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December 09, 2005


Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* Dave Kehr thinks that Peter Jackson has bled the kitsch poetry out of "King Kong."

* The Hispanic advocacy group La Raza -- which is known for standing up for illegals -- has received $30 million in federal funds since 1996. Strange. I'll bet that you won't be seeing Federal funds going to Vdare anytime soon ...

* An LA lawyer has been accused of staging car crashes in order to win illegal immigrants millions of dollars in claims.

* Camille Paglia shares her disco faves.

* Who'd have predicted that having-fun-with-typography would become such a prominent part of our cultural scene? Here's some really Xtreme typography-fun.

* Razib asks Warren Treadgold a few questions about Byzantium.

* Mike Hill remembers meeting Tiny Tim.

* Yahmdallah thinks you'd do well to skip the movie of "The Hours."

* Stop the presses: PBS documentary is found to be biased against men.

* Bruce Bawer thinks that most of Europe's leaders are running away from the challenge of radical Islam. Rick Darby agrees.

* In 2005, S.Y. Affolee made it not just through "Gravity's Rainbow" but through 49 other books too. That's some seriously-committed reading-time. She gives Pynchon's legendary brain-buster an irreverent -- and, who knows, perhaps thoroughly deserved -- spanking here.

* While our lawmakers dig us into ever bigger financial holes, the Australian government will soon be completely out of debt.

* FvB turned up this fun interview with a woman who wrote pulp fiction during pulp's golden days.

* Who creates the gorgeous illos and paintings that grace the pages of science magazines? You can meet one of these talented artists at his new blog. (Link thanks to Carl Zimmer.)

* 85% of teens would rather listen to an iPod than to the radio.



posted by Michael at December 9, 2005


RE: Immigration. Isn’t about time to declare a moratorium on opposition to illegal immigration? California has had two elections, in a strongly Republican middle class San Gabriel Valley district and in a strongly Republican affluent Orange County district. In both cases, a strong advocate of immigration reform was defeated and a Bush Administration approved toady was elected. There are recent news reports that Bush and the Senate will push through an open borders, uh, “guest worker program” that they will force the House to accept (after tossing them the bone of a meatless border enforcement plan). Despite all the warning signs, voters appear to be happy to be led by the nose on this issue.

RE: “The Hours.” Yahmdallah’s pan deftly touches on some of the stuff that makes this film a total piece of dreck. Part of its awfulness also seems to be the result of the Revenge of the Middlebrow, in which the complexity of Woolf’s life and work is reduced to a treacly, stale pablum that is entirely acceptable to the NPR crowd. For example, Woolf’s terrible and often debilitating long term depression and suicidal tendencies are made to seem some kind of Romantic artistic angst, and novels are merely disguised autobiographies written by soulful hacks for the benefit of narcissistic elites. I admit that I actually paid money to see the film at the movies, and laughed to a friend later that in the Meryl Streep character, the film peddled the standard pseudo-progressive trope that “equal love” is best exemplified by a loving relationship between two lesbians, one of whom is an editor or writer while the other is an art gallery/bookstore owner or unemployed free spirit.

RE: Australia’s debt free government. According to the CIA Fact book, Mexico also runs a governmental budget surplus, and has a larger GDP and larger GDP growth rate than Australia. But by other measures, Mexico obviously has a less productive economy. I agree that a solvent government is important, but it’s not necessarily the be-all and end-all. I note in passing that the Bush administration seems to believe that massive deficits are not important, or can be ignored as long as there are tax cuts.

Posted by: Alec on December 11, 2005 1:41 AM

"California has had two elections, in a strongly Republican middle class San Gabriel Valley district and in a strongly Republican affluent Orange County district. In both cases, a strong advocate of immigration reform was defeated and a Bush Administration approved toady was elected."

Interesting aside regarding this, I read recently that the anti-immigration person actually won the voters in Orange County, but absentee ballots pushed the other fellow to victory. There was something else I'm sure I'm forgetting as well. The issue isn't as simple as anti-immigration person gets defeated.

Posted by: lindenen on December 11, 2005 4:07 AM

Lindenen – Jim Gilchrist got 25% of the total vote and “did” better with election day walk-in voters, getting 12,000 to Jim Campbell’s 10,000. Campbell ended up with 44% of the total vote, and declared victory as soon as the absentee ballots were in. Although Campbell was well known, he was not the incumbent since this was an election to replace Christopher Cox, now head of the SEC. So voters had a chance to start fresh if they desired. Absentee voters, supposedly older and more sophisticated, had roughly the same info as other voters. However, Campbell did a strong push for absentee votes, and later deliberately dodged a radio debate with Gilchrist on the most popular daytime station (that also runs conservative stalwarts like Rush Limbaugh and Dr. Laura), even though he had previously promised to attend. Insiders say that Republican strategists told him that it was important that he avoid the debate, held one day before the election, because he might have to answer tough questions about his position on the issues.

At the same time Campbell had earlier attended a fund raiser organized by Dick Cheney, benefited from a strong push by Republican mainliners to demonize Gilchrist, and immediately after the election disavowed some of the stronger immigration stands that he had spouted in order to win the election. Also, even though there has been a bit of voter fatigue here in California, since there had been successive elections in October and November, nonetheless voter turnout in this district was about 26%, a higher figure than when Campbell and Gilchrist first faced each other, but still low for the supposedly hot button issue of immigration.

