g r o t t o 1 1

Peeve Farm
Breeding peeves for show, not just to keep as pets
Brian Tiemann
Silicon ValleyNew York-based purveyor of a confusing mixture of Apple punditry, political bile, and sports car rentals.

btman at grotto11 dot com

Read These Too:

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James Lileks
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As the Apple Turns
Entropicana
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Capitalist Lion
Red Letter Day
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Corsair the Rational Pirate
.clue
Ravishing Light
Rosenblog
Cartago Delenda Est



Cars without compromise.





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Sunday, March 28, 2004
12:40 - The dominoes begin to fall
http://www.spymac.com/forums/showthread.php?threadid=69700

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J Greely sends this link, wherein what appears to be the untimely demise of BuyMusic.com is discussed.

According to an e-mail sent to prior customers of BuyMusic.com (link intentionally left out), the online store will become "integrated" with its parent site, Buy.com, within several days. What this means to the fate of what was once called "The World’s Largest Download Music Store" is unclear.

Launched before iTunes for Windows, BuyMusic.com initially expected to sell one million songs per day – or 200 to 300 in the first year – according to estimates by founder and CEO Scott Blum. When re-interviewed in December, Blum offered no statistics, but did say, "We’re nowhere near Apple’s numbers."

Remember, this is the company whose initial ad campaign featured Tommy Lee of Motley Crüe leaping on stage, grabbing Apple's iTunes-logo guitar, and smashing it to pieces. I can therefore say without guilt, "Good riddance, you bitter, vindictive dot-com-brained and-then-a-miracle-occurs morons."

Maybe we should start a Death Watch for Napster, the Coca-Cola music store, and the other pretenders to the throne. Because unless and until Microsoft launches their own service, which they can fund through sales of Windows and Office the way they do all their other money-losing departments like MSN and the Xbox, iTunes (which is supported through iPod sales) won't have any real competitors.

Saturday, March 27, 2004
22:27 - Oh, God, I needed that...
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/afp/20040327/pl_afp/britain_us_vote_k

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Via LGF comes this story of a French "culture consultant" whose advice to John Kerry is: quit acting so French.

The subtext being, of course, Act like you're as stupid and provincial as those pathetic American plebeians, if you want their <sniff> "vote".

“Kerry’s trouble is that he is simply not the common man,” Clotaire Rapaille, who’s been contacted by Kerry’s campaign team for advice, told the Sunday Telegraph newspaper.

In the wake of the US-led war on Iraq, which France opposed, the Democratic hopeful’s command of the French language, plus his background in France and Switzerland, could be a real liability among US voters, he said.

“Forget the French connection,” he advised.

“The French are thinkers — ‘I think, therefore I am’. Americans want somebody who is going to take action. All this association of Kerry with thinking too much and nuance and five-sentence answers is off-code.”

He added: “American culture is an adolescent culture... In America, you have to be the common man, be able to make people think you are the common man.”

Rapaille, author of the forthcoming book “Archetypes of the President,” specializes in psychoanalysing cultures. His expertise is sought out by major US corporations, and he’s often interviewed in US media on mass culture.

Besides dropping the French connection, Rapaille suggested that Kerry take fewer holidays, start giving “one word or two” answers to questions — and do something about his wardrobe.

“Go to K-Mart, buy jeans and cowboy boots... Dress like you are going into a bar in Kansas to drink from the bottle,” he said.

I cannot wait to see him try it. What is this, My Fair Lady in reverse? C'mon, Mr. Kerry, try it again: the tacos and tobacco fall mainly in Waco...

My God, the condescension and the scorn. I guess I should applaud the guy for concluding that being French isn't quite the answer to all solutions, but I'm not-- because it's clear what his preferred solution would be here: Americans should stop acting so American.

Too little, too late, and too frickin' transparent.

I'm only just now getting my laughter under control.

Friday, March 26, 2004
16:19 - "Like lips and teeth"
http://www.nationalreview.com/interrogatory/timmerman200403220851.asp

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I wonder how much of this is true, or what credentials Kenneth Timmerman has.

