentedly set my watch. Sooner rather than later, he will be discovered down on his weary and well-worn old knees in some dreary motel or latrine, with an expired Visa card, having tried to pay well over the odds to be peed upon by some Apache transvestite."
He surprised me with his two-page defense against charges of alcoholism, a defense that frankly is not all that convincing and is built largely around his assurance that he can stick to a regimen (one mid-morning drink, wine with lunch, no drinks in the afternoon, at least a half bottle of wine with dinner, and then drinks in the evening if conversation warrants -- but he gets a lot of work done, he stresses). He also notes he is not fascinated by lesbianism or sports, but I think he's spent enough time in war zones to earn his traditional-male credentials anyway, even with his frequent references to slight bisexuality in youth.
Unless you oppose humor, politics, history, and well-turned phrases, you'll have to read this book and follow Hitchens through his disillusioning trip to Cuba as a young socialist, his father's sound effects-based comedy routines, his literal spanking by Margaret Thatcher, his visits to authoritarian hellholes blessed by communists and Catholics alike, his discovery that he's Jewish, and his growing love affair with the U.S., where he now lives (for some time to come, we hope).
As he describes his mutating and sometimes disappointing friendships with leftist intellectuals such as Edward Said, one interesting point he makes by way of defending his contact with neoconservatives is that, regardless of what one thinks of their handling of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the thinking of the neocons is not a mere continuation of the amoral foreign policy pragmatism of figures such as Henry Kissinger, of whom Hitchens has written harsh condemnations. On the contrary, the neocons were really engaged in the moralization of a foreign policy long guided by mere national self-interest, elevating global concerns such as freedom and universal human rights in a way that greatly encouraged some of Hitchens' long-suffering pro-democracy colleagues in Iraq.
You can question the practicality of military intervention but whether you are a neocon, libertarian, or Trotskyite, you should not fall into the leftist cultural-relativist trap of thinking that morality and rights stop at our own border. Hitchens is too cosmopolitan to make that mistake. He also mentions a Turkish joke, suitably creepy coming from the society that exterminated so many Armenians, which I think nicely captures the coldbloodedness of thinking that the murderous things a society does to its own members are merely an "internal affair": What did the trees say when the axe entered the forest? At least the handle is one of us.
•The fact that Hitchens' memoir (early on) features strange goings-on at school and frequent references to British class anxiety (which helped make him a Marxist) compensates somewhat for the lack of these things in the latest Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I, by the way. I've never been a fanatical Potter fan -- I haven't read the later books -- but I've seen all the movies, and while it's neat that they get more "serious" and venture out into the real world as they go along, I missed
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Blog n' Books
I do owe you some extra book-related notes for skipping November's Book of the Month entry, though, so on to Christopher Hitchens, Matt Ridley, the British industrial revolution, and more, tomorrow.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
What I'll Do for My Winter Vacation (also: odors)
It won't all be mind/body dualism or the problem of the speckled hen, either, because subsidiary gatherings will include meetings of the Ayn Rand Society and the (Austrian School economics-oriented) Molinari Society, so I have to show my support for those (the latter featuring the unfortunately-named libertarian feminists Rod Long and Charles Johnson, previously noted on this site). I'll also see my former philosophy professor (from her Brown days, before Chicago) Martha Nussbaum, defending her book From Disgust to Humanity against a panel of critics. It's about doing what's right even when it seems icky (long story short).
I am tempted to ask whether she thinks Leon Kass, the bioethicist who believes we should see disgust reactions as a moral guide (leading many people away from gays and biotech, for example), could be duped by an extremely rank act of flatulence into thinking he was in the presence of pure evil. (This is slightly different than the question George once raised on Seinfeld about whether an odor on the subway could actually kill, assuming the subway smell lacks agency.) Even public ice cream-licking apparently revolts Kass, so I can't imagine smelly people would fare well under a Kassian regime.
If you're in Boston, have miraculously already noticed my blog's back up, and want to attempt a rally, just e-mail. Otherwise, I will report my findings by blog -- or possibly Twitter (coming soon).
Monday, December 20, 2010
Neutron Bombs and Net Neutrality
Speaking of rock and nukes, I have only recently learned that another influential mid-century physicist, Max Born, has a famous granddaughter as well: Olivia Newton-John. So, all those "Olivia Neutron-Bomb" puns I recall from childhood weren't so far off the mark (and even if they were, the extra radiation would kill people without destroying the buildings). Let's get physics-al! Never mind. By the way, sixty-two is barely old these days, but I must nonetheless say that Newton-John is holding up well, having started off with the unfair advantage of being the cutest person on the planet thirty years ago.
I learned of the Born/Newton-John connection from one of my Book Selections of the Month, incidentally: my signed copy (signed just before health problems forced him to end his book tour) of Christopher Hitchens' memoir Hitch-22. More about that and several other texts in three days.
And speaking of people who style themselves "contrarians," as Hitchens does, tonight is the final just-hanging-out Manhattans Project gathering before a bold new era begins, with January 17 seeing the start of a "Contrarian Guest of Honor" slot each month. If my plan works, we'll hear uninterrupted for about five minutes from one person with shocking views each month, and then let people talk to the speaker or amongst themselves about those shocking views or whatever they like. It's a conversation starter, anyway. The January topic is likely to be the argument that we are still in terrible danger from global warming.
All people interested in politics and/or media are welcome, so this may also be the start of increased ideological diversity for our little group, for good or ill. If the mix shifts leftward far enough, though, the contrarian speeches can be conservative, so it's all good. E-mail me at the address on my About/CONTACT page if you want monthly alerts about Manhattans Project in 2011.
If you want to be against something, though, I recommend pushing hard against the stupid idea of "Net neutrality," of which the lame-duck Dems are now enamored. Look, the reason big communications groups are starting to like the idea of outlawing differential pricing based on usage of the Net -- while ordinary joes like the Tea Party activists want pricing to be allowed -- is that despite all the claims of the pro-neutrality forces to be keeping the Net "free," what's going to happen is that you, the ordinary joe, are going to end up paying exactly the same amount to send your one e-mail per hour as the bandwidth-hogging business down the
Sunday, December 19, 2010
2010: The Year We Make Contracts (with special guest star Leslie Nielsen)
•After getting the chance to work on a Tea Party-friendly TV show during its transition from an online show to a weekly cable show and now to a daily cable show -- at a very exciting time for such a thing, what with the historic mid-term elections -- I have now left Fox's FreedomWatch to do freelance and ghostwriting stuff that for the most part I won't mention on this site (sorry).
