Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Savaged by a Sheep?

And how was our Dear Leader received in Ireland? See here:

On the eve of his arrival the normal Irish hostility to Bush had settled at the level of a disgruntled murmur rather than an angry roar. But Bush himself turned out to be the best cheerleader--or, rather, roarleader--that anti-war activists could have hoped for: while numbers at demonstrations were only middling (10,000-plus in Dublin was the most we mustered, a small fraction of what Ronald Reagan attracted in the now-forgotten protests of 1984), the radio phone-ins and Sunday newspapers suggest a new level of bitterness toward Dubya. Boston may be the next parish west, but John Kerry must wish Ireland had its own electoral votes, because he'd sweep them in a landslide.

He also comments, rather amusingly, on the infamous interview with Carole Coleman:

Coleman is perhaps the least likely journalist to find herself in the midst of this sort of flap. ("Savaged by a sheep" is the phrase that springs to mind.) Reporting from Washington for RTE for a few years now, she's never appeared particularly interested in the place or in her work. She's the sort of foreign correspondent who is content to find her line in the local mainstream media, regurgitating wisdom about the world as seen by CNN and the Washington Post. To be sure, as the US media has found a small amount of election-year aggression, her work has reflected that, albeit faintly and soporifically. But the White House would have felt safe to assume that her 12 allotted minutes with the president--something of a tradition for the national broadcaster in the event of such a visit--would consist of softball questions about our nations' historic links, the peace process blah blah blah, stuff even Bush could handle in his sleep.

Instead, Coleman looked like she'd downed six cups of coffee to steady her nerves and launched an aggressive-if-slightly-vapid line of questions about the deadly consequences of the Iraq invasion, interrupting Bush when he waffled or wandered. Bush wagged a finger at her and interrupted her back. By the time they got to her pointed question about whether he felt he was guided by God, he finished his evasive stammerings about his "personal relationship with the Good Lord" by declaring "that doesn't make me a better person than you"--and you could tell he didn't mean it: he hated her.

Good old W, representing us abroad.

(Link found on Brian Leiter's blog.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Mommy! She's being mean to me!

Updating yesterday's post about President Bush's appearance on Irish TV: Mitch Cohen cites a story in the Irish Independent on the reaction by the White House to the interview.

THE White House has lodged a complaint with the Irish Embassy in Washington over RTE journalist Carole Coleman's interview with US President George Bush.


The Irish Independent learned last night that the White House told Ms Coleman that she interrupted the president unnecessarily and was disrespectful.

She also received a call from the White House in which she was admonished for her tone.

And it emerged last night that presidential staff suggested to Ms Coleman as she went into the interview that she ask him a question on the outfit that Taoiseach Bertie Ahern wore to the G8 summit.

Cohen also has the transcript - you can check it, and see when and where she "interrupted" him. He complains 5 times in all - and, if you watch the clip, you se at least one other time where she says something, and he just closes his eyes and waits, then goes back to his script. It's a fascinating performance. It's interesting that at least once, he interrupted her, and when he claims she's not letting him finish, in fact, he never let her finish the question. (She starts asking a question about the world being more dangerous - gives and example - he interrupts her before she finishes, and then won't let her finish.)

It's all very strange. Her tone, in fact, is politice and deferential - she asks tough questions, questions that challenge him - but you'd think he'd be able to take somethign like that. And her "interruptions" aren't terribly rude - they don't come off as rude at all. They come off as someone thinking on her feet - she asks something, he says something, she tries to follow up - he tells her to wait, and proceeds to move away from the question... Her interjections are, indeed, logical, polite - she never talks over his speechmaking - more than once, her "interruptions" come after full stops by the president....

He apparently had the questions three days in advance - he must have memorized his answers - she must have come in expecting an interview, while he expected to make a speech. That they are crying about this is extremely embarrassing. It's obvious Bush can't defend his policies in any forum where his audience is anything but passive viewers - he does not have the capacity, as a person, to have a conversation with another person - not that there are any good answers for a lot of the things he'd get called on. Change the subject on Abu Ghraib - change the subject and make stuff up on Weapons of Mass Destruction, change the subject and evade on the Palestinian issue - most of all, charge straight ahead and don't let the other guy get a word in anywhere.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Bush On Irish TV

Via Sadly, No!, a link to an interview between Bush and Irish Television, and to an excellent summary at Uppish.

It's a pretty stunning performance - how often he insults the questioner - "it would be better if you let me finish my answers..." - with that look of smug self-righteousness - then on and on he goes. At one point, in the midst of a flow of blather, the interviewer tries to ask a question, and he just closes his eyes and gives his head a little shake - then keeps charging along, with his memorized speech. Nothing new. Security, weapons of mass destruction (the interviewer says, "but we didn't find" - and he gives the "let me finish line" and puts her to sleep with his blather...), Frenchmen, the UN security council said you must disarm and you know what? he didn't disarm! Except those 7 men who met me in the oval office and....

