Thursday, February 26, 2009

Jindal Look Alike Contest

The nation is still frantically searching for the right metaphor for Bobby Jindal's sing-songy southern-inflected speech that seemed better suited for heavily sedated school children than a live national audience. While the rest of the world (yours truly included) went for the easy Kenneth The Page call-out, Jon Stewart more thoughtfully invoked Mr. Rogers.

We even had a mini-Kenny backlash as actor Jack McBrayer went on the Late Show to not very convincingly dismiss the similarity.

But there is another pop cultural icon out there that fits that overly proper and slightly clueless demeanor. That would be none other than popcorn pitchman Orville Redenbacher.

Update: Famous 'reasonable conservative' blogger Jon Swift took me to task for the Kenneth Parcell comparison impugning that comparing a person of South-Asian ancestry to a cracker comedian might be racist, so I have also added his choice of Dev Patel, the star of Oscar-winning feel-good movie of the year Slumdog Millionaire.

Again, here are the candidates with the good governor at the far left:

So cast your vote:

And may the best caricature win.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Kenny vs. Bobby

The Republican rebuttal to Barack Obama’s congressional address last night featured rising star Piyush "Bobby" Jindal giving a performance that reminded many, many, many people of a certain character from 30 Rock. Let’s look at the similarities and differences.

Kenneth ‘The Page’ Parcell
Piyush ‘Bobby’ Jindal
NBC Page
Governor of Louisiana
Southern Accent
Stone Mountain, GA
Baton Rouge, LA
Kentucky Mountain
Bible College
Brown University
Rhodes Scholar

Eighth Day Resurrected
Covenant of the Holy Trinity

Draw your own comparisons.

Update (2/27/09): Vote for your favorite Bobby Jindall look-alike here.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Liveblogging The Oscar Live Blogs

Tonight I am going to go for the ADD award by following several websites that are liveblogging the Oscars and posting the best of the comments. The ones I am following are:
Jez: Jezebel
Ablog: Achenblog
WaPo: Washington Post
EW: Entertainment Weekly
Def: Defamer

Here goes nothing.

Ablog (CqP): Matthew Broderick looks fine in his grey steaked hair.
Jez: Tracie: marissa tomei's forehead=botox
WaPo: Liz Kelly: Ick -- that Vanessa Hudgens dress looks like a cast off from "Too Wong Foo." What was she thinking?

Me: Hugh Jackman does a pretty fair Billy Crystal complete with a Wolverine plug. And Anne Hathaway is a good sport.
WaPo: Jen Chaney: Yes, this number isn't very X Men. [snip} He's clearly taking a page from Billy Crystal.
EW: Thom: Ah, a Wolverine plug. But somehow I don't think any of the X-Men fanboys are still watching. They must have decided this was the Tonys and flipped the channel.


MyWife: Goldie Hawn has had a few surgeries. Look at how tight everything is.
Jez: tracie: this will sound weird, but goldie hawn looks so much like my aunt maryellen, particularly in the chest/boob area.
EW: Mandi: Goldie Hawn as Worst Dressed?
WaPo: Jen Chaney: I don't know, I think Goldie's dress is a little snug.


Me: I am so hot for Tina Fey.
Ablog: (Raysmom) Tina Fey's dress is absolutely gorgeous.


MyWife: OMG! Jennifer Anniston.
Me: So?
MyWife: Brad and Angelina are there too. They just cut to them. You miss everything doing that (referring to my blogging)
Jez: hortense: Headline on US Weekly tomorrow: "Angelina Laughs At Jen's Joke"
Anna: or it will be: "Was Angelina Faking Finding Jen's Joke Funny?"
hortense: "Angelina: Laughing With Jen, Or At Her?"
Def: JenniferLina CatfightWatch: Jennifer Aniston moves from stage right to center stage—withing queef distance of Angelina Jolie.
WaPo: Jen Chaney: A little tacky. And yet, it's what we all secretly wanted, isn't it? {snip} And do we really need to explain why they cut to Angie? We all know why. At least they wanted until a moment when Angelina was smiling.
EW: Mandi: Brad and Angelina laughing at Jennifer having to talk about animated pandas instead of saving the world and its children.


Me: Natalie Portman is getting more and more Audrey Hepburn every year.
Def: For some reason they're allowing Natalie Portman to present with her boyfriend Devendra Bernhardt.


MyWife: (about Jessica Biel) They don't look in a mirror first?
Jez: hortense: Jessica Biel= worst dressed list?
WaPo: Jen Chaney: And if I may quote a previous chat commenter, here is Jessica Biel in her "diaper." She is doing a salute to the scientific and technical Oscars, which she hosted a couple of weeks ago. Presumably in a different diaper.

