As some of you have noticed, the site has been experiencing intermittent availability issues over the past many months. I’ve been working with our hosting company to try to find and fix the problem(s) – but they’ve proven themselves to be feckless, yet earnest.
So please be aware that we may be experiencing some hiccups over the next few days/week as I’m going to be working under the hood to see about picking up and moving to a different hosting company. I’m hoping the move will be seamless, but I have always had a curse upon me – to always be plagued only by errors and bugs inexplicable, and never by anything run-of-the-mill.
I’ll report back with news, should there be any. Wish me luck. :-|
This post seems to draw people to the site and generate comments even years after the fact, so I might as well follow it up by commenting on the series Hannibal. Also, yes, I am deliberately writing more on pop culture since politics is so damn boring at the moment.
I think the show’s great. I really do. I hope this is correct and it gets a full or at least another partial season. The show is more in the Manhunter/Silence of the Lambs tradition than the later and less successful films, where it’s a story about a person, rather than a story about Hannibal. I like Hugh Dancy’s Will Graham, he’s a little less internal than William Petersen’s, but projects the same kind of wounded vulnerability. And Mads Mikklesen’s Lecter is restrained and utterly top-notch. Certainly a more interesting Hannibal than Hopkins’s version, more in line with Bryan Cox’s interpretation. Really, it does feel a lot like Manhunter in the best ways, with an appropriately updated style and all.
What’s surprising about the series so far is that it’s actually succeeding in making Hannibal Lecter an interesting, deeper character than he ever has been (in the movies). They’ve actually made him capable of surprise again! The series has played coy with its advertisements and such, and it doles out information about the character only as necessary. I’m not entirely sure where along the line he is in his journey to cannibalism and complete alienation from humanity, but he’s not quite there yet, and quite often the show surprises me by having him do something, then you wonder why he did that, and then ultimately it’s revealed in a way that makes sense and defies expectations. It’s ever-so offbeat, and this is highly appreciated by me. Bryan Fuller’s accomplishment here is distinctive, but most impressive is that he’s actually made a version of Hannibal that could probably carry a show. I am happy though that it’s still Will Graham’s show, as I fear that a Hannibal-centric series would be inevitably soulless, and having a Graham or a Clarice figure really is essential to making the thing work.
Matt Yglesias’s wide-angle take on the Star Trek franchise is great, even if his rankings contain serious deficiencies. But I won’t get into that. I agree entirely with his belief that a new TV show is the best option for the future, and in terms of the economics and business approach, as well as the creative latitude. It’s sort of an ironic turnaround. The movies with the original cast allowed for a lot more variety in terms of the kinds of stories that were told. Just check out this home-made chart, comparing the first six movies with the original crew, and the second six (the four TNG films, and the two by JJ Abrams to date):
Admittedly, this chart is a little propagandistic. Simply having the same elements doesn’t mean you automatically tell the same stories. First Contact was also about revenge, and a threat to destroy earth, and had one main villain for the crew to defeat. However, that movie was redeemed by the ingenious twist of making the vengeance Picard’s, rather than the Borg Queen’s. This made it a movie about the psychological battle going on within Picard’s mind, rather than a pedestrian plot to stop an unambiguously evil supervillain bent on destruction (though, admittedly, every movie in the second sextet aside from First Contact has this very story, with the most modest of variations between them). And obviously there are quibbles: Chang from The Undiscovered Country could be counted as a main villain, though I see the cross-species conspiracy of hawks to be the villain of that film, and Chang is merely their muscle. Also, trying to accomplish specific political goals is different from the mad ambition of, say, a Khan, who is uninterested in doing anything other than indulging his own grief and anger at Kirk.
