Friday, June 28, 2002

None of my favorite liberal bloggers have yet weighed in on Bush's speech this past week. Which is a shame, because I like hearing what the other side thinks under unusual circumstances (speeches like this don't happen every day). Clearly the new policy toward Arafat and the Palestinians is unlike any the U.S. has adopted before. Michael Kelly predicts this is so momentous that Arafat could be history by this time next year. Not every one is happy with it. William F. Buckley, for one, thinks the new policy will breed more terrorism. But how come Mickey Kaus hasn't said anything about the speech per se (he gets a big hoot out of how much Colin Powell may have had to swallow in order to agree to the policy shift)? Sometimes I wonder whether it's because many liberals resist the idea that our current president may have more brains and determination than the media give him credit for. Witness Hendrik Hertzberg's latest in the New Yorker. He's very impressed by Bill Clinton's take on the issue of Homeland Security, gushes that Clinton thought of it before Bush, and sighs (not for the first time) that our former frat boy president didn't do more with his administration than his vaunted talent promised. I wonder what begrudging compliments Hertzberg will have for Bush's policy speech next week? Perhaps he'll grump something about superb speech writers....

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

Living with It Dept. Perusing an obscure French philosopher on the subject of art, I came across something that probably should have been written by Stephen King, or Barbara Kingsolver—but never was:

"Several writers have noted the feeling of discomfort experienced by the writer who carried within himself a work not yet written and which, even before it has been undertaken, 'wants to come out.' If it is ever to be born, it will not be before its term of nine months or nine years—nonum prematur in annum—after which the writer will once more find himself alone, in the solitude where he was before conceiving it. The very feeling of these solitudes sufficiently confirms the living presence so vividly experienced in between. It will be hard to convince the artist that during the years which were sometimes required for it to become viable, the work in him was nothing...."

Courtesy of Etienne Gilson. You can get lots of advice in writing books and seminars about how to write. But not often a lot of wisdom about the living with it every day....

Friday, June 21, 2002

The Atlantic is re-running (via Arts & Letters) their in-depth piece on wine critic Robert Parker. In four parts, it details how Parker has become the most influential critic in the world—by talking about wine. Parker has a widely read newsletter (with over 40,000 subscribers) and he has raised the ire of French vineyard owners (especially in Burguny and Bordeaux) who can't stand the idea that superb wine can be produced in any fashion other than their own "big business" style. It figures they look down their noses at garage-scale American wine producers. Slate, however, isn't so hot on Parker...

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

What if there was no Deep Throat? Here's Mickey Kaus today on an interesting aspect of the Washington Post under Ben Bradlee at the time of the Watergate scandal:

...something the Post's editor Ben Bradlee instinctively understood — you keep the story going, with hit after little hit, which gets people talking, which panics sources into coming forward, which gets other papers into the hunt and ultimately brings much more information to light, even if this means you occasionally get something wrong ... This virtue of Bradlee's editorship, it seems to me, is also a virtue of blogging as a form of journalism . The Web really does put a premium on speed and spontaneity over painstaking acccuracy. Bloggers instantly print what they learn, and what they believe to be true. They sometimes — often, actually — get it wrong. But even those errors prompt swift corrections that take the story asymptotically closer to the truth.

What if they were getting it wrong? By that I mean, what if Woodward and Bernstein invented Deep Throat as a way to prod and intimidate sources they wanted to come forward? Just a thought (offered by David Farrell).

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

M.J. Rose reports today that iUniverse is contacting. Layoffs announced as the print-on-demand outfit drops its corporate services. Now iUniverse publishes only individual authors. This is not surprising as more and more small publishers get into POD and as the technology for adopting it, even for small businesses, is not that expensive. Businesses are opting to do their own POD in-house and not through third-party outfits like iUniverse.

I started my first novel with iUniverse and then pulled it when I saw the growing list of outfits, such as Booklocker, that did not require authors to sign any rights away in their standard contract. Methinks iUniverse will slowly lose market share among individual authors soon as well. As for my book, I offer it as a serial on this site and look for a paperback or other POD publisher to pick it up.

I don't regret going with iUniverse initially. I got some very nice reviews and connections to A-list agents that are interested in my work in other genres and subjects now. But the sales of my book were marginal to say the least. What I definitely feel like a sucker about is spending ad money at Arts & Letters Daily to publicize the novel last summer. Not one sale.

Monday, June 17, 2002

Ever go to the movies and have to sit through two hours of a jerk in the row behind you giving hushed commentary on the background of the movie you're trying to enjoy? That's what AMC's new vaunted More Movie feature is like. Last night I tried to watch Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It was the widescreen letterboxed version, which is great. But the whole program was ruined by constant updates in the lower portion of the screen telling you about the history of the production. Who can concentrate on the movie when you're reading stuff like "Director George Roy Hill injured his back while shooting this sequence on the side of the mountain. For the next several weeks he directed from a stretcher. He begged the crew not to tell the studio for fear of being replaced."