Me: Why does 'Mama Mia' need a drumline. And they better cut to a reaction from Meryl Streep.
EW: Thom: Ah, so Baz Luhrmann is responsible. That explains a lot. I think he was trying to do a musical montage like "The Elephant Love Song" from Moulin Rouge, but this so didn't work.
Def: Wow. Baz Luhrmann just mounted the worst Oscar number since this disaster. It was like something you'd see on a cruise ship hosting the AVN Awards.
Jez: i like the drumline in white tie
ABlog (rd): It certainly is an interesting production. Hugh Jackman gets kudos for pulling out all the stops. Still, somehow it thematically reminds me a bit too much of Rosie O'Donnell's variety show. All over the place.

MyWife: Sound editing is the only category we've seen all the movies in.
WaPo: Smith is now presenting sound mixing. This is one way they are saving time, P.S. By having the same presenters rattle through several categories in a row. Which makes sense.

MyWife: You had Heidi Klum followed by Tim Gunn back to back.
Jez: tracie: two project runway-ish commercials in a row?

Me: The Slumdog sweep is in high gear. I keep thinking 'Jai Ho' is 'Tally Ho'.
Def: An insomnia-curing medley of best scores results in WINNER, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE's A.R. Rahman bringing down the house with a prepared bit about his wife, followed by a slow burn that would make Jack Benny envious. Just kidding—that was really awkward. Rahman redeems himself by throwing off his Nehru jacket, displaying a surprisingly ripped physique, and launching into song.
EW: Mandi: I think the only thing that will save this show now is Hugh making a joke about how slow it feels, and taking off his shirt to give it a jolt. Who's with me?
EW: Thom: And the Slumdog sweep continues. For those of you counting at home, that's five awards so far.

My comment used on the WaPo chat:

Fo, MA: Peter Gabriel not singing is also known as the Phil Collins snub since he didn't sing it when he was nominated. The Academy must hate Genesis.
Jen Chaney: As far as the Academy is concerned, they do not seem to have an invisible touch.

Me: The Death Pool Montage! Finally! Oddly tasteful. Best applause in descending order: Paul Newman, Sydney Pollack, Harold Pinter.
Def: The In Memoriam segment finally enters the HD era. We begin with Cyd Charisse—begin scoring your 'In Memoriam' Oscar Montage Pool accordingly. The Grieve-O-Meter seems to be functioning, with the needle flipping right towards the end with Sydney Pollack, Paul Newman. WHERE'S HEATH? He was squeezed in last year, but is there some Academy law about not double-dipping? He died in January 22, 2008. Also—no George Carlin. And Charlton Heston barely registered with the audience. But wait—no George Carlin?! That's an outrage! Oscar controversy!!!
Jez: Sadie: I hate how it's an applause popularity contest!
WaPo: In Memoriam: I thought I heard (or maybe it was wishful thinking) that producers were going to drown out audience applause for this montage, because it really is the cruelest popularity contest ever. Jen Chaney: It is. But they didn't.

Me: This Best Actress bit is like an American Idol vote-off.
Def: The ActorTron 2000 spits out five more amazingly well-preserved Academy Award winners.
Jen Chaney: Okay, the one flaw in this multi-presenter thing is the thanking goes on a little long.
A-Blog (mudge): I gotta say, I really like this format of having five presenters and their doing a direct address to the nominees. Although I do miss seing a minute or so of the clips.

Me: This thing might actually be over by midnight.
Jez: dodai: How much over are we? It was supposed to end at 11:30 right?
Jez: tracie: 25 minutes over
EW: Thom: The show clocked in at three and a half hours exactly. Is that what you guessed in the office pool
A-blog (fb): Ok, time for lights out. Toodles boodle and sweet dreams.


Me: And that goes double for me.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Birthday Wishes From Me Via Ted Forth

Loyal and dedicated readers of my blog will know that my wife and I have the same exact birthday. You can read the whole touching heartfelt story here. And clearly, Ces of Sally Forth fame and Medium Large notoriety knew that as well.

In fact, I’m going to go so far as to put on my Weingarten Cap Of Asshattery and declare that the first panel of today’s strip, appearing on my and my wife’s exact birthday, is a touching tribute to a relationship that has now spanned thirty birthdays dedicated specifically for me. For it was on this day in 1980 that I drew her aside while we were at the University of South Florida Model United Nations and gave her a birthday card.

So, my darling wife, if you read this post, let it be known that my love has only grown over the twenty-nine years since I first gave you that card.