If even some of it holds water, this is pretty damning stuff. The whole thing needs a read, but here are some favorite bits:

NRO: It seems "cool" these days for right-of-center Americans to French-bash: Hasn't it gone a little too far? Aren't you just adding to the lifespan of "freedom fries" with a book about a "betrayal?"

Timmerman: It's a serious matter when the leaders of a country such as France show by their actions that they are willing to jettison a friendship with America that goes back 225 years in favor of a dictator such as Saddam Hussein, whose claim to fame includes the massacre of some 300,000 of his own people. And yet, that is precisely what French president Jacques Chirac and his foreign minister Dominique de Villepin have done. They have shown that they were willing to exchange exclusive oil deals with Saddam, and political payoffs, for the French alliance with America.

NRO: Did Chirac actually lie to President Bush before the Iraq war?

Timmerman: Yes, and this is why the president and Secretary of State Powell were so taken aback when foreign minister Dominique de Villepin pulled the rug out from under United Nations negotiations on January 20, 2003, by announcing, apparently out of the blue, that France would never ever agree to using force against Saddam Hussein.

Before the first U.N. vote in early November 2002 (actually, it was the 17th U.N. resolution condemning Saddam and calling on him to voluntarily disarm or suffer the consequences, which included his forceful ouster), Jacques Chirac picked up the phone and called President Bush at the White House, personally reassuring him that France "would be with" us at the U.N. and in Iraq. To demonstrate his intentions, he said, he was sending one of his top generals to Tampa, Florida, to work out the details with U.S. Central Command leaders for integrating French troops into a Coalition force to oust Saddam.

"Chirac's assurances are what gave the president the confidence to keep sending Colin Powell back to the U.N.," one source who was privy to Chirac's phone call to Bush told me. "They also explain why the administration has been going after the French so aggressively ever since. They lied."

That, it should be noted, is what a lie is. A lie is not when you take years-in-planning action based in part on the near-certainty of widely held, non-partisan intelligence information that later turns out to have been faulty. A lie is when you deliberately attempt to trick someone into doing something because you secretly oppose them and favor their adversary.

NRO: You accuse France of actually encouraging genocide — it seems like an outrageous charge.

Timmerman: It's a very specific charge, made by Hoshyar Zebari, who is now the Iraqi foreign minister. Zebari was referring to the massacre of the Marsh Arabs who used to live in the Howeiza marshes along the southern border between Iran and Iraq. In the mid-1990s, at the urging of the French, who worried about sending their oil engineers into the area, Saddam drained the marshes — an area the size of the state of Delaware — turning the rich, fertile homeland of this ancient people into a dust bowl. Then he sent in the Republican Guards, massacring thousands of civilians. Why? To make the area safe for French oil engineers and French oil workers.

NRO: You say in your new book that the Iraq war was, in fact, all about oil.

Timmerman: The war in Iraq was indeed a war for oil — waged by the French, not the United States. The Chirac government was desperate to maintain its exclusive — and outrageously exploitative — oil contracts with Saddam's regime, which would have earned the French an estimated $100 billion during the first seven years of operations, according to experts I interviewed for my book. My worry today is that a Kerry administration would back the French, who continue to assert that these contracts are legally binding on the new Iraqi government. That would be a travesty and a dishonor to all those Iraqis who died under Saddam.

ELF was always the biggest developer of the Iraqi oil fields, not Shell or Exxon, and certainly not Bush's small Texas-based concerns.

I don't have the link (I can't find it, damn my eyes and my browser), but one of the Richard Clarke stories is about how on September 12, an agitated Bush grabbed him and several top advisors by the lapels, dragged them into a conference room, and demanded that they investigate whether Saddam were behind the attacks. Clarke tried to refuse, to say sight unseen that it was al Qaeda unassisted, as though he could have known that; but Bush insisted, testily. "Find out if Saddam did this," he said. "Just look into it."

My reaction was this: Gee, that sure sounds like a guy thinking, Oh boy, now I can go invade Iraq and take their oil! Thank God for those hijackers! ...Doesn't it?

NRO: What are French motivations when dealing with these regimes — purely economic?