•I largely ignored press inquiries (including ones from Fox shows, which was weird) about my October appearance sparring with an ex on C-SPAN2, and (merciful person that I am) I don't plan to go into any greater detail about all that (nor to respond to any further press inquiries on that topic if they occur, though I think that's unlikely). However, as a former philosophy student, I am (for good or ill) sometimes more fascinated by my critics than by my far larger legion of loyal supporters, so (almost without naming the original target of my C-SPAN2 comments and without revealing more than the quite-tiny glimpse of her life and psyche I already brought to light in those artfully circumspect comments) I do plan to make January on this blog a "Month of Haters" in which I examine the minds of my online detractors. So there's something to look forward to, right?
•I hope to add more social media to the mix within the next couple weeks, at long last.
•I won't be organizing Debates at Lolita Bar, at least not for now or in their old form and maybe not at all, for various reasons involving time, creative differences, etc., etc. However, I'll still be organizing the unrelated monthly bar gatherings called the Manhattans Project -- which in fact meets at Langan's tomorrow night (Mon., Dec. 20, 7-10pm). More about changes in those events tomorrow.
And while I was juggling media stuff, bar gatherings, and election news, one of my favorite conservatives passed away last month, I should pause to say: Leslie Nielsen. He was one of the funniest men ever to appear on film -- and Airplane! proves that even uttering a superficially dead-serious line of dialogue, he cannot help but generate an anticipatory smile on the face of the viewer. He may have been the best deliverer of deadpan we have ever seen and an inspiration to people who like their humor simultaneously dry and ridiculous. (I even saw his mediocre final film, the heavy-handedly conservative Zucker comedy An American Carol -- on a date, as I recall.)
He was beloved, but not enough people remember that he did a fine job as the wholly-serious sci-fi hero in the 1950s film Forbidden Planet (which some may be tempted to rent for camp value, only to discover that it's a genuinely excellent film that holds up perfectly well a half-century on -- and a more respected variation on The Tempest than Julie Taymor's new film with the lovely and sometimes gun-toting Helen Mirren, alas).
People should also recall -- or discover -- that Nielsen starred in the short-lived ABC sitcom Police Squad! before that spawned the Naked Gun movies (the movies featured Priscilla Presley, who reminisces about Nielsen in a recent issue of Entertainment Weekly, and featured O.J. Simpson, presciently depicted as a man caught up in a murder plot at one point). I would argue the show was even funnier than the films, leaving us with countless surreal moments such as Nielsen, as homicide detective Lt. Frank Drebin, launching into a sad reverie about his long-ago gay lover, concluding with the line "They ran him out of town like a common pygmy." But then, check out some choice Drebin quotes for yourself.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Rocking with the Judge
5. Guest Gene Simmons, complete with the caption "Tea Party Ev-er-y Day"
4. A Department of Transportation safety story with the caption "Here in my car, I feel safest of all" (inspired, of course, by pale, libertarian, Asperger's-suffering, sci-fi-influenced New Wave musician Gary Numan, which is to say, a near-perfect human being)
3. Guest Kurt Loder of MTV News (who I went on to bump into two more times in about a two-week period, oddly enough, once coming out of a movie and once at last week's Reason-hosted, Weimar-like event at the burlesque club the Box, which featured more libertarians and fellow-travelers than you can shake a stick at -- including S.E. Cupp, Megan McArdle, NR's Kevin Williamson, and Greg Gutfeld, the man whose insightful words are now my blog epigram -- though for some mysterious reason Gawker decided to depict the event with photos of cute, scantily-clad female performers; the guest of honor, pornographer John "Buttman" Stagliano, had, honest to gosh, just won a heroic courtroom victory for free speech after an attempt to censor his film Milk Nymphos, leading to the "community standards" litmus test essentially being ruled obsolete, an important chapter in the anals of First Amendment law)
2. Guest (and ex-MTV VJ) Kennedy -- who was not only on the same week as Loder but was on the same week I met Palin and saw my skeptical hero and inspiration James Randi speak at the New York Academy of Sciences (perhaps Kennedy should set to music her poem "Fishy fishy in the sewer/ How many doggies did manure?")
1. Guests the Sons of Liberty actually singing rock songs about the Constitution.
Speaking of FreedomWatch guests, I should note in reply to one reader comment yesterday that while
Friday, December 17, 2010
Two Months Later...
As some of you know, since my last blog entry, two months ago, I've been helping to draw media attention to a loose woman who thinks pale, blonde, libertarian guys and Australians are sexy.
I mean, of course, Tracy Quan, the call girl turned Daily Beast columnist (and 3 Quarks Daily semifinalist), who appeared on FreedomWatch while I worked for that show -- and who has now declared libertarianism-influenced, Australian political hacker Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, dangerously sexy (and I HEREBY DECLARE JULIAN ASSANGE THE TODDSEAVEY.COM MAN OF THE YEAR). Quan notes that Jonah Goldberg almost sounds like he wants Assange dead for his leaking (info-wise, not condom-wise). Given my purported resemblance to Assange (see photo #4 in the column about him linked above, for instance), I'd better duck Jonah for safety's sake until this scandal blows over. (Speaking of political look-alikes: was it a bad sign, in retrospect, that Carl Paladino looks like his fellow offbeat Republican Dennis Hopper?)
Nowadays, I only know what I hear from the guests themselves or indirect sources, like any ordinary civilian, but I think you can catch Quan on FreedomWatch again this coming Monday (Dec. 20, 8pm Eastern, Fox Business Network), along with my friend Michael Malice, both of them talking about their body issues, by which I mean defending the legal right to do with your body as you choose, whether it's prostitution or "ultimate fighting" (about which Malice co-wrote a bestselling book). Tonight's FreedomWatch sounds good, too: an hour-long talk with editors from Reason about the definition of libertarianism.
And speaking of people who were on FreedomWatch while I was working there: yes, that's really Sarah Palin next to me in the photo above. Plainly, I have upgraded to a whole new class of conservative female since my last entry. (Much has changed for the better in the past two months, gentle reader. Keep reading in the days ahead as I explain -- and as I resume cleaning up and enhancing this site.) But if Palin isn't ideologically pure enough for you -- and if Christmas strikes you as an assault upon rationality -- click here and scroll down to see a photo of Dagny Taggart herself, standing on train tracks, from the upcoming film Atlas Shrugged: Part One. In theatres April 15. Really. (And if you need something more nihilistically anarchist, Dimitri Cavalli draws my attention to the V for Vendetta symbol plainly visible in this week's footage of a suicidal -- and failed homicidal -- gunman in Florida. Peaceful solutions, people, please. And Dimitri himself may be Catholic but is not the Guy Fawkes type, I'm pretty sure.)