And Ces, if you have the original artwork for that strip, the first panel would be the perfect payment for being the only entry in the Medium Large Guy Look-Alike Contest. That first panel sums up how I have felt for nearly three decades about my wife, partner, and friend. The last two frames where Ted petulantly defends himself against jealous recriminations, not so much.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ramblin' Wreck All Day Long

Back in October we went down to Atlanta for Parent's Weekend at Georgia Tech. As you might recall from this post or this one, my son is in the marching band. Game days are busy for the band and for this game my son also drew roaming band duty which meant he had even more performances than usual. I decided that I would spend the morning shadowing him and see what a game day involved.

For a noon kick-off, the players all enter the stadium at about 10 am with a big parade that includes the Ramblin' Wreck, the cheerleaders, and the band. As soon as all the players are in the locker room, the band breaks up and the two roaming bands go marching around campus hitting all the frat parties and tailgate areas and alumni events.

As I followed him around, the stopped to play about a half dozen times. The would usually do the official school fight song and then the Ramblin' Wreck Song, one of the most distinctive college songs ever played. Another signature GT Band song is the old Budweiser theme song (not in my montage, but you can see it here). When the two roaming bands met up, they played a round of Dueling Buds before heading off to reform the entire band.

That's when I took off for the parent's picnic and catch up with my wife. While I was eating, the band continues to march towards the stadiums stopping at three or four more places. I missed it, but here is yet another YouTuber with great video of the final stop before entering the stadium.

And then at the game, they play Ramblin' Wreck after each score and at the end of the game. By the time the final whistle blows at about 3 pm, the band has been playing straight for nearly five hours. Watch the video again (and I highly recommend clicking through for the hi-def version) and check the time hacks.

For the longest time I didn't quite know what to do with the footage I had shot. I had nearly a half hour of raw film (if digital video files can be called film) that had at least a dozen snippets of various pieces.

Finally I decided to edit it down to a montage of the various Ramblin' Wreck pieces. Besides, this gave me a chance to test out the ease of use of the new iMovie '09 which is supposed to make movie making as painless as possible. It took me a while to get used to the paradigm, but I kept trimming it down until I got it under four minutes. I even got the lyrics to crawl under one of the shots of all three verses. Now you can all sing along.

A fair amount of stuff ended up on the cutting room floor because hi-def is rather unforgiving of camera shake. But as I have conclusive proven with visual evidence that if I had a son, sir, he'd yell 'TO HELL WITH GEORGIA!' like his daddy used to do.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Freaky Friday Funnies

In yesterday's Comic's Curmudgeon, Josh made fun of the rather queasy Freudian subtext of this strip:

I had to go through the archives to figure out what the set up of that strip was. It seems Marvin's mom had been having a humbling conversation with HER mom:

But being transported back to younger age isn't always a bad thing. Last Sunday we saw this sweet vignette in Baldo:

And how big of a perv am I for thinking that Grown-Up Gracie is a totally hot chica? But other strips also play with the age and imagination of their kid characters. Take this recent Jump Start:

Here Jojo shows off what a hunk he's going to be on the gridiron when he gets big, even if he'll still be a wimp. But the all-time owner of the grown-up turned into a kid motif is Rose Is Rose. And Rose can also be sent back in time with just a remark from her mother:

L'il Rose is nearly as cute as Biker Vicki is hot. And I'll take the nostalgic pleasures of Rose's trips back to her childhood over the psycho-sexual insecurities of Jenny Miller (yes, Marvin's Mom has a name) any day.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: What other comics play with the Freaky Friday/Big age change trick?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

25 Random Things About Facebook

  1. Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg who was a student at Harvard, the same school Bill Gates dropped out of to found Microsoft.
  2. Zuckerberg dropped out to become CEO of Facebook.
  3. His friends sued him when they found out he used their code.
  4. They sued him again when they found out how much Facebook is worth.
  5. Facebook is estimated to be worth about fifteen billion dollars.
  6. I have three Facebook accounts.
  7. Yellojkt Yellojkt is for my imaginary friends.
  8. My real name is for my family and people that don't know I blog.
  9. Mo MoDo is so that I can leave comments about Maureen Dowd on blogs that require a Facebook account like Huffington Post.
  10. Facebook has been banned by the Maryland General Assembly.
  11. The 25 Things About Me Meme has been done over five million times.
  12. Claude at Baltimore Diary is one of them.
  13. The Girl From Park Heights is another.
  14. Time Magazine finds the 25 Things meme very annoying.
  15. The Wall Street Journal tried to figure out who started it, but couldn't.
  16. Slate is looking too.
  17. Dan Zak of the Washington Post wrote a 25 Random Things List about the meme.
  18. The 25 Things meme requires you to forward it to 25 friends.
  19. I don't have 25 friends on Facebook.
  20. Yellojkt has 17 friends.
  21. My real name has 14 friends.
  22. My son has 587 friends.
  23. Stanford teaches parents how to use Facebook to spy on keep up with their kids.
  24. I do a lot of silly memes.
  25. I don't do memes that come from Facebook.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