Timmerman: Contracts are certainly very important. Americans need to remember that France is not a free-market economy, as we still are (despite the efforts of Hillary Rodham Clinton to nationalize the U.S. health-care industry!). When French businessmen go abroad, they often travel in delegations led by the prime minister, or the foreign minister, or some other top official. The French government gets involved not just in opening doors, but in negotiating contracts. Often, these contracts have involved substantial kickbacks to French political parties. Even today, French companies can declare as an expense on their income-tax declaration the bribes and commissions they pay to foreign agents. This was banned in the United States in the 1970s under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. This is one of the reasons the French like to do business with dictators. In a free and fair market, their companies can't always compete.

Ouch. Yuck.

There's more, and it's good-- especially the Moussaoui stuff. Again, Timmerman is only credited as a "NYT best-selling author" and "investigative reporter", which puts him about on a credibility level with Michael Moore. But if any of what he's saying here is true, well...

Via Kevin.


10:15 - Free (Software) Iraq!
http://freedomtechnologycenter.org/events/

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Looks like I've got me some homework today.

"We need all kinds of computer books."
-- Ashraf T. Hasson, founder, Linux Users Group of Iraq

Donate an extra copy of a good computer book to help Linux and free software education in Iraq. You bring the books, and we'll ship them! Money donations are also welcome. Thanks to our sponsor BookCrossing for supporting the event.

I hope Iraqis are okay with FreeBSD... hee hee.


10:08 - How big a rifle round do you use for a "character"?

(top)
I've been staying out of the whole Richard Clarke thing, because I know I can count on others to do a much better job of covering all the relevant details as soon as they're brought to light.

Lileks, for instance.

You wouldn’t know from today’s paper that he’d said these things. You would have only read an allusion to a “tape,” with no explication.

Why?

Probably this is why:



And MoveOn.org is still gleefully sending out urgently worded e-mails to its members:

As you may have heard, Richard Clarke, a former counter-terrorism advisor to Bush, and a registered Republican who has worked in every administration since Reagan, has exposed Bush's mishandling of 9/11 and the war on Iraq. In his book "Against All Enemies," Clarke does an amazing job of presenting the facts and connecting the dots. Instead of refuting Clarke's claims, the Bush Administration has launched a campaign of character assassination, hoping that the story will just go away.

We're committed to stopping that from happening by making sure that the American public hears Clarke's extraordinary comments. If we can raise $300,000 in the next few days, we can run a hard-hitting ad nationally that highlights his message.

Boy, I can't wait to see that little gem.

Whatever it takes, eh? To hear some people tell it, Bush is a greater threat to America than bin Laden ever was. And I've got to admit, if the only impressions of him that a person gets flow as hearsay from the quavering voices and rattling fingers of people who would be totally at home marching in the streets under giant papier-mâché oil barrels, it's pretty hard to get a good impression of the man. Normally I'd be able to trust the news media to give me an accurate representation of things, but these days-- perversely-- I feel like the news media is the enemy of the truth. Not because I disagree with it, but because it's so easily and repeatedly contradicted by facts, facts it should have-- if it had any legitimate claim at all to either impartiality or a commitment to reporting the whole story-- placed front and center, no matter what it might mean politically.

That's why blogs form such an unreasonably large portion of my diet lately: it's not that they provide me with discourse that I can count on not to say things I disagree with; that's a non-zero ingredient, but certainly not the only thing. It's because how else would we hear stuff like this?
"WE WANT DEMOCRACY LIKE THE OTHERS:" Here's some more evidence that the freeing of Iraq is sending ripples across the Arab world, to the discomfort of despots:

Kurdish residents claim the government responded to what they call peaceful protests with violence as an excuse to say Syria remains too unstable to introduce the kind of democratic reforms that are helping their brethren in Iraq.

"We want democracy like the others," said Hoshiar Abdelrahman, another young shopkeeper in Malikiya, 60 miles east of Qamishliye.

More here:

Many of those present had relatives and friends in northern Syria and were in cell-phone contact with them hour by hour. In and around the city of Kamishli, in the past few days, several dozen Kurdish protesters have been shot down by Baathist police and militia for raising the Kurdish flag and for destroying pictures and statues of the weak-chinned hereditary ruler, Bashar al-Assad. In tussling with local party goons who shout slogans in favor of the ousted Saddam, it is clear, they are hoping for a rerun of regime change.