This kind of trivia is okay when you feel like reading about movies. But having this stuff flash up on the screen while you're trying to enjoy the interplay between the Newman and Redford characters is the equivalent of the jerk in the row behind you at the theater. (I wonder who the poor schlepp is that AMC hired at $5 per hour to key all this crap in...
If you like Gin & Tonics (with lime) check out this nice little article from the London Telegraph: By way of a book review, you get a little history about where one of summer's best drinks came from.
A further thought on Sullivan's dismay: There's a Catholic girls school in my home town that a few years back had a scandal involving a male teacher who was bedding some of his students on a couch in his office. It had been going on for a long time and only reluctantly was dealt with by the liberal nuns in charge of the school.

Question: does any normal heterosexual feel threatened or intimidated by pointing out the fact that a certain sleazy type of man is attracted to working conditions such as can be found in a Catholic or other private girls' school where he can take advantage of teenagers? Of course not.

Likewise, the general population of gays should not feel that a witch hunt is in the offing because of the similar fact being exposed by the current scandal: that a certain sick kind of homosexual is attracted to seminaries and parishes where he can find young boys. I myself saw representative types at my own Catholic high school. It was no secret among my fellow students back in the 1970s that certain Jesuits on the faculty were simply to be avoided.
Andrew Sullivan uncharacteristically overreacts to Mary Ebertstadt's piece in the Weekly Standard last week. Sullivan calls her piece, the Elephant in the Sacristy a "hysterical screed." But why is it hysterical to quote Catholic liberals who clearly think that homosexuality is one of the key problems in the current Church crisis?

Eberstadt quotes Andrew Greeley, sociologist and novelist and no fan of the current pope or the bishops. Greeley: "Blatantly active homosexual priests are appointed, transferred and promoted. Lavender rectories and seminaries are tolerated. National networks of active homosexual priests (many of them administrators) are tolerated." The U.S., he went on, is "developing a substantially homosexual clergy, many of whom are blatantly part of the gay subculture."

On ABC's The Week yesterday, George Will also tried to point this out and a very visibly bothered Cokie Roberts along with Sam Donaldson just wouldn't hear of it. They also wouldn't let Will finish his sentences.

Why this touchiness? It seems that otherwise common sensical people think that any admission that homosexuality in itself has anything to do with the crisis in the Church will lead immediately to a McCarthy-style witch hunt against all homosexuals in the Church.

This is ludicrous. Anywone who's been following the Bishops in their feckless deliberations knows that they don't want to deal with the issue either. How anyone can imagine a "purge" or "backlash" against homosexuals under these conditions is mystifying.

Friday, June 14, 2002

More excellent reporting from NRO's Rod Dreher in Dallas today:

The liberal Appleby made an excellent point in his address to the bishops, saying that the crisis began, in a sense, with the 1968 papal encyclical Humanae Vitae, which forbade artificial birth control for Catholics. A large majority of American Catholics rejected the ruling, and a large majority of American bishops (and priests) declined to defend and promote the teaching. This event, Appleby said, marked the beginning of the bishops and the laity living in bad faith.

As Lawler, who agrees with Appleby on this diagnosis (if not the solution), wrote yesterday, the bishops "have, in short, 'looked the other way.' Over the years the habit has become ingrained. On one issue after another — contraception, homosexuality, abortion — bishops have developed the practice of looking the other way, papering over the gap between teaching and practice. Meanwhile, the ordinary Catholic faithful became accustomed to this mode of behavior, so that they began to view bishops as distant, abstracted figures. And so we come to today's scandal.

"Yes, the path leads back to Humanae Vitae. And we wish to address the fundamental causes of today's distress, we cannot avoid that history."

This is why anybody who thinks the Friday vote on sex-abuse policy will be the end of the matter is dreaming. The battle for the Catholic Church in America has only just begun.

News: It now looks like Boston has become the dumping ground for "artists" who can't get themselves a gig in Provincetown. My esteem for Provincetown culture went up when I read in today's Globe (Living Section) a pathetic attempt to paint an artist out of a 49-year-old bimbo who's gig is to perform cabarets in restaurants in a slinky dress while verbally abusing the customers. The woman can't get a placement in any Provincetown restaurants. So, naturally she gravitated to Boston where, as the cliche goes, the city needs her.

Here's more boilerplate from the Globe's article (no link because the Globe archives its stuff behind a subscription barrier after one day). It's written by correspondent Reilly Capps, who must be desperately starved for a real assignment:

Sure, some people don't get it. Casey's working-class roots and her Irish tongue get the best of her sometimes, and she loves to mess with the bourgeoisie. ''This is why I was put on the earth,'' she says, ''to drive these people insane.''

Her quips may get her fired from Il Bico soon enough. Even if that happens, she won't quit.

''I have to stay with it, because I can't say, `I used to be in the theater, I used to be a singer,''' Casey says.

''I could never be an ex-performer. I'd feel like a true failure. That, to me, would be heartbreaking.''

She's lingering over a now-empty glass of red wine as the last patrons file out. She'll be back at Il Bico tonight and every Friday ... assuming.