He's Just Not That Into Baltimore

My wife dragged me kicking and screaming to see He’s Just Not That Into You this weekend. I actually don’t mind chick flicks, especially when they star Scarlett Johansson as a voluptuously predatory (to use a phrase from the WaPo review) aspiring singer/yoga instructor that sets her sights on a married Bradley Cooper (whom I am still so gay for). As a bonus, the movie is ostensibly set in Baltimore, but it’s clear that a vast majority of the film was shot on a Hollywood soundstage.

They tried to slip a few Bawlmer sights in when they could. One of the extravagantly trendy apartments these yuppies live in had a clear view of the Domino Sugar sign. Another window looked out over that waterfront high-rise building that looks like a spaceship landed on top of it.

The movie has a lot of little snippets where random people dispense relationship horror stories and advice. One had a guy standing on the Fells Point dock with the fireboat behind him. That said Baltimore to me. Another establishing shot had some characters walking down Thames (and it took me a few years to learn that ‘Thames’ rhymes with ‘James’ and starts like ‘Thane’) and walk into a bar that looks like it could be Coopers but had some other name in the movie. A few outdoor scenes were clearly shot on the marbled stepped streets of Baltimore, but others just screamed back lot.

The Baltimore Sun has a great article explaining that Baltimore was originally going to have a bigger part, but the budget wouldn’t allow that much location shooting or clearances. I guess Jennifer Anniston and Ben Affleck’s salaries chewed all that up.

Even the product placements were all over the map. For example, when Bradley starts hitting on ScarJo in the grocery store, he’s buying a six pack of Clipper City beer, but they walk outside and its some generic grocery store name that I’ve never heard of. The group of girls that the guys just aren’t into all work at World Spice Company, which at least acknowledges Baltimore’s heritage, but it just seems odd not to hear mention of McCormick.

At least it is nice to see Baltimore recognized as a real place. For a lot of movies that are set in Washington, DC, the film crews do a bunch of establishing shots of the monuments and then move up the B-W Parkway to film street scenes in cheaper and simpler Baltimore.

So Drew, Jennifer, and Scarlett, next time you film a movie set in Baltimore send more than the second unit. I’d be glad to show you around. Just leave Ben, Justin, and Kevin behind. But bring Bradley.

How much of city should a movie show?

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Snark Attack

I normally save my book reviews for the first post of the month (hence the catchy label BooksFirst), but the book I just read has me so incensed that I have to rant at a longer length than I normally allow myself. I first heard of David Denby, the second string movie reviewer at the New Yorker, and his book Snark a few weeks ago and since I love snark, I wanted to know what it was about. The subtitle is “It’s Mean, It’s Personal, and It’s Ruining Our Conversation” which should be the first clue that I might disagree with his premise. Then I heard that it said very vicious things about Maureen Dowd. And that could not stand. Rather than allow any money to wend its way to Denby’s hands, I put myself on the wait list at the library and I finally got my hands on it.

As any reader of this blog would notice immediately, I love snark, as over-used and abused as that word is. Indeed, it is a tough concept to define but like Potter Stewart (and I stole this from somebody) I know it when I see it. For me snark, is a rapier-sharp sarcastic observation or description. Denby offers no single coherent definition, but the properties he attributes to it are maliciousness, absence of value, and an insidery snideness. Clearly it is something that is rather subjective. And Denby is nothing if not arbitrary and capricious in the application of his scorn.

At every page, I found myself disagreeing with his examples and wondering how clueless one person could be. Here’s a list of some people that he finds irredeemably snarky.

Penn Jilette

This master magician and host of myth debunking show Bullshit has been one of my favorite writers from when he wrote a column in the back of PC/Computing magazine. He is an amazing satirist and got some press last year for telling a tasteless joke about Hillary and Obama.

The above video has Penn’s explanation of the context where he says the joke even offended him. Here is Denby completely missing the point:
When the comic Penn Jillette said on MSNBC in May 2008, that “Obama did great in February because that was Black History Month. And now Hillary is doing much better ‘cause it’s White Bitch Month, right?” he was not, putting it mildly, practicing irony or satire. The remark was a boneheaded insult, but insult of a special sort. It spoke to a knowing audience – to white people irritated by black history as a celebration, and to men who assume an ambitious woman can be called a bitch. The layer of knowingness, in this case, was an appeal to cranky ill will and prejudice. Jillette’s joke was snark.
Denby then goes on and compares the joke to blatantly racist insults made on right-wing weblogs. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Jillette was ridiculing prejudice and used the joke to emphasize an undercurrent of popular opinion against Senator Clinton. Throughout the book, Denby accuses anybody saying anything bad about Hillary with all sorts of sinister motives. He must be a closet PUMA.