It is early to pronounce, but this event seems certain to be remembered as the beginning of the end of the long-petrified Syrian status quo. The Kurdish population of Syria is not as large, in proportion, as its cousinly equivalent in Iraq. But there are many features of the Syrian Baath regime that make it more vulnerable than Saddam Hussein's. Saddam based his terrifying rule on a minority of a minority—the Tikriti clan of the Sunni. Assad, like his father, is a member of the Alawite confessional minority, which in the wider Arab world is a very small group indeed. Syria has large populations of Sunni, Druze, and Armenians, and the Alawite elite has stayed in power by playing off minorities against minorities. It is in a weak position to rally the rest of society against any identifiable "enemy within," lest by doing so it call attention to its own tenuous position.

And that's not all:

In Syria, and tomorrow in Iran, there are forces at work who intend to take these pronouncements with absolute seriousness. It would be nice if American liberals came out more forcefully and demanded that the administration live up to its own rhetoric on the question.

Yes, the Administration shouldn't chicken out now. The dominoes are teetering, and we should be giving them a shove.

Yes, those are links to big-media articles; but that's a function of blogs too: to scrape together crucial scraps of information that otherwise would get buried. It's not like you hear ongoing coverage on the evening news about Syria and Iran agitating for democracy, or people pointing out just how unequivocally Libya's surrender of its weapons programs and the cracking open of the Pakistan-based nuclear black market are tied directly to the fall of Saddam.

In short, Bush's plan is working. Or it's doing an excellent impression of working.

That, and the complete lack of logic (to say nothing of taste) exhibited by those who attack him out of what can only be mob-guided reflex action, make it hard for me to want to join in the chanting.

I'm attracted to sanity. Could be a character flaw, and maybe that means it'll get assassinated too. But what can I say? I'm helpless to resist.

It'll all end in tears, I'm sure of it...

Wednesday, March 24, 2004
00:04 - Ill-Advised Marketing Campaigns 101

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I'm sure I'm not the only one who holds the opinion that the recent KFC ad, in which the woman keeps telling her bewildered husband that the chicken strips she's eating are really "kitchen strips", is one of the worst, dumbest pieces of marketing ever. (The idea apparently being that the word "kitchen" conjures up images of fresh tastiness in a way that "chicken" never could, and she just can't help spoonerizing it into her speech.)

Okay, so Kentucky Fried Chicken wants to be known henceforth as Kitchen Fresh Chicken, presumably to foster a health-conscious image for their deep-batter-fried chicken products; fine. Whatever.

But kitchen strips doesn't sound like a food. It sounds like a cleaning product.

UPDATE: Greg Kihn on KFOX Thursday morning told the story of how PETA is now handing out buckets of blood to kids in front of KFC restaurants, to protest the fact that KFC, uh, serves chicken.

My e-mail to him:

I wonder if PETA has a problem with shiploads of thousands of sheep and goats being imported to, say, Mecca, for the ritual animal sacrifice at the Hajj.

I wonder if they plan to make vegetarians out of the people of Central Asia, China, Latin America, and Africa.

No?

KFC's an easy target because it's in a country where people won't fight back, where they'll capitulate to terrorists (yes, PETA are terrorists) if it's politically correct to do so.
Then again...


22:46 - They'll let just anybody have a blog these days
http://blog.zmag.org/ttt/

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Via Tim Blair, here's Noam Chomsky's new blog. Joy! The landscape of digital discourse can now at last be called complete!

I wonder who'd be laughing if you showed this excerpt to, say, some Iraqis:

People in the more civilized sectors of the world (what we call "the third world," or the "developing countries") often burst out laughing when they witness an election in which the choices are two men from very wealthy families with plenty of clout in the very narrow political system, who went to the same elite university and even joined the same secret society to be socialized into the manners and attitudes of the rulers, and who are able to participate in the election because they have massive funding from highly concentrated sectors of unaccountable power that cast over society the shadow called "politics," as John Dewey put it.

