Wednesday, October 01, 2003

5 random thoughts +1

1. What Rush Limbaugh said is delusional, wingbat nonsense, but it isn't "racist." Even in their zeal to condemn the Big Fat Idiot, it's good to see that some sportswriters are able to make the correct distinctions. But it's equally gratifying to see ESPN getting burned on their moronic football/Rush synergy plan.

2. Wesley Clark correctly diagnosed the present administration's central problem -- governing entirely by ideological instead of pragmatic considerations -- in a must-read interview with Josh Marshall. This, coupled with the C-SPAN broadcast of a New Hamshire Town Hall meeting during which the General shows almost a Clintonesque smoothness and rapport with the voters, I'm about one step from hopping on the bandwagon. Not only can this guy win, more importantly, he looks like he'd make a damn good prez.

3. Radiohead @ Hollywood Bowl, September 25, 2003. Can anyone think of another "big" band that has moved in such a radically new direction in such a short period? One can argue the Beatles, of course, but I'd say the Fab Four simply "matured" between Help! and Revolver -- underneath their newfound lyrical and musical sophistication were still melodic, verse-chorus-verse "I lost that girl" rock songs. Radiohead's show, which mixes in simple acoustic numbers from their earlier albums with the densely textured, sprawling prog-rock electronica of Kid A and their new album, Hail to the Thief (more melodic and hooky than its immediate predecessors) makes for a strange mix, like a dub tape full of music culled from only two different bands.

Still, a kickass show. Thom Yorke really pours his soul into his wailing tapestries, and their set, with carefully choreographed horizontal light beams, coupled with the band's dark, disembodied, alienating soundscape, evokes the mood you might feel if you're listening to this music in a space ship headed for Pluto with no return ticket. It's a kind of indescribable melancholia that pinches at the edges of genuine emotion. (Okay, so that last part was total bullshit, but gimme credit for trying, okay?) Second encore ends the show on a crowdpleasing high, with crisp renditions of faves "Karma Police" (this song is so awesome) and "Everything in Its Right Place". Bonus: no "Creep".

4. Baseball Playoffs predictions. AL: Red Sox in 4. Yanks in 5. NL: Cubs in 4. Giants in 5.

5. Marc Chagall @ SFMOMA. With fairy tales and the naive-child aesthetic on the pop culture upsurge, it's no wonder Chagall should be making a comeback. His art, with their unfinished crayonesque texture and their fantasy milieu, look like illustrations from children's books, if his willfully unrealistic proportions and sophisticated allegories didn't make much of his art so baffling and difficult to unpack. Most modernists ran away from "meaning" and symbolism. This guy included a bunch of floating goats and roosters in his paintings. What gives?

A concurrent SFMOMA exhibit, Reagan Louie's pics of Asian sex trade workers, is interesting but unfocused. Lighting his subjects in a hyper-real manner and typically framing a prostitute frontally against a garish backdrop, Louie sought to take a detached, unjudgmental view of the Asian prostitutes. It worked in some of his photos, where the toll the sex trade has taken on the subject is without editorial comment. In others, there's an artful stylization that's poorly judged, adding emphasis when none is needed. The worst are shots that look like stills from a Wong Kar-wai film, highly stylized but entirely wrong for the subject.

Lastly, I'm devouring every last detail of this Plame-leak scandal. Track all the tawdry details and spin here and here. An outrageous scandal, and finally one that's seems to have a chance to stick. (The Post is really kicking ass on this one.) It's also the best issue I've seen that tests whether your favorite conservative is principled or just another nakedly partisan hack. This dude shows himself to be among the former. This page, not surprising, belongs in the latter group.

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Bush Hating Addendum

Esteemed neocon pundit David Brooks, the NY Times op-ed's newest hire, today blasts Bush Hating, even quoting Jonanthan Chait's column at length to support his idea of virulent Anti-Bushism as the most pernicious kind of liberal self-delusion. Nice try, except Brooks completely missed the point of Chait's column. (See Chait's rebuttal here.) Chait's piece, more than anything, is an honest attempt at self-analysis. The starting point is: "why do I harbor these emotions, and are they justified?" You may disagree with Chait's conclusions, but it's hard to argue that honest self-analysis isn't a good thing -- at least intellectually (politically, liberals' tendency toward self-analysis and self-criticism is one reason why they tend to cannibalize one another). Isn't self-analysis -- or at least reflection -- what Brooks is demanding from liberals? Too bad self-analysis has become a foreign activity for right-wingers, where intellectual honesty has been in very short supply. But a whole cottage industry has sprung up to identify and mock right-wing hypocrisy -- an easy exercise, that -- so let's leave that one alone.