Tom Wolfe

One of my favorite writers is Tom Wolfe, the inventor (with Hunter S. Thompson and others) of New Journalism, a stylistic approach to non-fiction that incorporates elements of fictional narrative and stream of consciousness first person perspective. Denby sees it as snark.

In particular, he singles out a very famous essay of Wolfe’s from 1970 called “These Radical Chic Evenings” where Wolfe smugly observed the irony of New York socialites behaving excessively politically correct by having benefits for the militant Black Panther movement. For the crime of pointing out the hilarious hypocrisy of the rich and powerful, Denby accuses Wolfe of having “contempt for absolutely everybody” and cites him for being indifferent if not hostile to the entire civil rights movement. He sees Tom Wolfe’s signature white suit as a more sinister symbol from an earlier age. He all but accuses Wolfe of wearing a white hood.
Famously, Wolfe invariably wore a white suit, cultivating the mask of the dandy and the grandee, a conscious anachronism of the Old South or perhaps the hedonistic, moneyed side of the twenties.
Denby than makes an even bolder observation.
In the end, the white suit may have been less an ironic joke than the heraldic uniform of a man born in Richmond, Virginia, who entertained fancies of a distinguished Old South in which blacks kept their mouths shut, a conservative who had never accustomed himself to the new money of the Northeast.
Wow! Just, wow! In Denby’s mind, white clothes equal white supremacist. Denby later accuses Maureen Dowd of being obsessed with appearances to the detriment of substance. I don’t think even she could get that level of symbolism out of a sartorial sensibility. Pot meet kettle. You're both black.

Spy Magazine

My love for the late lamented Spy has been noted in this blog before. For several years during its heyday I hung on every word published in it. And I was not alone. Spy became the official reading material of our office library. We kept all the back issues around for constant reference to the running gags and themes.

And according to Denby, what was Spy’s major crime? Perfoming one-half of journalism’s purpose: afflicting the comfortable.
Like Wolfe, the writers and editors and writers despised the greedy new rich, though, again like Wolfe, apart from a few faded copies of the old Vanity Fair, they had no golden age of nostalgia and achievement to appeal to.
I have no idea what a sense of nostalgia has to do with anything, but so much of Denby's book is completely nonsensical.

Denby then uses as an example of how they “go low and stay low” the time Spy calling Ivan Boesky, the most reviled pre-Bernie Maddoff Wall Streeter ever, a “ferret-eyed snitch.” Way to defend the little guy there, Denby.


Some of my readers know of my Pop Socket incarnation as a Wonkette and Gawker Media commenter. Well, I can’t hold a candle to many of my fellow Wonketteers Gawkerites like Mister Hippity who created the masterful Denby book cover parody that is going viral.

Denby truly is a cranky old man yelling at kids to get off his lawn. He sees Wonkette as a seething breeding ground of young turkettes in need of some respect for their elders. He completely misses the sarcasm in a Miracle Worker parody making the point that Chelsea Clinton is, in fact, capable of presenting herself well in public. But Denby’s blind rage causes him to make the following claim which, as noted by Wonkette, is inaccurate on the most basic fact-checking level.
Wonkette is written by young women who may have hated Chelsea’s bland [Denby’s adjective, not Wonkette’s] words as she went around the country supporting her mother’s candidacy. When a piece of snark doesn’t make sense, some hidden fury may be messing up the writing.
And when a piece of snark goes completely over your head, you might not be as good a film critic as you think you are.

Camille Paglia

Denby ridicules a belabored circus sideshow metaphor of Paglia’s and gives it much more psycho-sexual content than it merited by quoting her praise for Deep Throat. I have no affinity for the uber-feminist, but Paglia's sin is stepping on Denby’s most sacred cow, Hillary Clinton.
And is Paglia actually opposed to an aggressive woman who goes after what she wants? Her strenuous metaphors can’t hide the fatigue and incoherence of the old taunts.
So saying that Hillary shouldn't be vice president entitles Denby to lecture Paglia about feminist ideals. That isn't snark, it's unmitigated gall.

Gawker and other bloggers.