I've never been so proud to have turned down that acceptance letter from MIT.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004
18:52 - Everything you know is wrong...
http://www.victorhanson.com/

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...Black is white, up is down, and short is long.

The world has changed. What was once liberal is now illiberal, and the old progressivism has become mean-spirited and opportunistic. What was once idealistic is seen as calculating. When I read about the “Jews” now, it is almost always negative and emanates either from the European left or the so-called liberal university here in the United States. Israel, still democratic and still attacked by autocracies, is now hated rather than respected, not for what it has done, but for what it is. The world snored, for example, this week when suicide bombers were foiled in their attempts at getting at a chemical weapons dump so that they might once more gas Jews. Neither Kofi Annan nor Desmond Tutu, for all their recent media appearances, said a word when Palestinians apologized for murdering a jogger in Jerusalem on the mistaken impression that the poor Arab was a “Jew.”

When I turn on the TV and see some wild-eyed crazy-like public figure ranting, it is not a John Bircher frothing about pure drinking water and statesmen of dual loyalties, but prominent Democratic politicians like an Al Gore or Howard Dean screaming to the point of exhaustion, alluding to the end of America as we have known it, and citing a “betrayal” of the United States. Secret meetings, stealthy friendships, and contorted past relationships—the purported exegesis of all this intrigue and plotting now comes out on NPR and in the New York Review of Books, not garish 1950 pulp newspapers printed in pink.

. . .

I don't know quite how they did it, but the Democrats' candidate looks as at home snowboarding at a ritzy ski resort as George Bush does at a NASCAR rally. And when I hear anti-Semitism, hatred of Israel, warning about Jews in government, fury about foreign aid, visceral hatred and rude exclamations, sinister conspiracy theories, and racial separatism it usually has come far more often from someone on the Left than Right and from one educated and affluent rather than poor and ignorant.

That's Victor Davis Hanson, of course (via LGF). And he's right, you know.


13:23 - 90s Post-Mortem
http://www.mdcbowen.org/cobb/archives/001755.html

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Michael Bowen has a long, crunchy analysis of what The Nineties were all about. Very well worth reading.

Missing from the things he lists: fascination with any particular foreign entity (none of the 80s' obsessions with Japan or Australia); religion (the 90s were the time when religion officially became something you didn't discuss in polite company); war (the 90s were our vacation from worrying about global politics, and even things like Kosovo we couldn't get excited about). It was a very introverted decade, one where we spent time streamlining our lives, discovering new things to do with our free time and new ways to attain more of it (which usually ended up in our having less of it, but more money). It was the decade when politics became personal, when the President became just One of the Guys, in a ballcap, eating pork rinds on the couch, who just happened to run a country in his spare time-- and whose personal life thus became the whole country's business. America emerged from the 90s on September 10, 2001 a totally different nation from when it left the Reagan era under the auspices of Alternative Rock and Wayne's World. In some ways we'd grown up; in others, we'd grown down.

Hopefully we're done with that phase. Nowadays it's time to get down to business.

Monday, March 22, 2004
01:26 - Mr. Lucas, take note
http://homepage.mac.com/jscct/.Movies/iPodrace_FINAL_480.mov

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This (via Tom F.) is superbly done... not least because it illustrates so vividly just how ridiculously dumb an idea the whole "pod race" thing was.



This is more entertaining than all of Episode I. And you know... the iPod is a better marketing success than even the video game around which the movie was written.


22:10 - The Price of Likeability

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Whenever some friend acquires his first Mac, and comes up to me with a wary and guarded sort of half-smirking, half-hunted sneer on his face (which is quite a trick), asking me to show him the ropes and get him started off right, I feel as though I've been put in a certain unusual kind of position. No longer am I the Macolyte zealot frothing at the mouth and waving my signs trying to convert the heathen. Now I'm the guy who has to put his money where his mouth is. The friend wants me now to prove to him that his multi-thousand-dollar purchase, made in part on my recommendation, was not in fact a foolish move. It's put up or shut up time, and I'd better deliver.