I'll begin giving more details tomorrow, but the past two months have given me chances to chat not only with Palin but also Kurt Loder, ex-VJ Kennedy, S.E. Cupp, NYPost crime reporter Phil Messing, parade-loving libertarian campaign advisor Roger Stone, and many more -- and to attend events such as a debate over Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs featuring Richard Sennett and Roberta Brandes Gratz (on the same night that I saw Pretty in Pink star Andy McCarthy hanging out at Lolita Bar, in fact), about which, more next week.
Good times -- though the Palin FreedomWatch appearance shown above (during which she looked lovely in a black dress falsely identified as a tank top by HuffingtonPost) did make me nervous at one point: when host Judge Napolitano asked Palin if she shared Orwell's fear of new-fangled words deployed for political purposes. I'd swear I detected just a hint of fear in her face, as though she were about to be asked about neologisms such as "refudiated" instead of terms such as "quantitative easing." But she was stellar anyway -- and I dare think she's getting more libertarian as time goes by.
Here's hoping the whole world does, starting with the maybe-redeemable Republican Party (that's why Human Rights Day last week saw me attending a dinner featuring libertarian Republican Gary Johnson, as I will again after I speak at the Republican Liberty Caucus on Feb. 12 -- but this mission to liberate the planet is just getting started, so I'll say more tomorrow and on many days thereafter).
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Welcome, New Readers! (About That C-SPAN2 Helen Rittelmeyer Thing...)
(You might also contact me about the monthly Manhattans Project social gatherings I host for politics and media people, now that I'm no longer organizing debates at Lolita Bar. And you should read this blog, which has some broken links and other flaws at the moment, having recently migrated to Blogger, but I'll fix those things. It has been a time of transition.)
But the brief clip from the panel discussion that went viral yesterday (you'll find a long list of links to that clip and to articles about it below the break) featured me criticizing my fellow contributor to that volume, Helen Rittelmeyer. Though Helen broke up with me about three days before we found out we would be co-panelists, after a tumultuous two-year relationship, I was not (as a few of the less-careful online observers have implied) criticizing her for not dating me (a choice some 3.5 billion women make every day, after all). Rather, in my comments, I alluded to the fact that Helen's ostensibly Catholic-conservative philosophy is actually an ironically-veiled, far darker philosophy, a sort of Nietzschean valorization of cruelty for the sake of cruelty that even Nietzsche would not endorse.
The only manifestation of her philosophy that I revealed in my comments that was not already publicly known was her willingness to engage in cruel personal gamesmanship, as for instance by playing matchmaker for a couple, planning in advance to break them up later by seducing the male, in part to raise and dash the hopes of the female (an accusation that she did not deny in her later comments to Daily Caller, tellingly). That action of hers is horrible enough by any conventional moral standard, including Catholicism, but Helen, if she's reading this, knows there are countless other examples I could give of the way in which her dark thinking is paralleled by dark behavior. I don't want or intend to say any more about such examples, though, even though I know I risk being thought by many to be merely griping about an ex for light and transient causes.
Rather, because I believe in loyalty and in the possibility of redemption, it is my sincere hope that Helen -- instead of making revealing jokes about wanting to beat me up (as in her statement to the Daily Caller, which really got the viral ball rolling, to mix metaphors) or feeling that she is the put-upon party -- will seize this opportunity to examine her life and adopt a code of ethics and personal behavior rooted in kindness, not another layer of irony disguising darkness and cruelty. Reform, Helen. Reform. Make this the most positive turning point in your life and everybody wins.
Some think me a bully, but in fact I have shown incredible restraint (and a generous willingness to take a small reputational hit by appearing cruel myself), engaging in a sort of public intervention in perhaps the only way open to me that is likely to alter Helen's behavior. Nothing would make me happier than to learn that it had been effective, that she was thankful for it, and that her life had been transformed for the better on multiple fronts (rather than that she'd simply begun urging people to take her "side" over mine, a battle that would not likely leave her looking good in the panopticon of public examination, if either of us were pressured into more detailed explanations). I really don't want more beating up of Helen, though, and hope to move on to fresh topics tomorrow, both online and in my head. Please stick around.
And now, just a handful of yesterday's dizzying array of links (and I'm not even on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social networking systems where I assume much of the action is). Most of these feature the controversial clip (which came from about 40-47 minutes into the full ninety-minute program linked above):
Monday, October 18, 2010
I will be in NYC and will miss the event, though I was in DC the week before last to appear on that panel for Proud to Be Right that can (and should) be viewed here, and I'll be in DC again this coming Saturday for a gathering of my fellow Phillips Foundation Fellows.
It's not as though nothing happens in NYC, though: Tonight, you can join me at the monthly Manhattans Project social gathering of politics and media people I organize (third Monday of each month, 7-10pm, Langan's at 47th just east of 7th), and though I'm no longer organizing debates at Lolita Bar, you can catch a bigtime professional debate put on by Intelligence Squared U.S. on Tuesday the 26th about whether big government is stifling the American spirit, with both Arthur Laffer and Phil Gramm representing the good side. (Of course, that's forty bucks, whereas we'll let you into Langan's for free.)
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Span, Slash, Discuss
If that panel video isn't scary enough, you'll soon have other frightening material to watch: Slash, formerly of Guns N' Roses, is starting a horror film production company. Twisted Rob Zombie fans might be just a bit happier this Halloween season after hearing that another rocker is turning to the filmic arts. On a related note, Nick Cave is reportedly writing a remake of The Crow, which sounds apt. (Some people love the idea of a man who comes back from the dead to promote justice, including one, possibly two, of the panelists in the C-SPAN2 video above.)
But if you want more up close and personal discussion of politics and media, why not join us tomorrow night at Langan's bar/restaurant (47th just east of 7th, 7-10pm) for the monthly Manhattans Project gathering, which is, at least for now, the only monthly bar gathering I'm organizing? E-mail me if you want to be on the e-mail list to be reminded about it (always third Monday of the month, barring the collapse of society), or just show up.
P.S. I've said it before, but: if Rob Zombie, formerly of the band White Zombie, likes remaking old horror movies, isn't it time he did White Zombie? With cameo by Christian rockers Insane Clown Posse, of course.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
C-SPAN2 Panel First Airs at 7:30pm Eastern (not 8) Tonight (plus: Much Context)
One more change on that broadcast of the panel of contributors (including me) to the book Proud to Be Right: according to C-SPAN2's official webpage for the event, their Book TV airings of the panel will now start tonight (Sat. the 16th) at 7:30pm (not 8 as previously announced), and it looks like it will still re-air tomorrow (Sun. the 17th) at 9:30am and 10pm, but check that webpage to be sure.
