Friday, June 10, 2005

"the uncontrollable mystery on the bestial floor"

I so wish I could write like this. (The link is to Stuart Klawans' superb write-up of the ecstatic/enthralling/exhilarating Kings and Queen, pulling waaaaaaayyyy ahead in the Film of the Year race. Klawans, perhaps the most elegant stylist among the major film critics, deserves far more exposure than he gets, that cursed subscriber firewall over at that leftist rag at which he toils blocking widespread dissemination of his reviews. So it's a boon to find out that you can get his reviews for free at this site, which is a compedium of lefty commentary. Worth a bookmark.)


This just in! As of 15:43 PDT on Friday, June 10, 2005, the 100 point scale of criticism remains retarded. Will it continue to be retarded next month at this time? Tune in to find out.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

the geek triumphant (?!?)

Are we entering a world in which the Chess Club prez is voted homecoming king while the football team captain is forced to take his cousin to the prom?

Yes, according to the NY Daily News. One supporting piece of evidence? A reality TV show produced by Ashton Kutcher, called Beauty and the Geek. The article then reels off the exploits of Tiger Woods, David Arquette, etc., as examples of geeks winning beauties, never mind that supposed geek Tiger is actually the highest-paid athlete in the world. Since the late Nineties, I've come across at least an article every few months that claims that American culture has finally embraced the quirky sexual magneticism of geeks and nerds. Celebrities are dating them. Women's mags are extolling their virtues. The draw? If you believe this article, their attraction is the combination of financial success coupled with a lack of sexual self-confidence that make geeks less likely to cheat.

Maybe there's something to that. But that explanation simply reinforces the general tenets of evolutionary sexual selection. It shouldn't be a big shock that geeks get play: after all, geeks are the alpha males of capitalist societies. The "geeky" types that win over women are largely financially successful entrepreneurs or techies, which, according to sexual selection theory, make their "geeky" (read: socially valued) genetic traits that much more alluring for females. So part of nature's grand design is that geeks get laid.

I think the reason geek chic remains a baffling concept to some is that many people can't let go of high school categories. The insular world of high school formed our earliest and often most traumatizing social experiences, which, for many, hover over their adult lives like an albatross [1]. But a funny thing happens on the way to life: high schools hierarchies are eventually turned on their heads. When you're sixteen, jocks rule and geeks drool. But as we see from stuff like The Last Picture Show, the highlight of the jock's life in high school; the geek becomes a millionaire Google programmer, while the jock ends up an alcoholic mechanic. Who's the top dog, now, huh? Think of the most powerful people in the United States: Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Bill Clinton, Karl Rove, Alan Greenspan, William Rehnquest -- where do you think they fall on the jock/geek division? Of course our popular culture still celebrates square-jawed manhood, probably as an extension of our high school fantasies, but the reality is quite different. Geeks rule, and they've ruled for some time, as long as they're powerful and/or rich.[2] Just ask tuba player Bill Clinton.

[1] I have this theory that right-wingers are often sexually frustrated dweebs who often got picked on by party guys/girls in high school and have unconsciously spent their adult life returning fire. Imagine a young Newt Gingrich, mercilessly tarred and feathered by libertine kids and humiliated in front of his big crush Julie Thompson. Like a young Peter Parker, he vows to get even some day. Voila! A politics revolving around evil liberals and their "permissive" liberal licentiousness.

[2] Though if you're a geek without much money, power, or social skills, like nerdy film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader (whom, by the way, I once had the pleasure of urinating next to), that mysterious sexual allure is way beyond your grasp. Check out this pathetic Real Audio segment from This American Life, where Rosey tells Ira Glass the he saved a hackneyed love letter believing that maybe he's scored an admirer, only to learn later that said letter was a Dreamworks promo.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Punching bag

As is already widely blogged, today's Boston Globe reports that John Kerry's recently released war records show nothing new, except records of praise from the some of the same Swift Boat Pond Scum who mounted that despicable campaign after the Democratic Convention. So why did Kerry stonewall the press in August 2004 when releasing these records would have easily quelled the "controversy"? The official explanation is that Kerry didn't want to give the Swift Boat Liars the satisfaction of forcing Kerry's hand. My hunch is that Bob Shrum and co. focus-grouped the Swift Boat stuff, found the focus group folks saying that they dislike negative advertising and figured Kerry'd be better off sticking to the "issues", like health care tax credits, rather than prolong the this obvious bullshit. To be fair to the Kerry campaign, this strategy of sticking to the gameplan sounded legitimate at the time. They figured that the press would fact-check this stuff and dismiss it. The major papers did eviscerate the Swift Boat Liars, but that wasn't enough. What the Kerry campaign didn't figure, but should have, is that cable news and talk radio are driving political conversation, and let's just say these folks don't have much use for actual facts. So today we learned that all this time, Kerry had the H-bomb to drop on these guys, but didn't. This restraint -- or rather, this mush-headed faith in the media and the attention span/bullshit detector of the American populace -- coupled with the focus-group-tested "all positive" Democratic convention, stalled Kerry's momentum. Remember, soon after Kerry picked Edwards, Bush looked for all the world like a guy destined to lose by 100 electoral votes. The game was lost early in the third quarter, when Kerry couldn't counteract the negative spin and left himself open to the Rethug sliming at the GOP convention.

I don't think Kerry ran an awful campaign overall, but he did make some serious mistakes in the dog days of summer. It changed the complexion of the campaign, keeping Kerry in a defensive posture. That might've proved to be the difference. When will the Democrats learn that you can't negotiate with the right-wing, you just have to annihilate them?