Sorry. It's hard to take.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

John Holbo has a series of posts up about defining fiction - just the sort of thing that sets me going. This one, for example: Is Poetry a Kind of Fiction? Is it?

I don't think it's the right question. When we describe a text as poetry, we are describing a different aspect of that text than when we describe it as fiction. Calling it poetry describes how it is written, not what is written, and how what is written relates to truth. Poetry is opposed to prose, not to fiction/non-fiction. The content of a poem can be anything - it is probably possible to think of any form of writing, fiction or not fiction (novels, stories, plays, essays, history, reportage, memoirs, love letters, name it) being written as poetry, without in any way undermining its status as poetry (or anything else it might be). It is possible to write novels in verse - essays - love letters... it is possible to write those things in prose. I think that is the answer to the question, is poetry a kind of fiction? Or better - can you define poetry in terms of fiction/non-finction? Answer being no...

The harder problem, the stickier one, is defining the difference between poetry and prose - or fiction and non-fiction. It starts with this - can you define them in terms of intention? writing? or can a text be read as either poetry or prose depending? And what would be the difference? I'm not answering that tonight... though it's a game I can't help playing, however badly I play it. Meanwhile, I think there is something in the air - John Holbo points to this post by Jim Henley, musing about the definition of a poem - a couple days ago, Long Story; Short Pier pointed to the same Jim Henley post, for the same purpose - all these definitions! it has to be a sign! Sign of what?

Probably a sign that I should quote Monty Python: this whole question of the definition of poetry has seldom been so succinctly addressed as in the work of the Poet McTeagle.

"If you could see your way to lending me sixpence. I could at least buy a newspaper. That's not much to ask anyone."

If you read it as a poem - it is - isn't it? And explaining why or why not is coming close to answering the question, right?

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Geek Nostalgia

I found this link at Patrick Nielsen Hayden's Electrolite, and have to pass it on. This Wired story in praise ofMS Word 5.1. "I still consider 5.1 to be the gold standard of word processors," said Samuel Herschbein, a veteran user from Seattle. - I know that feeling. I would not stop there - I don't believe I have used a more satisfying program ever, anywhere - it does exactly what you ask it to do, it does it quick, it does it without crashing. It does almost everything I could imagine wanting it to do - it is fast, stable, it has a wealth of formatting options, plus tables, plus some DB options, it is flexible and powerful and with glossaries, almost programmable. It is completely customizable, to a degree far beyond anything else, including any subsequent version of word (why can't I assign a keystroke to "Sentence Case" any more? Huh? Tell me that?) And - oh yeah - full text searching for your entire computer. And relatively fast full text searching. Easy to use. Access to almost anything, any kind of file, on the machine...

Damn. What a thing of beauty. But here's the sad part - I still use it on my second machine, my pre-OS X mac, which still serves some purposes itself (another piece of machinery that has stood the test of time - a Mac 4400 - still working like a charm, still quick and responsive and reliable, even compared to the new ones. A great computer.) I don't use it on my new machine - why is that? First - it's not OS X compatible - even if it runs well in classic, I generally avoid classic. It does weird things that I don't want to think about. Second - what is it lacking? Alas - it is lacking one or two.

The most important - in fact, the one that is, really, decisive, is the lack of interactive spelling checking. I am a lousy typist - and lousy in small ways, usually - reversed letters, dropped letters (I spelled that "drpped" the first time) - little stuff that isn't quite completely manageable with autocorrect and the like. The red underline is my friend. And - even this isn't entirely the fault of Word 5.1 - I think the real sinner is one of the Apple upgrades - possibly to the power macs. I used to have third party software that did a lot of interactive spellchecking - and external macro products to boot. They stopped working, somewhere, maybe with the powermacs, maybe system 7 - and getting those features back proved to be enough to eventually drive me to newer versions. Somewhere - is it version 2001? One of them, was quick enough to use on my i-book. And so... Office X works fine - it's fast, it never crashes, it has the features I want. It's ironic that now, with a more than a Ghrz processor and Office X I finally have the performance I used to have on a Classic II with Word 5.1 and a couple add ins.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Mottos and Miscellany

So that's my political quota for the night. That's the theory at least. Instead, let's turn our attention briefly to the furniture, and then to more uplifting subjects. So - first, a note on the Captain Beefheart quotes - our statement of purpose: "An assortment of observations took place" - from the song, "Old Fart at Play". One does well to start with the Captain.

So what amusements can we find today? How about a William S. Burroughs Cut Up Machine? What would old Bill make Scott McClellan?

The President is going to continue vision for this country and how that we have implemented to get is growing stronger every day. New acted decisively to get our economy it growing stronger. And all you the news, and you'll see who to talk about his optimistic, positive we can build upon the policies our economy growing stronger. Our economy jobs are being created. This administration out of a recession and get have to do is look at those individuals are.

About what you'd expect, no?