Indeed, the cardinal sin of snarkers in Denby’s diatribe is making fun of the rich and powerful. He chides Gawker for being used by tipsters with axes to grind when they report on insider abuses of power. Perez Hilton is a bad influence because celebrities have to moderate their public behavior to avoid his ridicule. If only Perez actually had as much power to make celebutards behave civilly as Denby thinks he does. He sees exposing the folly of starlets that Botox their faces into immobility as ageist. In fact, one of his Principles of Stark is “Attack the old.” Whistling past the graveyard, are we, Denby?

Restaurant Critics

Inexplicably, trendy restaurants, like carpet-bagging Senators, are too important to be scorned.

Maureen Dowd

For a full list of Denby’s sins against the most e-mailed of the New York Times’ columnists, see this excellent post (in my unbiased opinion) by my compatriot at the Dowd Report, but let me add this, Denby accuses Dowd of naïveté. From his book:
When both Hillary and Bill Clinton performed well at the convention, selling Obama as best as they could, Dowd never acknowledged the performance, never admitted her misjudgment. Again, she came off as naive: In the end, Bill and Hillary Clinton were not quite the self-absorbed narcissists that Dowd made them out to be but professional politicians, doing their best to sustain their currency in the Democratic Party.
Maureen Dowd saw a different set of speeches than Denby did. Here is Dowd's take on Hillary’s sales job:
At a press conference with New York reporters on Monday, Hillary looked as if she were straining at the bit to announce her 2012 exploratory committee.
She added insult to injury by coming out Tuesday night looking great in a blazing orange pantsuit and teaching the precocious pup Obama something about intensity and message. She thanked her “sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits,” and slyly noted that Obama would enact her health care plan rather than his.
That sound pretty narcissistic and self-serving to me. And from Maureen Dowd, it counts as praise. As for Bill Clinton, he wasn’t exactly a team player either.
Bill’s pals said he was still gnawing at his many grievances against the younger version of himself he has to praise Wednesday night; the latest one being that the Obama folks, like all winners, wanted control over Bill’s speech, so that he did not give a paean to himself and his economic record, which is what he wanted to do, because he was incensed that Obama said a couple critical things about his administration during a heated campaign.

Finally, Obama had to give in on Monday and say he would allow the ex-president to do exactly as he likes, which is what he usually does anyhow.
I wouldn’t call that column ignoring the Clintons as Denby claims Dowd did. But research and accuracy aren't Denby's forte.

This has been an exceptionally long post, nearly as long as the 120 pages of wide margined bloviating that Denby put out, but it’s important when attacking something as painfully partisan and puerilely pathetic as this book to give plenty of examples. Which is something Denby is sadly deficient in. Much of the book is vague generalities and tortured metaphors. Many of his most pointed criticisms are against the thinnest of straw men without a clarifying quotation or an actual example anywhere in sight.

The faults of the book are legion, but they fall into two general problems. He defines snark both too broadly and too narrowly. He paints stand-up comics and journalists and columnists and bloggers and random blog commenters and petty Facebookers (who aren’t as anonymous as he would lead you to believe) with the same broad brush. These are all very different people working at different levels of literary and artistic merit for different purposes. Snark is a rhetorical device, not a political philosophy or an organized cabal. Anyone can use snark and can use it well or use it poorly. Snark in and of itself is not wrong and it is often astoundingly effective.

On the other end of the scale, snark is only humor that offends him. Stuff he likes is called satire, parody or sarcasm. The classification of snark is only reserved for the things that raise his ire. His tautology that snark is inherently bad is a definition chasing its tail. He is willing to forgive a lot if people that would normally fit under any sensible definition of snarky meet his approval for political correctness. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert and Pauline Kael all get a pass because he admires their grit and gumption. Intent and seriousness of purpose are important litmus tests in his scale. Mere entertainment as motive for being snarky is beneath the guy that makes his living writing about vampire flicks and Kevin Smith movies.

Please stay away from this book. Denby is a vicious, humor-deficient prig that is trying to carve out some space in the public conversation for his own petty vendettas while mocking and ridiculing those that disagree with him. And isn’t that exactly what he accuses snarkers of doing? Only they are entertaining instead of just exasperating.

Update: The review of Snark in the Wall Street Journal makes many of the same points I did.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

NaJuReMoNoMo Winners

National Just Read More Novels Month is finally over and hundreds of novels have been read. I want to thank everybody that participated and especially those that spread the word. Here are the winners that have left a comment or posted something that came to my attention some other way (I have my sources). Also, they are in no particular order since everybody is a winner and I'm too lazy to try to sort them.