But nonetheless, I think this chart does say a lot. For one thing, it’s not fair to blame J.J. Abrams alone for the problems with Trek movies, those started even before his Felicity days. If anything, he’s found a better way of combining all those elements so that they’re more entertaining to watch, even if he can’t payoff anything to save his life, such that every movie he’s ever made has had a shitty climax. In the first six movies, pretty much every movie represented a change in tone, theme and content from what came before. The only two that really resemble each other are The Wrath of Khan and The Undiscovered Country, i.e. II and VI, which happened to have the same writer-director and thus a lot of the same preoccupations, such as aging. But even in that case, the aging theme was updated and developed. Khan was a movie about adapting to middle age, while Country was about adapting to old age. That’s moving the ball forward, not stagnating. And it told a different kind of story: Country was all about politics, and Khan was not. But other than that, about half the movies kept the spirit of the show alive by often centering around dealing with different kinds of life from us, and all featured at least some sort of moral or ethical dilemma. Admittedly, some of those were more sophisticated than others. Also interesting to note that the two original cast movies with main villains and the two in which Earth was threatened were not the same movies. The more recent half-dozen, on the other hand, present the audience with a simple moral situation where it’s not even a question of who’s right or wrong, and then it’s all about taking out the bad guy. Really, it just makes a person appreciate First Contact more and more–problematic as the script to that movie was, it fundamentally told a human story, one that made some logical sense and was pretty compelling, and presented us with at least some kind of challenging questions about our characters. I doubt we’ll ever see its like again.
I continue to think that there’s no deeper scandal on Benghazi and that the IRS issue is not really something I’m inclined to worry about as it wasn’t national policy, the AP scandal is something that is very worrisome as it clearly was national policy and exposes one of the more disgraceful areas of the Administration’s national security policy. But it’s hardly inexplicable. Secrecy is an excellent way of cementing power, if people don’t know about it, then it can’t hurt you. Both LBJ and Nixon were well aware of this fact. Preventing leaks is the sort of thing you just expect powerful people to do, regardless of party, and that Obama used to strongly champion transparency (I remember that!) back when he was a Senator is hardly shocking since that’s what you’d expect someone outside the executive apparatus to do. However. My philosophy is that leaks are something we shouldn’t be worried about, since there’s no right to privacy when it comes to government activities, and if it’s going to look bad on the front page of the New York Times then you shouldn’t be doing it, Mr. President. This goes double for national security stuff. If it really is impossible to conduct a presidency in the modern age absent massive secrecy, prosecution of whistleblowers, imprisonment of leakers and so on, then we probably ought to rethink the role of the military-industrial complex and the GWOT so that it is possible to do so, as we have entered an area where democracy is threatened by the nature of our institutions. In 2009 I probably wouldn’t have believed in the premise of that statement, but increasingly I think I do.
Incidentally, I don’t entirely agree with this. It’s true that Watergate didn’t permanently damage the Republican Party, or even hurt it for a very long time. But it made permanent the notion that government is corrupt/hopelessly flawed/can’t do anything right that definitely helped the right wing gain ascendance. The thought experiment to use here is this: had Hubert Humphrey won in 1968 and served two terms as president, with an administration that ended Vietnam promptly and was reasonably transparent, honest and accountable (and signed large stacks of progressive legislation), would the public have regarded the abuses of Lyndon Johnson as an aberration? I strongly believe the answer to that is yes. Instead, with Nixon, it all became just part of the equation, to the extent the president is the most visible symbol of government, it became in the public mind a corrupt government. Nixon dwarfed LBJ in fact, since Nixon lied even more about Vietnam than Johnson had, executed Watergate and had to resign to avoid getting kicked out of office and maybe even criminally prosecuted (LBJ had merely declined to run for another term). Before Watergate, it was at least possible that the longstanding American idea of trusting the government might have survived. Watergate ensured it wouldn’t. Of course, none of this is particularly germane to the current moment, the stakes are very different. This isn’t a crisis moment for liberalism so far as I can tell. It could be a crisis moment for Barack Obama, I guess we’ll have to see.