My thanks to Chuck Blake for noticing the change, as if he hadn't done enough work in the past several days helping me resurrect ToddSeavey.com.
It has been a tumultuous time, as many of my acquaintances know, with the falling-out with my co-panelist Helen Rittelmeyer, a trial run of daily episodes of Freedom Watch, the transfer of my blog over to Blogger, the end of the Debates at Lolita Bar (mainly for time reasons), the release of my essay in Proud to Be Right, the C-SPAN2 panel itself, and another ailing Seavey family dog and, more important, Seavey family grandmother (both doing all right now) all hitting at about the same time.
Of the aforementioned falling-out, which online I've mainly just alluded to but which my acquaintances know I could say much more about were I a less merciful man, I will just say that it was not the sole reason for my comments on the C-SPAN2 panel about Helen, which, just to avoid keeping those of you without that channel in suspense, revolve largely (and very circumspectly, all things considered) around the fact that her often brutal-sounding philosophy really is, when you dig through the layers, a brutal philosophy, genuinely aimed at hurting people, which has spillover effects in practice in everyday life, as one perhaps should have anticipated, but who thinks people are being serious when they praise cruelty, especially if people are about 5'4" and look like harmless librarians?
Helen often writes, in a fashion veiled by irony, of course, about thinking suffering yields excellence and about thinking empathy is overrated. What she may be genuinely psychologically unable to perceive is that empathy, for most of us, is the closest thing the real world has to telepathy -- it's what makes most of us, thank goodness, natural utilitarians (even if few people use that term), made happy by others' happiness in the world's most wonderful ongoing upward spiral of mutual aid, a process all too quickly halted by the introduction of a few sadists who derive their joy from dragging that spiral back downward into animalistic cruelty and petty vandalism (in her case, I owed the world -- and her and me -- a public warning, especially since for some people public shaming is the only viable substitute for the empathy-driven morality on which most of us rely).
Of course, if you were Mr. Spock, ostensibly near-emotionless, you could use actual telepathy instead of empathy to discern what ails others and how to please them -- usually a happy process, as suggested by Spock's alarm when he mindmelds and instead of happiness and harmony finds: "Pain!" (the dance remix version, pointed out to me by Andrew Corsello). Of course, some sadists might consider that incident the finest use Spock ever made of his telepathy (especially the notoriously sick literal sadists of DC, a friend with kinky connections tells me -- no surprise that a place built around wielding power is genuinely turned on by power, not just by tableaux suggestive of power, as with your garden-variety perverts elsewhere).
By the way, I never thought I'd find myself typing these words, but: there is a glut of kitschy retro sci-fi on the off-off-Broadway stage these days, often in serialized form, with mid-century-inspired robots and zombies and the like. It pains me to say it (pain!), but: enough already, people. Still, I do not begrudge L.B. Deyo the aesthetic victory he won recently when the character he'd been playing in one such theatre serial (the cream of the crop in this subgenre, Intergalactic Nemesis, out of Austin, TX) was replaced by a robot after L.B. had to leave the production...and in a lovely homage, the robot was named L.B.D.O. (Come to think of it, they could nickname the construct "Libido" for faster pronunciation, but perhaps that's inappropriate.)
I should note that, yes, the 7:30pm C-SPAN2 panel does conflict with one of the four airings of this weekend's episode of Freedom Watch -- a humdinger of an episode featuring Jesse Ventura, Christine O'Donnell, and more. But with the Freedom Watch episode airing four times this weekend and the C-SPAN2 panel airing three times, I hope you can catch both, whether tonight you pick O'Donnell vs. the establishment or Todd vs. Helen.
Either way, by weekend's end you should be able to see the ritual confrontation with a witch -- disguised as an old-fashioned Catholic moralist -- to whom I am tied via romance, conservative politics, and punk -- all topics I'm tempted to give a rest for a while after today, so bear with me if it's all gardening tips and discussion of balsa wood sailing models from here on out. It's been a purging sort of time.
There are countless topics to explore. And in the real world, best understood through sober rationality -- by economics and science -- there is an election to watch in just over two weeks, after all. As I say in my panel remarks, I hope it will not only bring us closer to fiscal sobriety but closer to a conservative movement (and broader culture) rooted in econ instead of delusional religious claims. Why not kill many birds with one stone? I am getting very tired of those damn birds.
Since I mentioned punk, some rock videos may be in order, and I just noticed
Friday, October 15, 2010
Cat Anarchist, Punk Conflicts, and Education
If the cat is an anarchist, he may want to attend tonight's Dead Kennedys concert (and will likely enjoy the crowd-surfing) -- but it appears I will instead be partying with co-workers and later with Yalies -- as opposed to sparring with a Yalie, which you can see me do on C-SPAN2 Sat. 8pm and Sun. 9:30am and 10pm, remember. I was, as some know, painstakingly merciful and circumspect in the process, even at the risk of appearing otherwise. I am good; some others, unfortunately, are truly evil.
And speaking of Bad Religion, they are among the rock bands whose members include holders of Ph.D.s, as I learned from this article pointed out to me by Dr. Gil Ross, who is not only the second in command at ACSH, where I used to work, but also the swell guy who gave me my badass "DDT" t-shirt recently (at the release of the documentary 3 Billion and Counting), reminding one and all how to end bedbug infestations and millions of deaths from malaria alike.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Make That C-SPAN2 -- and If You Don't Get It, Just See Me at the Bar Tonight
And as it happens, the co-panelist I spar with most on that book panel that's airing this weekend (NOTE: ON FRICKING C-SPAN2, I NOW REALIZE, NOT EVEN C-SPAN PROPER, with previous entries corrected accordingly), Sat. 8pm, Sun. 9:30am and 10pm, is very much opposed to the idea of meritocracy, the sort of complaint that can separate the traditionalist conservatives from the libertarians as easily as the egalitarian liberals from the libertarians, apparently. And the rebellion against meritocracy may be growing, according to the this column (which is at least insightful enough to admit that the likely populist alternatives would be disastrous). Odd that Obama becomes the poster child for merit in this account, but that's a side issue.
On an unrelated note, here is an account of a crime involving a flag and a fake hippo.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Bar Brawlers, C-SPAN2 Schedule for Real, More
•they've found a lost Stanley Kubrick movie;
•more troublingly, the Wachowski...uh...Siblings (Larry is really Lana at long last, apparently) are doing a movie about Iraq, Bush, and gayness, plus sci-fi;
•and I contend that seeing this film title on movie marquees across America is strange.
Lest I neglect to include a punk note, though, here's Sesame Street doing "Rebel L." See you tomorrow night -- and on C-SPAN, not to mention bookstore shelves.