So what do I do? I'll tell you what I don't do: I don't start out down a long and sanctimonious tourist trail of reasons why the Mac is so great. I don't point out all the stupidities of Windows and where the Mac excels them. I don't. Why not? It would seem this is the optimum time to do so: a captive audience, and better yet, a receptive one, just aching to hear that he's made the right decision.

But that's not what I do. Instead, I feel an odd compulsion: a desire to steer attention away from the finer points of Mac OS X, and instead direct every eye front and center to the flaws, the omissions, the things the friend will have difficulty doing on this new, minority platform. I'd best get them out of the way, you see. Best point them all out, so he discovers them now, while I'm watching. Better that than have him stumble across them two weeks from now, after he's left for a semester at the University of Hawaii, and there's no calling me in for a quick lunch appointment to figure out why the machine won't shut down or how you get all those windows back that suddenly scooted off the screen when you brushed your finger accidentally across the top of the keyboard.

I do this because I want the Mac-- and me, by extension-- to be liked.

Perverse, isn't it? It doesn't make much sense in this context. But that's what goes through my mind. Prove to him how much I and my convictions suck, my brain says, and he'll thank me for it. Just like being able to say "I was wrong", the ability to be self-effacing-- to deride one's own circumstances and very being-- has become a central part of how a lot of us view polite social interaction. We're not supposed to be proud of ourselves, self-esteem-building child psychiatrists notwithstanding. We're supposed to mock ourselves and everything we stand for. That way everyone will like us, and we'll have got their guard down, and they'll feel sympathy for our causes and stand with us after all.

Because winning hearts and minds through positive memes, you see, is gauche, jingoistic, simplistic, fascistic.

I found myself wondering, on the way home, as I was thinking about the previous post about the Canadian Muslims agitating for the North American Caliphate, what kinds of social trends might lead to this sort of thing happening, and I arrived at the notion that it's happening in places where being self-effacing has taken on such a cachet that it paralyzes the whole nation into indifference.

"Maybe even shari'a would be better than what we have now," goes the grumble on the street from those citizens helplessly watching the phenomenon unfold before them.

There's a song by the Canadian group Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie, called The Toronto Song:

I hate the SkyDome and the CN Tower too;
I hate Nathan Philips Square and the Ontario Zoo!
The rent's too high,
The air's unclean,
The beaches are dirty,
And the people are mean!
And the women are big and the men are dumb
And the children are loopy 'cause they live in a slum!
The water is polluted and the mayor's a dork!
They dress real bad and they think they're New York...
In Toronto . . . !
Ontario . . . oh-oh!

"You know . . . now that I think about it, I pretty much hate all of Ontario!"
"Yeah! Me too!"

And it goes on. It's a ditty tossed off with such glib, cheery sincerity that you can't help but feel that it flows from a deep, deep wellspring of despair that underlies Canadian pop culture: a sense of futility, indifference, helplessness, grim commitment to a grand (well, not really) vision (well, not really) of future being that, all things considered, really isn't all that exciting. It's to the point where the only raw, honest expressions of Canadian national pride come from beer commercials, and most of what's left is founded in bitter disillusionment at being in America's shadow.

I have a friend in Toronto who tells me that he used to just hate Conservatives. Now he hates Liberals and Conservatives alike. Personally I don't find that all that much of an improvement.

Looking at the photo down there, of the guy carrying the WE WANT THE KILAFAH sign, my immediate reaction is something along the lines of Look, man, you're in CANADA-- one of the great bastions of modern Western Civilization. Instead of adhering to your insular tribal interests and seeking to change the society into which you've implanted yourself from outside, why not try to discover what it is that the traditional values of your host nation might have to offer you? Why not identify as a CANADIAN, instead of as a Muslim? ...But a lot of what I've seen in Toronto tells me that there aren't many on the sidewalks who would be willing to tell him that to his face. They're not that thrilled with their own set of achievements; they're not flush with pride at what they themselves bring to the table. They feel guilty over sharing the American culture of McDonald's and Wal-Mart and Nike, and their pop art reflects a desire to reject it if only they could. They're not about to get behind trying to foist it upon others, upon people who have seen fit to immigrate and bring fresh blood into the populace. Much better to just let 'em have whatever they desire to keep them comfortable, keep them in-house. This is no time to be alienating anybody.