Sue at The Conical Glass - 3 books
Lab Cat - 4 books
Tif at Tif Talks Books - 2 books
Elizabeth at As Usual, I Need More Bookshelves - 5 books
Claude at Baltimore Diary - 1 audio book and one graphic novel
Sandra at Fresh Ink Books - 18 books
nely at All About {n} - 16 books
Yooperchick at Penny's Pages - 18 books
Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise - 10 books
Cami at Becoming Army Strong - 12 books
mega89 at Literary Menagerie - 6 books
Book Blogger at Challenging The Bookworm - 13 books and 1 audiobook
Daewalker - 16 books
Bookworm at Behold, The Thing That Reads A Lot - 10 books
Kim at Page After Page - 3 books and 1 graphic novel
Book Dragon at Book Dragon's Lair - 14 books
Jules at Jules' Book Reviews - 5 books
Jenny at Jenny's Page - 7 books
gautami tripathy at Reading Room - 15.5 books
Kristen at BookNAround - 8 books
K at Slip Carefully... - 13 books
mostlurking/seasea - 1 book
A Novel Menagerie - 10 books
drey at Drey's Library - 28 29 30 books
Sharon at A Bookworm's Blog - 11 books
Joanna M at As The Nest Empties - 3 booksHippy Chick - 7 books
Marg at Reading Adventures - 5 books
raidergirl3 at an adventure in reading - 9 novels
katrina at katrina's reads - 5 books
April at Cafe of Dreams
Needles at Needles and Things
Booklogged at A Reader's Journal

If I've missed anybody or screwed up your link, or you just want to brag some more, feel free to leave a comment.

I want to again congratulate everybody for participating and I hope to see you all again next year. And bring a friend. And some good books.

Monday, February 02, 2009

B.A.D. To The Bone

Small Bad2Tomorrow is Blogroll Amnesty Day, which at first blush seems like yet another random traffic-generating scheme of somebody's, but it really has a colorful and tragic history. Jon Swift was alarmed to learn that 'amnesty' was a euphemism for 'delete.' Some major blogs did a Stalinist style purge of all the little blogs on their blogroll and granted themselves amnesty from their actions. Rather than cotton to that, Jon Swift and skippy the bush kangaroo decided to turn it around and make the occasion a celebration of little blogs.

To participate, you are supposed to highlight five blogs smaller than your own. Thanks to the long tail of blogging, there are always blogs smaller than yours. Yes, that means even you. My problem was how to identify which ones were actually smaller than me. I respect and admire all the blogs on my blogroll and that sort of stat-measuring contest struck me as a little unseemly, but I had to go by something.

Nonetheless, I ran each blog through Technorati to get their “Authority” which is just a measure of how many other blogs link to them. It turns out that of the blogs I read, thanks to my endless BlogWhoring and LinkGrubbing, I’m bigger than about two-thirds of them. Since that didn't seem right, I ran the urls through which claims to measure traffic. By that ranking, I came closer to the middle of the pack, which sounds about right.

Now, none of the blogs I put on my blogroll are huge by any means. The Biggest Swinging Dick on the list is Blogography who is still small potatoes compared to Dooce and her ilk, proving yet again there is no justice in this world. So among the blogs that have both lower traffic and lower authority, these folk deserve some more attention.

Trusty Getto: Trusty is one of my oldest and dearest blogfriends. We seem to have struck it off from the start. When I first started reading him, was going through an ugly divorce, but since then he seems to have found happiness with a new lady friend since he doesn't talk much about his personal life any more. He is a prominent ambulance chaser lawyer in Ypsilanti and his blog has been outed, so nowadays he writes a lot of good insidery stuff about Michigan and local politics. He seems destined for higher office some day. And he has the least hair of any headbanger I know.

Mooselet Musings: Another blogger that has been with me from the start is Mooselet who is an expatriate American married and living in Australia. For some reasons Americans down under write great blogs.

Baltimore Diary: Claude is an old buddy from the early days of The Comics Curmudgeon that just turns out to live in Baltimore, the capitol of comics-snarking. His blog sometimes cut to the bone with his takes on the Baltimore City Schools bureaucracy. I just feel bad that I keep snubbing his very excellent parties.

FlasshePoint: Yet another Comics Crumudgeon buddy, Flasshe has an excellent random thoughts style blog that veers from topic to topic, much like mine, only wittier and more succinct. I keep wanting to steal features from him like the Pet Peeve Of The Day and the Poignant Search Term Of The Day That Led To This Blog.

Architectural Dance Society: Just the title alone is a keeper. 2fs is perhaps my most intellectually deep blogger-reader-commenter and has a fantastic blog about music I have never, ever heard. But he always makes it fascinating and relevant. Frankly, it shocks me that my blog just barely edges his out in those clearly useless statistics. A guy this smart needs to much more widely read.