''I'm gonna give her some more chances,'' says Il Bico owner Donna Franca Franzaroli. ''I'd like to see her successful.''

Casey, who works as a yoga teacher to pay the rent, says she wants to stay in Boston, to shake things up a bit, to shock the city out of its self-satisfied stateliness. To get some blue blood boiling.

''They need me here,'' says Casey. ''They don't need me in California or in Europe. They'd get me there. They need me here. They don't know it, but they need it.''

This crap follows the most tired paradigm of entertainment journalism. That somehow, an artist whose sole marketing ploy is to garner attention by being a jerk, is really doing the local community a service with her 'honesty'. That's right: Boston, the education capital of the country, needs this half-wit to give us a lesson in what real art and entertainment is all about.

If Casey was content to do her schtick because it was fun and she enjoyed aggravating people, that would be fine. It's a free country. But the continued degradation of art in the media through the idiotic insistence that the most execrable forms of entertainment are somehow dignified by an invented 'struggle' to be honest is contemptible.

Thursday, June 13, 2002

Read National Review's Rod Dreher, who is in Dallas today and tomorrow to "cover" the bishops. Here's Dreher on two active abuse victims who want the church leaders to do more than shuffle papers:

The two men characterized the meeting as one in which the bishops wanted to talk about abusive priests, but the victims wanted to discuss the bishops who enabled and covered up for them. Isely said the victims' groups told the bishops at the meeting that they wanted "accountability," which he explained meant that any bishop or cardinal who has kept an abusive priest on the job should resign.

If the Dallas Morning News is to be believed, that would account for two-thirds of the American bishops. Nevertheless, that radical policy has been endorsed on the Dallas paper's op-ed page by Catholic conservatives William Bennett, and former National Review publisher Wick Allison. Allison went even further, calling on even the innocent bishops to resign — this, as the only way credibility in the Church's leadership can be restored.

"The best way you could live up to your ancient legacy at this moment is to surrender it," Allison wrote. "For the innocent among you, it would be a sacrifice — only the innocent can make a sacrifice — that would resound as much in this generation as the Apostles' sacrifices did in theirs."

John Ellis today on the depressing news that the insufferable Pat Buchanan will be back on the air: "We'll soon find out. According to today's New York Times, MSNBC has signed up both Buchanan and (Bill) Press to reprise a two-hour version of the old Crossfire show, beginning sometime this summer. The show will air in the mid-afternoon.

We're beyond brain dead here. The only conclusion I can draw is that the programmers at MSNBC have simply given up."

I used to like Buchanan. Until it turned out that being a journalist was apparently just a stepping stone to something more grandiose. The sight of him during the 1996 campaign, dressed like a cowboy during a campaign stop in Texas was almost as pathetic as the footage of Michael Dukakis sitting in an army tank back in 1988...

Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Michael Kelly is, as always, dead on in his June 5 column. It becomes harder and harder to express just how depressing the Church Scandal is—or rather it's handling by the very people we depend upon to preserve the institution. As Kelly points out, the bishop's new policy "is, ultimately and still, a shameful refusal to fully admit the horror of the church's moral implosion. It is—again—an attempt at ducking blame and limiting fallout for what is, in the end, a matter of institutional, not individual, corruption."

Monday, June 10, 2002

It's always fun to see how the summer box office gets going. The surprise hit, Spiderman, continues to outpace Attack of the Clones in terms of its final tally. The surprise bomb of the season so far is Jerry Bruckheimer's Bad Company (although it looked awful just from the previews.) Box Office Mojo has the ongoing dope on all the releases. Bad Company didn't even haul $11 million its opening weekend, and landed 4th.

Tuesday, June 04, 2002

Today Apple released a public beta version of QuickTime 6. I have just spent a few hours playing with it, and the new MPEG-4 File Format is superb. Not only can you now author QuickTime movies that are fully viewable in Real Player, but once Real updates its codecs to allow MPEG-4, both media formats will be completely interchangeable. Microsoft, of course, has to go its own way, and it may be that its MPEG-4 will not be compatible. But who cares? For a sneak preview of the Web's future mode of media delivery, visit Apple and download the beta version.

Monday, June 03, 2002

The Red Sox took two out of three in the Bronx this weekend. You can tell from the Times and other papers that the Yankees still don't want to take the Sox seriously, but the great Don Zimmer was more up front when he said the Sox "aren't going to go away."

This delightful snippet from the Times' baseball chat room:

"Saturday there was a bandwagon Yankee fan sitting behind us. He yelled 1918 at us, so I asked him who played SS for the Yankees before Jeter and he didn't have a clue! The section I was in was loaded with Red Sox fans, we had a good laugh at his expense.

Later on, the same guy ended up getting his butt kicked by a Boston fan. Apparently he went right up to a very big Boston fan and yelled, "Boston Sucks". The Boston fan grabbed him and told him to repeat what he said. So, the fan stupidly said the Red Sox suck. He ended up getting the crap kicked out of him. Who would have thought that in the middle of enemy territory, a Yankee fan would get his butt kicked by a Red Sox fan."