Even if they do have al Qaeda sympathizers in their midst.

I'm not just picking on Canada, either. This is just an example. I'm looking at all the nations where this kind of pessimism seems to have taken root, this idea that Western Civilization maybe ain't all it's cracked up to be, this unwillingness to plant a foot and speak out for what's good and what's worth fighting for. The poll that shows that more Iraqis are optimistic about their country's future than Germans are about theirs really plucked a few dissonant chords-- it throws into stark relief something we've known for some time, but that only rarely gets attention: that there's a divide in this world now not between capitalist and communist countries, but between optimistic and pessimistic ones. There are the countries newly emerged from behind the Iron Curtain, like Poland and Romania and the Baltic states, their people increasingly happy, believing in their societies and their nations, willing to project their own views of what life should be elsewhere and beyond their borders; and then there are the Old Europe countries, the ones whose days of Empire are long past, and whose post-monarchic dreams of democracy have faded into a hazy senescence of socialism: France, Germany, Britain, Canada. It's small wonder, really, why the countries that didn't send troops to Iraq made that choice: they think Iraq's better off without the West's meddling fingers. What good has the West done, anyway?

On Dean Esmay's blog a few days ago, there was a discussion of "The Nineties"-- what defined the decade? Commenter Mark Hasty contributed the following sentence:

The 90s were the time when rock & roll ceased being primarily about love and sex, and began being primarily about alienation and pain.

Exactly. And rock probably isn't the only place where this has happened: the Nineties may well have been the volta in history where the West, collectively and fundamentally, shifted to a negative attitude from a positive one. Optimism gave way to pessimism. Idealism gave way to cynical practicality. The Berlin Wall fell, and left in its place were malaise and ennui and nihilism and boredom and angst.

A shameful legacy for the children of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, the inheritors of Payne and Lincoln and Churchill, to bear, it seems to me.

Is negativity to be the defining hallmark of the 21st century? Is Kurt Cobain going to turn out after all to be the desultory messenger of our culture's demise, just like the reactionaries all said at the time? Are we supposed to join the formerly great nations of the world in pessimism and nostalgia for a glory long past, and docilely quit the world stage in favor of someone who can show some backbone and some fire in the belly? If the Islamists have one thing we don't, it's the courage of their convictions; nobody's telling them their Golden Age isn't in the future. Yeah, they're yearning for the fourteenth century, but they want it back-- they're not preaching understanding and multicultural tolerance, they're loaded for bear and they're on the hunt. Just like we were once upon a time.

So I have to say to Canada: have some frickin' pride in your country and your heritage! Tell the old stories without lampooning them. Cheer for Western culture without adding a rueful postscript about how awful the Golden Arches are. And France-- you too, buddy. Come on-- you used to be cool. Germany-- c'mon, I thought we were past this Goth-teenager phase of yours. Yeah, you screwed up in the past, but it's not the end of the world. We've moved on; can't you? And England... jolly old England, home of Shakespeare and John Donne and Newton, of towns called "Okeford Fitzpaine" and people called "Sir Reginald Aylmer Ranfulry Plunkett-Ernel-Erle-Drax", where the name "Finsbury Park" didn't always mean something sinister to LGFers and whence so very much of what Americans identify as their own folk culture fundamentally springs, stand up! Not everything about the days of the redcoats and the tall shakos deserves to be banished to the dustbin of history just because we all hate the idea of Empire so very very much now.

And I don't excuse America either. Have we become so jaded that we're at risk of falling into the same inward spiral as the rest of the West? Is even the American perpetual-motion machine of innovation and industry and wealth unprecedented in human history not immune to the sickly seductive gravitation of self-doubt, self-loathing, and collective guilt? Have even we lost the will to fight? Has the spark left us, too?