Monday, October 11, 2010
Ten Nerd Notes on God and Space
Ironically, I first heard the "No gods, no masters" slogan (which originated with Margaret Sanger and was picked up by punks) from Sam Goldman, punk turned blogger at the religious conservative magazine First Things (where the co-panelist with whom I sparred most last week was once a summer intern, for all the good it did her moral development).
2. And that makes two or three times last week that my life crossed paths with First Things because Brian Finnerty -- who gave me a tour of the New York headquarters of Opus Dei a couple months ago and argued with me about the "cosmological anthropic principle," the idea that the universe is implausibly fine-tuned for the development of life -- told me last week that he'd mentioned our argument to an editor at First Things, who in turn suggested another staffer there write about the anthropic principle, yielding this post on the First Things website. I work in mysterious, indirect ways.
(I will just say briefly that, like Richard Dawkins, I take the view that any system that permitted replicating entities of some kind might eventually look as glorious as what we think of as life. Some sort of strategizing will tend to confer a competitive advantage upon some replicators, so someday you might well see something resembling life and sentience in almost any "competitive" [that is, characterized by differential survival rates] system, even a system in which carbon as we know it doesn't exist. We can't be sure our universe is the only impressive outcome possible -- and after all, even this universe has barely any life of which we are aware, compared to all that dark, cold emptiness.)
3. Adam Braff informs me that one group of people who believe in a divine plan, oddly enough, may be the obscene band Insane Clown Posse, which would make them the second most depraved and violence-loving cabal of Christians of whom I am aware. Their lyrics have inspired horrible "Juggalo crimes," after all. (But then, would we condemn the book The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs simply because some of its readers were inspired to horrible actions?)
4. Meanwhile, in space: aliens are no doubt eager to meet the newly-appointed U.N. ambassador to outer space, tasked with greeting extraterrestrials. After the U.N. has finished creating peace on Earth and preventing the temperature from rising one degree a century from now, I guess we'll be ready for grander challenges.
5. The U.S. military isn't waiting for the U.N. to greet the aliens, of course. A few ex-military men at the National Press Club claim they've already seen UFOs hovering over American nuclear missile sites and shutting down the missiles. The truly baffling part of this phenomenon is why the press cared about this particular announcement, when every year brings some new group of cranks, with no more or less evidence than this bunch, announcing that they know the secrets of the UFO conspiracy. It's attention-seeking nonsense, not so unlike the cottage industry of guys claiming to have been in the CIA and to have been privy to all the terrible secrets, if you will but buy them a beer.
6. If people are so eager to find space aliens, whether Martian or Heaven-sent, I suggest changing the named of the (legit) sky-watching project called SETI (the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) to YETI (the Yearning for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence).
7. On the other hand, it's nice to hear scientists have been finding more Earthlike planets out there, including one about the same temperature and size as us a mere twenty lightyears away. If they actually do find extraterrestrial life, even just something akin to moss, and I miss the news by only a few decades, that will admittedly blow. Unless it means I get to avoid the apocalyptic clash of civilizations and/or virus strains. Not all aliens are as good for us as Superman.
8. In the spirit of Columbus Day (the pro-exploration part, not the pro-conquest part), here's an exploration-related stumper: Austin Petersen drew my attention to this article about NASA space probes encountering some sort of resistance to their movement at the edge of the solar system. Clearly, space hates our junk. (Or, as is pointed out by my levelheaded, science-loving friend Chuck Blake -- who was invaluable in rebuilding ToddSeavey.com at its new Blogger location, though I admit I have some more housekeeping to do -- it could be something as simple as unexpected meteoroids instead of a whole new antigravity force, and we should wait and see whether Pioneer 11 encounters the same problem as 10, and whether V'Ger, er, rather, the Voyagers do.)
9. Dimitri Cavalli informs me which jacket one should wear if a space mission goes well.
10. And the site Op-Toons has created a video inspired by the mounting popularity of Admiral Ackbar and the mercifully decreasing popularity of taxes and spending.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Panels, Police, and Islam
Some of the neocons I partied with last night might not necessarily see the need for this next caveat, but: with some 3 million Muslims living peacefully in the U.S. for decades, even an atheist like me thinks it's unreasonable to treat all incursions of that religion (even a mosque near Ground Zero) as a creeping threat, but it is also true that for some bad eggs it is the primary motivation and thus worth studying.
Saturday, October 9, 2010
Contract from America vs. Pledge to America
Check it out.
The Contract from America calls for Congress to:
1. Identify constitutionality of every new law.
2. Reject emissions trading.
3. Demand a balanced federal budget.
4. Simplify the tax system.
5. Audit federal government agencies for constitutionality.
6. Limit annual growth in federal spending.
7. Repeal the health care legislation passed on March 23, 2010.
8. Pass an "All-of-the-Above" Energy Policy.
9. Reduce Earmarks.
10. Reduce Taxes.
Not perfect, but a good start. By contrast, the (far longer) Pledge to America says that if the GOP retakes Congress, it will aim for:
1. A repeal of the health-care reform.
2. A spending freeze for most domestic programs, exempting some programs for seniors, such as Social Security, and others that affect veterans and the military.
3. Extending the tax cuts passed under President George W. Bush in 2001 and 2003 including those for those earning over $200,000 ($250,000 for married couples).
4. A ban on any federal funding for abortions.
5. A hiring freeze on all federal agencies except those necessary to national security.
6. A requirement that Congress post all bills online three days before a vote.
7. A requirement that lawmakers cite the specific constitutional authority that enables the legislation.
8. A ban on trials on U.S. soil for detainees currently held at Guantanamo Bay.
9. A hold on all unspent funds authorized as part of last year's stimulus bill or the 2008 TARP legislation
10. A tax deduction for small businesses on up to 20% of their business income.
(And note that Kevin McCarthy just died on Sept. 11, 2010 yet is credited with writing the text of the Pledge just in the past few weeks, which is clearly suspicious -- possibly a hint of alien activity. Oh, wait. The actor from Invasion of the Body-Snatchers is not the same Kevin McCarthy who wrote the bulk of the Pledge. Never mind.)
Friday, October 8, 2010
Blood on the Floor, Craziness on the Calendar
Paladino was also a guest on Freedom Watch last week -- and who knows what wonders you'll see if you watch this weekend (first airing on FBN at 10am Eastern tomorrow and repeated three times over the weekend)? It might just be our truthiest episode yet, to borrow an adjective from Stephen Colbert in this month of his March to Keep Fear Alive (one of my favorite Colbert fans is visiting town this weekend, so I have Colbert on the brain -- as opposed to on the show, I should say, lest I tease anyone).