I actually think this is wrong. The IRS scandal is probably not going to give much of an additional boost to the GOP in 2014. I just don’t see it. When you have nearly half of the Republican Party ready for armed revolution (should it be necessary, of course) and a similar percentage who sees Barack Obama as the antichrist, where can you really go? How much less esteem can they really have for the guy? How much more of a turnout factor can they get? Republicans have an automatic advantage for midterms anyway because their base is composed more of people who are inclined to vote/the ability to vote without hassle/can take off work to do so without losing a job. I can’t be certain of this, but I’m reasonably sure that any gain from any one scandal will be minimal–this “validates” rightwing paranoia inasmuch as everything does, and they’re always finding “proof” for their theories anyway. This one is a bit more dangerous because it’s real and because the MSM is likely to push it, but the result likely won’t be much different.
In fact, I’m convinced that we’re living in a post-scandal world for the most part, within and without politics (but especially when it comes to politics). The scandal fixation among the press is obsolete, frankly. Since the ’70s and ’80s, political polarization has become an immutable fact of life, one of the few areas left where Americans are allowed to be proudly, unrepentantly tribalistic (sports team rooting is another). In both of these areas, this tendency is taken to silly extremes, but if you basically assume that people are tribal creatures and that our society gives very little space for expression of this fact, it kind of makes sense. Back in the Good Old Days*, all manner of racial, religious, ethnic, gender, and sexual orientation tribal hooks were considered more or less fair game. Now, none of that is acceptable in polite society, only in the realm of dog whistles. And let’s not act as though tribalism is entirely a right-wing phenomenon–though it does appear stronger there due to unending pseudopopulist appeal from talk radio and FOX News–in fact, a lot of liberal tribal identifiers from long ago have not really aged as poorly, as it’s still quite acceptable to reduce large parts of the country as being as ignorant and religiously fanatical as Republican politicians tend to be, while this is an exaggeration of a more complicated picture. In any event, my point is that if you accentuate these tribal instincts–and conservative attempts to do so will wind up working both ways–you come into a place where loyalty to parties and leaders essentially become cultural attitudes and aren’t really porous to things like scandals. Dubya held onto his base for his entire time in office, though he lost literally everyone outside of it due to utter incompetence in nearly every conceivable domain. Obama is not going to lose much from a scandal that doesn’t even go all the way to the top of the IRS, probably just some low-info types who aren’t likely to vote in a midterm anywhere. Really, short of a double-dip, there’s no reason to be especially worried.
*For White Men
I swear to motherf’ing jeebus that the Obama administration STILL THINKS that he will someday win over some Republican dead-enders. How else do you explain the DOJ appealing a Judge’s order that Plan B be made available to girls of all ages without a prescription?
In December 2011, Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, blocked a decision by the F.D.A. that would have allowed morning-after contraceptive pills to be distributed to young teenagers over the counter. She said there was not enough data to show that the drug would be safe for girls as young as 11 years old. Instead, over-the-counter access was limited to girls and women aged 17 or older.
In his ruling last month overturning Ms. Sebelius’s decision, Judge Korman was highly critical of the Obama administration, saying it had put politics over science and health. In that ruling, he called Ms. Sebelius’s action “politically motivated, scientifically unjustified and contrary to agency precedent.”
Last week, the F.D.A. agreed to allow the sale of the drug to girls 15 and over, even as the administration sought to appeal Judge Korman’s earlier ruling.
Judge Korman said that move by the F.D.A. was an attempt to “sugarcoat this appeal of yours,” according to The A.P. He also suggested that the administration’s decision to appeal his ruling could have dire consequences for young women. When a Justice Department lawyer asserted that a delay of Judge Korman’s order was in the public interest, the judge replied, according to The A.P., “Is there a public interest in unwanted pregnancies … that can often result in abortions?”
Can we please get a real liberal in the White House sometime in the next 100 years who doesn’t continue to buy into the unicorns-and-puppydogs notion that Republicans will ever stop calling him Hitler? Please??
- Library Grape: More Hannibal, Please
- Library Grape: Let Them Eat Cat Food: Santorum Calls For Americans To Suffer More
- vegasjessie: Dangerous Fundamentalism: The Taliban and the American Tealiban
- Political Analytical – Insight and Analysis on Politics and Reason: Mike’s Blog Round Up
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- Sullivan Bait
- Why Libertarian Self-Regulation Doesn't Work
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- Why do we have political parties?
- Logic? How Does That Work?
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