Polling in the district indicates that voters care far more about supporting Bush and benefiting from cheap immigrant labor than they do about any problems related to illegal immigration. And again, this is among people who strongly identify themselves as conservatives and Republicans.

Bottom line: anyone who believes that this current Republican administration cares about the effects of immigration is deliberately deluding himself. You can spout anything you want about Democrats and liberals, and it may well be true, but the party in power wants cheap illegal immigration, and a good chunk of the voters appear willing to go along.

Posted by: Alec on December 11, 2005 12:18 PM

Alec -- Given the political hopelessness of it, we should probably just throw all the doors open and see what happens. Party on! With a slightly straighter face, I find myself thinking that 1) it's an encouraging sign that the issue is being raised and run-on at all, and 2) if the Dems were smart, they'd be pushing a Clinton-plus-sensible-immigration-reform package. They'd clean up. Those are some pretty funny lines about "The Hours." Were you able to giggle at all at the film's expense? I sometimes love solemn and pretentious, literary middlebrow movies. They can be such a hoot, in an annoying-independent-bookstore kind of way. Others, though, really defeat me. You and Yahmdallah have me thinking about the V. Woolf thang ... The Bloomsbury audience and industry ... Am I wrong in my impression that the market for everything Bloomsbury has pretty much died off? If so, what a strange development. It was such a big part of the scene for so long. I'm 50/50 on Bloomsbury myself. I often kind of like trust-fund bohemia art. On the other hand, its effect on people can be really pernicious. Its effect on me may well have been pernicious. Hmm.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on December 11, 2005 1:08 PM

_Gravity's Rainbow_ might strike a cruel person as a metaphor for how a literary person looks at the world.

Q:What is the greater moral, ethical and practical meaning of a V-2 rocket, which hits its target before the sound of its passage arrives?

Thomas Pynchon: Well, if it was a girl, some guy might want to #### it.

Neal Stephenson's _Cryptonomicon_ works much better in my mind. Better charachters, more engaging plot, and it gets deep -- how a wartime phenomenon relates to our understanding of and apprach to the world -- right at the point where _Gravity's Rainbow_ becomes increasingly shallow.

Posted by: Zach on December 11, 2005 7:03 PM

Michael – re: immigration. You’re right that the Democrats would clean up if they pushed a sensible immigration reform bill. However, the leadership refuses to distinguish between illegal and legal immigrants, or between citizens and non-citizens. Instead, they view all illegal immigrants as oppressed workers who are victimized by employers who must be punished for not paying the minimum wage (or, when Democrats are feeling more generous, a “living wage”). But as I’ve noted before, it will be interesting to see whether voters continue to go along with this stuff, or demand that something more reasonable be done.

Re: “The Hours.” The film is so predictable, and so smugly self-righteous about its characters that it is hard to giggle at it. I found myself annoyed at the stupidity of the film and at those critics who had so wildly praised it. On the other hand, although the mania for all things Bloomsbury has abated for now, I am sure that it will inevitably flare up again since it is a rich vein of Anglophile decadence. For example, I quite enjoyed the biographical miniseries about Vita Sackville-West, “Portrait of a Marriage,” that ran on PBS a few seasons back. Janet McTeer gives a tremendously feral performance as Sackville-West. I also liked Emma Thompson and Jonathan Pryce in “Carrington.” These films work for me because they recognize that love can be messy and problematic even when it is fulfilling.

Posted by: Alec on December 12, 2005 6:27 AM

I must be terribly middlebrow and shallow: I liked the Hours.
Yahmdallah didn't get the plotline right since he didn't read Mrs.Dalloway: in Woolf's novel heroine does not commit suicide, she's just giving parties. What could be more pleasant and not ideological at all? His critical construction then is understandably skewed, based on such faulty foundation: "He calls her "Mrs. Dalloway" after the novel (hence the inclusion of this storyline), because she, too, is suicidal over the events in her life" - not at all! He calls her such because she likes giving parties. Likes "make nice", bring opponents together, likes beauty, flowers, sound of summer rain, what have you. May be you should read the novel? (like I did, after watching the film).
Also, I don't think the Meryl Strip's character had a daughter together with her past lover, or he would refer to her as such. She probably had attempted to love -and marry- some other man, that marriage failed and now she finds comfort in lesbian relationship. I can see the logic of it. You know, there are some women who are capable to love one and only one man all their life. Try out with more men would only mean betrayal.

The rail station platform' scene is perfect; it can only seem long to people who're used to American action movies, like Matrix and such: people talk! they have nuanced emotions that can't be expressed in 1.25 min.!

I saw the gay agenda, too, the silliness, and ideologizing, and hysterics, and the conspiracy &c - but I can forgive a lot, apparently, for a few right notes - the story thru the little boy's eyes, for example, and the sudden horror of discovering you're sick with incurable desease and helpless attempts to cover it (the visitor of Julianne Moore's character), and the damn cake (and the damn lobsters, too)

Or may be I'm just a sucker for a good costume work. Oh, the hats!

Posted by: Tatyana on December 12, 2005 10:29 AM

Interestingly, I understand that the Australian government will retain some debt otherwise the government bond market would disappear. It will only be a nominal amount - a few billion only (and that's an Australian "few", say 5, rather than a British "few", which seems to mean at least 100!).

Posted by: Toby on December 14, 2005 12:40 AM

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