What else what else what else? Slacktivist has a good series of posts up about Christian entertainment. I might try to comment on them - for now, I just point you that way.

And another of my favorite sites, Long Story; Short Pier (you could probably guess it's one of my favorite sites - it's one of only 6 on the "culture" blogroll; never fear - the list will grow, it will, yes...) has A Cavalcade of Comics Coverage! up.

That's a modest start, but it's a start.

Morning in America

Meanwhile, on Hullabaloo, Digby quotes Scott McClellan:

R. McCLELLAN: The President is going to continue to talk about his optimistic, positive vision for this country and how we can build upon the policies that we have implemented to get our economy growing stronger. Our economy is growing stronger every day. New jobs are being created. This administration acted decisively to get our economy out of a recession and get it growing stronger. And all you have to do is look at the news, and you'll see who those individuals are.

Adds Digby:

Don't Worry, be happy.

Is this is some lameass, obvious, "morning in America" bullshit, or what? The best they can come up with is some warmed over 20 year old bullshit from a dead man and it isn't even half true. Why not "chicken in every pot," it's more fitting.

It's the Reagan legacy in action.

Fair and Balanced

The 9/11 commission has released their report, and along with the news about unpreparedness, we have yet another confirmation that there were no ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda. That doesn't matter to Dick Cheney -"As recently as Monday, Cheney said in a speech that Hussein "had long-established ties with al Qaeda."" He has his defenders - Andrew Sullivan, for instance:

CHENEY VERSUS THE NYT: The vice-president's direct attack on the New York Times' portrayal of the 9/11 Commission report was a zinger. On balance, i think Cheney is right. The links between al Qaeda and Saddam may not have amounted to a formal alliance, but they existed all right, as the Commission conceded. The NYT itself reported that "The report said that despite evidence of repeated contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda in the 90's, 'they do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship.'" But if there were "repeated contacts" between al Qaeda and Iraq, how can it be true that, as the headline put it, that "Panel Finds No Qaeda-Iraq Tie"?

But I'm not sure how that matches what the Times, even, said. Just take the rest of the paragraph quoted by Sullivan:

"We have no credible evidence that Iraq and Al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States," one of the staff reports released on Wednesday said. "Bin Laden is said to have requested space to establish training camps, as well as assistance in procuring weapons, but Iraq apparently never responded." The report said that despite evidence of repeated contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda in the 90's, "they do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship."

Doesn't that say that whatever repeated contacts there were were one sided - Bin Laden trying to get Iraq involved - and Iraq turning him down? Is Cheney using Bin Laden's apparent willingness to ask Hussein for help to condemn Iraq? I don't know enough to be categorical about it, but that's what it looks like.

I think Cheney's purpose in all this is to create "debate". I find it difficult to believe, at this point, that even the Bush administration thinks Iraq had anything to do with 9/11, or even with Al Qaeda. But by trotting that stuff out they create noise - they create the impression of debate. They make it seem as is this were a difference of opinion, rather than a difference of evidence. There doesn't seem to be any evidence that Iraq and Al Qaeda cooperated, in even the loosest sense. But by continually repeating that story - evidence be damned - they keep the discussion right where it is - and since the press does not tend to call liars liars, the dispute is portrayed in Cheney says/other experts dispute terms, rather than, Cheney blows smoke.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Second Post Same as Most

Slightly more content here. The purpose of this blog is to write about what catches my interest - though leaning toward culture, history, the arts. I fear, however, that a lot of the material will end up being political - it's an election year, we are in a war - and the news and blogs I read online are definitely skewed toward politics. And blogging is linking - so - there will be politics. However, I am a decided amateur when it comes to politics - I have my opinions - some of them are pretty well informed, especially when the politics starts to slip into history - but still, they are opinions. I don't have any special knowledge or insight into politics... So I imagine most political posting I do will consist mostly of links.

Now the rest - I suppose I am no less amateur when it comes to writing about arts, culture, history and so on - but I think I have a bit better grounding in some of those things, and I tend to trust my judgment more. And - when it's not an election year, and we aren't in a war - I'm far more inclined to be thinking about movies or music, or history, or philosophy or whatever. If I weren't an amateur, I would probably be some kind of "cultural studies" pro - I tend to be more interested in the soup of culture, all the stuff going on in the world, than in any field in particular. So I declare in advance that everything is fair game. But I imagine movies, history, novels and sometimes lit crit, and sometimes comics and music will dominate the content. That is the goal anyway.

Tomorrow - real content! Links! Opinions! Dick Cheney bashing! Tonight - sleep is in order.


I am writing this to introduce this new blog. In subsequent posts I will try to note some of the things I hope to accomplish on this blog, but for now, I only wish to announce its existence. I have been playing with blogs for a year or so, but this blog is meant to be taken more seriously. I know the proof is in the pudding. Be patient, my readers, and I will try to reward your forbearance. Thank you.