Over the past couple days, I was in DC, where Colbert will hold his march in three weeks, and they were strange days, I have to confess, which saw me doing that Proud to Be Right book release panel (apparently not airing on C-SPAN2 yet, for which I apologize), conferring with a military psychiatrist, watching astonishing footage of "wingsuits" in flight, having contact with three exes, meeting folks tied to a powerful corporation (during which I bumped unexpectedly into one of the exes' exes, leading to a strangely brief conversation about whether he approves of her behavior), hastily faxing a letter back to NYC meant to keep an acquaintance from being thrown out of the country, coping with professional intrigue, typing with my thumbs a lot (something I'd avoided for a decade or so), communicating with ladies, reading about Christopher Hitchens' mother committing suicide (more on that in my November Book Selections of the Month entry), and finally returning to NYC to (A) discover that reclusive history scholar Martin Sklar (author of my September Book Selection The Corporate Reconstruction of American Capitalism) has sent me a massive package of his writings and even an econ-themed novel by his wife and (B) be interviewed by an online publication about my life and philosophy, such as they are (remember that all the world is free to attack them both at Lolita Bar on the 14th at our 8pm "Todd Seavey vs. the World" event). This, mere days after being interviewed for, I kid you not, an Ayn Rand-themed performance art piece, but more on that a couple months from now.
Things have been a bit surreal. There was also some alcohol in there somewhere. But I'm calming down now. Feeling a bit more stable. Looking forward to next month's penultimate Harry Potter movie. Ah, there we go. Back to normal.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Basement Bar Battle vs. Underground Mine Accident
But my life will still likely be superior to those of those miners in Chile who are alive but still stuck underground months later. Beats death, I suppose.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
CORRECTION: Georgetown Tonight, but C-SPAN2 Book TV About a Weekend or So Later
You'll just have to come see it live at Georgetown (White-Gravenor Hall, Room 201A) tonight if you can't wait.
Todd in Georgetown (and on C-SPAN2)
If you can't watch that, you might find it satisfying to see two characters (at the very end of the third clip down here) from the noirish comedy TV series Bored to Death claiming to be libertarians...
...or to see two characters from Mad Men claiming to be Ayn Rand fans, as pointed out to me by Austin Petersen (and coincidentally or not, that fellow playing Don Draper will reportedly literally be a Superman in two years -- and Zack Snyder, I'm delighted to hear, will direct).
I am not exactly Don Draper but can be seen here on that recent booze cruise, and I think I'll wear the same outfit on the C-SPAN panel, at the risk of looking stale. I'm supposed to be conservative. Here's birthday girl Laura who had the booze cruise. Here's her friend Valerie Bronte, who sharp-eyed readers will recognize as an egg donor from one of our Debates at Lolita Bar. And so on.
Finally, here's a line from blogger Eve Tushnet, describing the book Decadence and Catholicism, that sounds uncannily like a description of one of the people mentioned above in this entry:
Hanson sometimes writes like two specific kinds of undergraduate: the Objectivist who thinks people only ever act out of self-interest (in Hanson's case, "pleasure"), and the *~*edgy*~* pomo for whom pursuit of truth is only interesting if it can be cast as an especially complex form of lying.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Book Selection of the Month: "Proud to Be Right" edited by Jonah Goldberg
Well, how could I not recommend the book -- ON SALE TODAY!! -- that contains my essay "Conservatism for Punks"? But it also features such items of interest as:
•"Splendid Isolation" by Michael Brendan Dougherty
•"The Consistency of Gay Conservatives" by James Kirchick
•"Seeing the Light in Seventh Grade" by Evan Coyne Maloney
•"Man Up" by Katherine Miller
•"The Leptogonians: Growing Up Conservative in a Disrupted Decade" by James Poulos
•"The Smoker's Code" by Helen Rittelmeyer
•"Ducking the Coffins: How I Became an Edu-Con" by Ashley Thorne
•"Reading Rand: Discovering the Right to Fail" by Joi Weaver
and more. It's a fascinating array of twenty-two essays all dealing, in their diverse ways, with the problem of how to be conservative in a world that isn't and where it's not entirely clear anymore what the word means. It may well be a glimpse of the fault lines and battles ahead, too, so find out what's in store. And at the very least, find out what I mean by "Conservatism for Punks."
And Jonah Goldberg, Helen Rittelmeyer, Ashley Thorne, and I will be talking about it all tomorrow (Wednesday, Oct. 6, 7:30pm) at Georgetown University, in White-Gravenor Hall, Room 201A in room 201A, easily reached by Metro and shuttle bus or other means. C-SPAN2 may carry it as well and will say so here day-of if they do.
As a conservative of sorts, though, today I'd like to take an unexpected moment to turn our gaze away from punk and look back at our noble forebears, the makers of classic rock:
•Lainie Frost informed me recently of the death of Lynyrd Syknyrd, or rather of the teacher with a name resembling that one who inspired the band, some of them his students, to call themselves that.
•That indie-modernist -- yet conservative -- musician friend of mine, Hannah Meyers, performs tonight, Tue., Oct. 5th, 9-10:30pm, at O'Connell's Pub at Broadway and 108th (and again Thur., Oct. 21st, 6-7pm at Caffe Vivaldi at 32 Jones St.), but I can't see her tonight because, unpunk as it may sound, I'm going to see Roger Waters perform The Wall at Madison Square Garden. Then again, Bob Geldof is sort of alternative rock, and he played Pink. (Would Jonah consider The Wall liberal fascism?)
•I am pleased to hear (from Nick Slepko) that the movie I Love You, Man, though I have no intention of seeing it, turns the band Rush into a manly bonding touchstone, leading to the band members actually appearing, playing themselves.
They're Objectivists, you know.
Monday, October 4, 2010
Georgetown My Destiny, Maybe C-SPAN2 as Well (Wednesday)
Georgetown is also, like many universities, just barely-nominally Catholic, but that's excuse enough to pick now as the time for me to mock the Church, for things like this:
•If you're the sort of person who thinks the Church has "high standards" for declaring things miracles and making people saints, consider the fact that a present-day man's relief from back pain (while he was praying to nineteenth-century Cardinal Newman) has put Cardinal Newman on the fast track to sainthood. Pretty weak, Catholics, pretty weak.
•Nonetheless, the Church retains enough pull even in the UK to result in a Catholicism-mocking ice cream ad being yanked. That's not to say I find the related British obsession with nun jokes funny.