A Little Night Music: For music a little closer to my tastes, I read The Mistresses of the Dark excellent blog. She is a huge Elvis Costello fan and always has excellent lists on Fridays. She is also lots of fun and just a day-brightener every time I read her blog.

The Conical Glass: I've noticed that an awful lot of my blogroll is music oriented, even though my blog really isn't. Sue does my other links one better in that she actually owns a record company and a web design firm. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, so she gets to go to all sorts of unique cultural events I can only dream of. She is an erstwhile Baltimoron as well, so we also have that connection.

Grateful Dating: Jamy holds a special place in my heart because she actually asked to be on my blogroll. I live vicariously through her various dating travails and her active life in DC. She recently got back from a six-month sojourn in France of which I am deeply frenvious.

That brings up my Blogrolling In Our Time Spy Tribute which may or may not pre-date Jon Swift's Liberal Blogrolling Policy. To be on my blogroll is to be read by at least one person. I read every blog on my list, big or small, at least 3-4 times a week and sometimes daily. The blogroll is hand-coded and is in an order that makes sense only to me. It is not reflective of anything resembling favoritism, size, topic, or frequency of commenting. I infrequently drop people from it and since they never seem to notice it's just as well.

My only pang is in calling any of these blogs "small". There are no small blogs, just great blogs that don't get read as much as they should.

BlatantCommentWhoring™:What 'small' blog should I be reading?

Updated 10:30 p.m.: I forgot Mooselet. My apologies.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

BooksFirst - January 2009

NaJuReMoNoMoBooks Bought
Shadow Puppets by Orson Scott Card

Books Read
Supreme Courtship by Christopher Buckley
Kingmaker by Alex Braguine
Shadow Puppets by Orson Scott Card


For the second year I have achieved Green Level in National Just Read More Novels Month, so as I wait for all the other winners to announce their success, here are my reviews, which I do every month, not just NaJuReMoNoMo.

I’ve been disappointed by the past couple of Chris Buckley comedies, particularly Florence of Arabia. Supreme Courtship is a return to form. The premise is that a very unpopular president after having very qualified Supreme Court nominees being rebuffed twice, nominates a television courtroom show judge to the highest bench. Said judge is sassy, smart and sexy and has ideas of her own.

The plot is a bit predictable and some of the side plots are far less interesting than the mains story. There also seems to be a huge continuity problem in the timeline of narrative. In some way, things happen way too fast and in some other ways too slow. Still, there are a lot of smart wicked asides. The inside jockeying over appointees is pointed and hilarious. The book is perhaps eight years too late for it’s maximum effect in the zeitgeist, but it makes for a fun insider romp.

I often meet an author because I’ve read their books, but I read Kingmaker because I met the author. Alex Baguine is a commenter on the Achenblog which he joined in order to flog his book (and as a frequent BlogWhore I have to admire that dedication). He stuck around and even started attending meet-ups. So when I needed another book from Amazon to get the free shipping, I went for Kingmaker.

Braguine is an ex-CIA agent and clearly has an insiders look at how that not always competent organization works. Kingmaker is set in a fictitious African country that is a composite of several dysfunctional countries. Into this mess steps, John Trager, an ex-Marine and part-time CIA operative on the run. The plot revolves around a macguffin of a mystical artifact and the power struggle for the country between the current dictator, his thuggish security chief, a Russian mercenary, and a femme fatale with her own agenda. The story never unfolds quite as you expect but the twists are always surprising but logical.

This book reminds me of all the great action spy thrillers I read as a teenager. It’s got action, cynicism, and plenty of intrigue. A good book like this should be noticed by more people.

Last month I bought Ender In Exile, a new book in the ever-growing Ender saga. Before I started it, I realized that I had never finished the Shadow saga, which told of the events during and after Ender’s Game from the perspective of Bean, Ender’s second-in-command. Shadow Puppets is third in a tetralogy which makes it very tough slogging. The overall story nearly collapses from it’s own weight as all the exposition gets rehashed in various ways.

It had been a couple of years since I had finished Shadow Of The Hegemon, the second book in the series, and all the memories of how bad that book was came flooding back. A lot of that book’s flaws continue to plague the latest episode. In a book that is supposedly full of supergeniuses, the plots and counterplots are lame and transparent. Everybody is guessing and counter-guessing each other but it all seems arbitrary and predictable. It was only in the last third of the book that the action picked up and the plot drove into forward. And while the ending had more resolution than I had expected, but it also lead into yet another storyline to resolve.

I’m a big fan of Orson Scott Card, but he keeps writing himself into corners. I hope to finish off this retelling of the Ender saga soon and see where Card goes with it next.