What we need, very simply, is a resurgence of positivity. There's no need to wallow in engineered angst, to be unable to look ourselves in the eye in the mirror except as tragic anti-heroes in a black comedy. The longer we insist upon seeing only the evil that the West does, even if it means shoveling off whole mountains of good in order to find it, the weaker we make ourselves and the less stomach we actually have for the fight in which we find ourselves. Now, if that positivity means our pop culture has to simplify itself, to revert to the shallow primary colors of the 50s-- well, does it really? I think we can stand to lose a few onion-layers of self-parody and self-referential mockery that makes up so much of our consumer lifestyles today, and the underlying vibrancy won't suffer. And if it means adding more layers of irony and indirection until it all collapses upon itself under its own weight-- if, for example, we have to go through the logical evolution of Space Ghost Coast to Coast before we can have Superman again-- well, so be it. We can do it. We're not out of ideas yet.

Being liked isn't the only thing there is in the world. Being passive and submissive, teaching our children to play with shields but not with swords, is no way to preserve our heritage of whose merits we only occasionally now mouth bland nothings. We can stand to be a little arrogant. We can take being a little disliked. Because that's what drives us. It's what's always driven us. The Renaissance didn't happen because the Ottomans and the European crowns ruled jointly in a pan-global socialist paradise, after all. And you know-- being disliked but privately envied is better than being loved but privately scorned.

The West isn't exhausted. We've been taking a breather for the past ten years, but now it's time to get up.

Back into the ring.


18:31 - Why is stuff like this never a joke?
http://news.scotsman.com/topics.cfm?tid=609&id=329952004

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Via Mike Silverman: further proof that our future will be bland, tasteless, humorless, frail, and spent cowering in fear for our lives, just like once upon a time we had the stones to declare we would never deign to live:

HE WEIGHS in at somewhere in excess of 17 stone, has suffered several heart attacks and undergone triple heart bypass surgery. With his protruding belly, addiction to doughnuts and Duff beer and his fear of any form of physical exercise, Homer Simpson is nobody’s idea of a figure of good health.

Unfortunately, the message appears to have gone over the heads of the health police. They want him to change, cut down on the fatty snacks and eat some pasta. It’s not going to go down well with the Atkins people, but they appear to be serious.

A team of researchers from New Jersey’s Rutgers University ploughed through 63 episodes of the hit cartoon show to analyse what sort of a health message it was sending out. Failing to see the joke, they were unimpressed.

"Fats, sweets and alcohol, particularly beer, doughnuts and salty/fatty/snacks accounted for 52 per cent of all foods eaten in this programme," their report said. "Homer was also portrayed eating food more often (he alone accounted for 21 per cent of all actions showing food being eaten) and ate greater quantities than other characters."
AAAAAUUUUUUUGGGGGHHHHH!

Make it stop...


18:20 - The Mecha of Mecca
http://www.somethingawful.com/articles.php?a=2047

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Here's something that's pretty refreshing. SomethingAwful's Zack Parsons has put up his own colon-cleansing take on recent al Qaeda machinations, and it's stress-relieving. I mean it.

Al-Qaeda is no longer the fresh hotness. In fact, Al-Qaeda never was the fresh hotness. So they blew up the World Trade Center and killed three thousand people in one day. Yeah, that was shocking, mostly thanks to television news. Do you know who else killed three thousand people in one day? Just about everyone. In fact, as wars go, killing three thousand people in a single day is not exactly an epic accomplishment. During World War II the US and England firebombed Dresden and killed (according to some sources) over 200,000 people over a three day period, and we were the GOOD GUYS. Let me slow that down and run that by you again Al-Qaeda, we firebombed the refugee filled city of Dresden killing hundreds of thousands of people and history still recognizes the United States as one of the good guys.

Do you know why? Because we were better than the alternative. Do you know what's not better than the alternative? You.

The article gets a bit wishy-washy toward the end (Parsons seems to become engulfed in a flood of moral-equivalence-inducing sneer fluid that compels him to register at least a token bat at Christianity and Bush), but it's not bad. The remainder of the thing is tart and honest and not at all polluted with rectal-cranial-inversion syndrome. In other words, at least you don't have to worry that SomethingAwful is entirely in the hands of people who would have spent this past weekend on Market Street or Hollywood & Vine chanting "Death to America".

That being a real live concern these days makes me want to hit something very hard.

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© Brian Tiemann