In unrelated news, I wonder if British H.G. Wells fans would find it amusing that there is literally a Morlock soldier on trial for murder. I suppose that's not funny, either.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
Las Vegas -- It's a Trap
•One fellow who knows when he's up against a death ray trap, of course, is Admiral Ackbar, and I was pleased to hear about the ongoing campaign to make him the official mascot of Ole Miss. (And remember, though I'm not visiting Ole Miss anytime soon, I am at Georgetown this coming Wednesday at 7:30pm on a panel at White-Gravenor Hall, Room 201A.)
•One practical way to avoid the trap of Las Vegas is to just stay at home and win millions in the lottery twice, which some oddly-lucky fellow apparently did recently. I'm so used to thinking of the lottery as an irrational expenditure probability-wise that for a moment I was surprised to hear that the guy kept playing after winning the first time, but I shouldn't have been, of course.
•Speaking of schemes to avoid work, unions look awful in this Daily Show clip pointed out to me by Chuck Blake. Already, the vile teachers unions are writhing over their depiction in the documentary Waiting for Superman, the film that redeems the existence of the guy who directed An Inconvenient Truth. Thanks to him, we may have to live in a world without carbon, but at least it will have charter schools.
•And in other video news, Christine Ames informs me that Jared Harris, who she thinks resembles me, will play the evil Moriarty in the Sherlock Holmes sequel. I will admit he has the look of a genius about him, but surely not an evil one.
Saturday, October 2, 2010
EVENTS: Todd in print (Oct. 5)...in DC (Oct. 6)...in combat (Oct. 14)...in another bar (Oct. 18)...and in a new blog format (now)!
•Tue., Oct. 5: The Jonah Goldberg-edited anthology Proud to Be Right hits shelves, including essays by me, Todd Seavey (called "Conservatism for Punks," of course), plus twenty-one other "Voices of the Next Conservative Generation," among them acquaintances of mine (or at least people I've met) such as Michael Brendan Dougherty, James Kirchick, Evan Coyne Maloney, James Poulos, and Helen Rittelmeyer.
•Wed. Oct. 6, 7:30pm: Meet four contributors to the volume -- yours truly (Todd Seavey), Jonah Goldberg, Ashley Thorne, and Helen Rittelmeyer (yes, ’08-’10 ex-girlfriend Helen Rittelmeyer) all on a panel at Georgetown University's White-Gravenor Hall, in room 201A under the auspices of the Georgetown Republicans (here are further directions). This will mark the first time Helen and I have spoken since she dumped me at the end of July, about three days before we learned who would be on the panel, so be there to share this magic moment. Her essay is about loyalty.
•Thur., Oct. 14, 8pm: It's "Todd Seavey vs. the World" (like the Scott Pilgrim movie but preferably without the evil exes) at Lolita Bar (266 Broome St. at Allen St. on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, one block south of the Delancey St. F J M Z subway stop). After reading a few excerpts from my "Conservatism for Punks" essay, I will not merely answer questions about that essay but will take one challenging question (brief and with no follow-up) from every audience member with an objection to any element of my thinking, whether political, philosophical, aesthetic, personal, scientific, or otherwise, and I will defend myself -- successfully. Don't miss it.
(And the Dead Kennedys are playing Irving Plaza the next night, fittingly, so I could be talked into that, too -- unless they're touring without Jello Biafra, which would just make no sense.)
•Mon., Oct. 18, 7pm: After that climactic Lolita event, the political discussion and fallout continues at Langan's bar/restaurant (47th just east of 7th), where on the third Monday of each month I host the Manhattans Project social gathering for political and media people. E-mail me at my first name followed by last name at Earthlink dot net if you want to be on the e-distribution list to be notified about those ongoing events (separate from the Lolita events) and aren't already.
•The future: The refurbished blog (bear with me) will quickly grow in complexity and classiness, regaining
Friday, October 1, 2010
A Very New York Headline
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Punk Cupcakes, "Punk" in a Book Review
This may call for celebrating with "punk cupcakes" (pointed out to me by Austin Petersen). The punk cupcakes are not to be confused with the alcohol-soaked St. Patrick's cupcakes I bought earlier this year or the red, white, and blue cupcakes for sale at the Ron Paul-ish event I went to a week or so ago.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
"Conservatism for Punks" Live in DC Oct. 6! (Other Things on Video)
We (along with nineteen other writers) all contributed essays to the imminent Goldberg-edited volume Proud to Be Right: Voices of the Next Conservative Generation, mine unsurprisingly titled "Conservatism for Punks" and finally explaining what I mean by that phrase (which is also the slogan of this rebooted/in-progress blog). More on the book when it hits shelves next week.
•In the meantime, here's what might be considered "modernist-indie by a conservative," my friend Hannah Meyers (and at least one contributor to the Goldberg volume, James Poulos, has had a cool indie band, the Handpicked Successors, by the way -- I find it reassuring that conservatives making music don't always sound like country).
•If (perhaps a bit like ex Helen mentioned above), you prefer your video material to combine religious themes and soul-crushing darkness, you may be pleased to hear the gothy good news that Alex Proyas, director of The Crow, and the fantastic Dark City is tackling Paradise Lost. If ever there were a dark hero...
•And while I'm noting video achievements, Reason’s Ted Balaker has recently interviewed Adam Carolla, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) manager Lex McMahon, and pro-capitalist leftist Joyce Appleby. I'm pretty sure Lex McMahon is the guy who tried to drive Superman out of the WWE.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
My Shortest Conversation on the Middle East This Month
GIRL CUSTOMER [frowning]: Uh, I don’t think you guys are very diplomatic.
GUY WORKING IN PIZZA PLACE: What do you mean? Do you know how much we put up with?
GIRL CUSTOMER: OK, I’m sorry. [to her friend] I get into the weirdest arguments.
ME [exiting with my pizza slice, to Guy]: You tell ’em.
GUY WORKING IN PIZZA PLACE: Ha! Republican?
ME: Yeah, actually.
(The panel discussion I'll be a part of at Georgetown in DC on Wed., Oct. 6 at 7:30pm will no doubt be more complex, so mark your calendars, but more about that tomorrow.)
Monday, September 27, 2010
Pray for Mojo
•Woman fends off bear using zucchini.
•Victims of sharks learn to forgive. As a determinist who is nonetheless a moralist (since incentives such as public shaming can remold people in beneficial ways), I am against granting people blanket forgiveness merely because "it is their nature to be bad" -- as with sociopaths who lack empathy and remorse. Perhaps, then, I ought not to forgive literal sharks, either.
•Of course, animals are dimwitted, so slapping a gator in handcuffs -- as was done with one in Florida recently, oddly enough -- does not necessarily serve any productive educational end (though reform was not the goal in this case, I gather).
•By contrast, punishing a marine who killed dozens of ducks with rocks makes sense.
•I am less enthusiastic about arresting a man for fighting in public with a parrot. Sounds to me like the parrot started it, though some would argue that's like faulting a slave for seizing an opportunity to assault his master.
•Indeed, that might be the opinion of my vegan friend Diana Fleischman, who informs me of an even stranger parrot story: a schizophrenic who walks around carrying a helper-parrot in a cage on his back, trained to talk the man down if he has a serious schizophrenic episode. I'm not sure which is more insane, though: listening to the voices in your head or the voice of the parrot on your back. If I were at a moment of maximum crisis -- and lately, that wouldn't be too surprising -- I'm not sure getting advice from a bird would make me feel the world was more rational.
I guess the system works for the fellow, but I would still advise against creating a system in which, say, tiny robots under a schizophrenic's skin tell him to calm down and follow orders if he starts getting out of line. I also would not recommend a system in which the CIA keeps watch on schizophrenics to make sure they're OK, perhaps using high-tech listening devices.
•But to get back to the animals: I was delighted recently to meet Tina Louise (best known for playing Ginger on Gilligan's Island) and learn that she wrote a children's book, What Does a Bee Do? that not only describes bees but the hypothetical consequences of a massive bee die-off (a concern recently due to mysteriously dysfunctional colonies). Always good to inform while entertaining, as I shall strive to do on this revamped blog (bear with me while the Kinks are worked out).
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Weezer, Weiner, Ron Paul
You know, I was in my early twenties when Weezer got big. They do not seem ancient somehow and so perhaps have pulled off the trick that Bowie, Prince, and R.E.M. were once adept at of seeming continually-emerging, as I believe Dave Whitney once put it. The lead singer looks like he knows he’s a rock star now, though, which we all know is a betrayal of their nerd roots. (And how big an influence did they have in making nerdiness a hipness option, if we could quantify it, I wonder? Historians may record that it was them, Tarantino, and Matrix that did it, yielding much of Brooklyn.)
Friday, September 24, 2010
Freedom from Government, from Crime, from Gangstas, and from Physics
Poised somewhere in between these things, I suppose, is the use of Patti Ann Browne as the “gangsta” correspondent on Fox’s late-night show Red Eye. Brilliant.
P.S. Then again, maybe we all just need another dose of the space funk. Thus, once more, the opening credits of Space: 1999.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Coifism for Punks (and debate reminder)
For a more direct dose of politics, downtown where punk came from, join us tonight at Lolita Bar for an epochal debate between Wall Streeter Thomas Powers and Beiruter Saif Ammous on the question “Is Macroeconomics a Fiction?” You might just learn how this civilization collapses, or learn nothing at all, or both.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
N'Dour-ing the Senegalese Government and P.C.
On a less depressing note, my friend Bretigne Shaffer has a piece up about the destructive error of calling normal, free, and prosperous people “privileged.” Never having forgotten my four years of dealing with Marxist, French-theory-addled Brown students, I know how insidious such p.c. labeling can be.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
DEBATE AT LOLITA BAR: Is Macroeconomics a Fiction? (plus econ, God, etc.)
But this Thursday, Sept. 23 (8pm) on the basement level of Lolita Bar (266 Broome St. at Allen St., one block south of the Delancey St. F J M Z subway stop on Manhattan’s Lower East Side), Debates at Lolita Bar dares ask:
“Is Macroeconomics a Fiction?”
Yes: Saif Ammous, economics instructor at American University of Lebanon
No: Thomas Powers, of a mighty Wall Street concern
Moderator: Michel Evanchik
Host: Todd Seavey
The audience will bid on the correct answer at the end. Tell everyone about whom you care.
In related news:
•Richard Epstein vs. Paul Krugman on macro
•NPR with David Boaz on libertarianism (as pointed out to me by Ali Kokmen)
•a critique (pointed out to me by Gerry Ohrstrom) of “locavores,” who were the target of debater Saif Ammous at a previous Debate at Lolita Bar
•the only thing dumber than a defense of labor unions, a defense of public sector unions
And in unrelated news, since yesterday was the official day of prayer for Christopher Hitchens (during which I witnessed neither Rapture nor Rupture):
•I note that he found the strength last week, here at the Cooper Union in NYC, to debate Rabbi Shmuley Boteach (with whom I got to see him mop the floor a couple years ago) on the question of whether there’s an afterlife. Mention that to any Christian halfwits who tell you there are no atheists in foxholes (or with throat cancer). Likewise, I will not be wasting my last moments on Earth calling for last rites, or imagining unicorns for that matter (pardon me, unicorns must exist because they are beautiful and move the human heart).
•If you think religion morally shores up capitalism (whereas in fact it’s the other way around), you might want to check out this report on what Islam-fueled Ahmadinejad thinks of markets.
•Meanwhile, at the Vatican money-laundering operation…
•If it’s booty you worship, note my friend Reid Mihalko’s Sacred Sexuality RoundUp this weekend (I just report, you decide).
•Let us not forget that two of my most blasphemous friends said at the beginning of their appearance on Cash Cab that they were headed to no other destination than Lolita Bar (and at the end of the segment, one “Todd Seavey” is called for the winning answer, Leopold and Loeb).
•Michael Malice, who appears in that clip, is something of an existentialist, but then, so is the comic book superhero the Punisher, according to comics writer Steven Grant, who says:
Heidegger, who took Kierkegaard’s philosophy further, comes even closer to describing the Punisher: Since we can never hope to understand why we’re here, if there’s even anything to understand, the individual should choose a goal and pursue it wholeheartedly, despite the certainty of death and the meaninglessness of action [Note from Todd: That's stupid]. That’s sure the Punisher as I conceived him: a man who knows he’s going to die and who knows in the big picture his actions will count for nothing, but who pursues his course because this is what he has chosen to do.
(One more comics note: when assessing one’s life, I think it is important not to compare oneself to UK director Matthew Vaughn, who directed the funny superhero movie Kick-Ass, is directing next year’s X-Men: First Class about the beginnings of the Prof. X/Magneto rivalry fifty years ago, is friends with Guy Ritchie and Madonna [who is in her own way almost as cool as a punk], is married to and has two children with Claudia Schiffer, and has assembled a squad of ex-Ghurka soldiers to protect him and Claudia against reported stalkers, not so unlike something out of the school invasion sequence from X-Men 2.)
•And much as I enjoy being around my fellow anarchically-inclined folk, I must take a moment to lament the conspiracy-theory folk at that Liberty Festival NYC 2010 thing I poked my head into briefly this past Saturday. Once the talk of poisoning us all with fluoride and using airborne chemicals for mind control started, it was time for me to leave the red, white, and blue cupcakes and John Birch literature behind.