Tuesday, October 27, 2009


So, people pay $225 a pop to hear W tell them that popularity is fleeting (especially if you're an unprinciopled bungler like W). And Dick Cheney pops off about Obama "dithering" in Afghanistan, though he and W had about seven years to clean that mess up and couldn't be bothered. And even Condi "Nobody Could Have Predicted" Rice is apparently still in demand as speaker in some circles.

It seems to me that somebody at the top of the Administration should circulate as talking point something like this: "In retrospect, it daily becomes more clear that the Bush administration was a perfect storm of incompetence and dishonesty, arrogance and malevolence. So why should anyone listen to their advice about anything?"

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Strategy Twins

Had Dick Cheney and George Bush not made the Hitlerian error of opening up a second front in a war we might otherwise have won easily, we might well have greater peace in the Middle East, a budget surplus, a rested and ready military, and the wherewithal to address the many pressing problems facing us. Instead we have deepening quagmires in both Irag and Afghanistan. Still various people seem to think that we need to listen to five-time draft-evader Cheney on the subject of war strategy. This might be mostly because Custer was unavailable.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Emperor of Kitsch

Glenn Beck is living proof that the driving passion of hatemongering assholes is kitsch. He recently went on another one of his crying jags, this time grieving for the loss of the simpler time and with anticipation of the tough love "Dad" is going to have to inflict on the chirren of America because they went to a pot and beer party they shouldn't have (not kidding here -- this is the metaphor he tearfully hyperextends). And now it's time to atone, according to Glenn -- and it's gonna really really hurt.

Christ Almighty. Every day the man sets a new world record for assholery -- and Rupert Murdoch is paying him millions to do so.

Among the many weird elements in this segment are the video nuggets he uses to emblemize the Golden Age of Pure Simplicity for which he sobs: two old commercials. Beck replays the old Coke commercial where a little white boy (what? no speckled puppy? no red wagon?) give his Coke to Ed "Too Tall" Jones eliciting a smile from the giant black football player. This doubtless touches the Beck's racist-shithead heart because it conjures a harmonious universe where 'we all get along' and yet it also encapsulates his Klansman's fantasy -- black folk jus' happy to be entertaining us and also happy with whatever trivial crap the whites are kind enough to toss them.

Then Beck cues up the tiresome Paul Anka song "Remember the Times of Your Life" (which might better be as jingle of anti-Alzheimer's elixir) and explains how it was a tag written for a Kodak commercial "and that commercial became so iconic that he went back and wrote the whole song" (Funny, I seem to remember most of the iconic stuff from them days, and I don't remember any such commercials.) and then we get to watch Beck watch some old home movies "from U-Tube" (or so he claims) and these, lo and behold!, do contain speckled puppy and red wagon. Holy Shit -- he went there.

Then Beck tells us, his voice cracking with emotion, "America has never been a perfect place... But we used to be united, we used to be united on some basic things. If a politician told you right now that he could make that happen again, that you could go back to those simpler times when people were together, you'd do it in a heartbeat, wouldn't you?"

Well Glenn, no, I wouldn't. I'd reach for my wallet and make sure it was still there because I'd know that anyone espousing a simpler time when people were together was a charlatan or delusional and probably both. There's a name for people nostalgic for a simpler superior past: fascist. What you call people who find the proof of that imgained past in carefully confabulated marketing stratagems I'm not quite sure, unless of course it's fascist assholes.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Antiques Roadshow "Leonardo"

I'm not really an expert on the subject, but as it happens, here in the Ministry of Elegance I do speak to many of the world's leading experts on Italian painting (usually it's to ask if they have a taxi recepit for their expense-claim or something equally scintillating), and, as it happens, several of the world's most eminent experts have floated by my desk in the several days since the "new Leonardo" was announced to the world. So I raised my eyes from the expense reports and asked them directly. None of them seemed to take the claim (which apparently is not very new -- indeed a packet on the picture floated through here over a year ago) at all seriously. There was some eye-rolling and mild disparagement of "the fingerprint man." None of these experts was eager to speak publicly about the picture (as is the wont of such experts) for fear of being embroiled in pointless unprofessional controversy, or worse -- much, much worse -- litigation.

It is a pretty picture, and it does seem to have been composed by someone quite familiar with Leonardo's drawings. But one of the experts said straightaway, "It's too pretty." And this seems correct to me. Again, I'm no expert, but I do, in the course of my work, look at this stuff daily, and to my eye Leonardo paints beautiful women, not pretty ones. I see why some think this picture is 19th century; it looks more Pre-Raphaelite than Renaissance.

I see too, from the comments in the rather good version of the story at Daily Kos, that some people are really taken with the Antiques Roadshow aspect of the scoop; they really like the idea that some one can buy something for X and have it turn out to be worth 100, 000 X. Here at the Ministry we get letters all the time from people convinced they have done something similar, and asking, do we want to buy the Leonardo (Titian, Raphael, Picasso etc) they bought at a yard sale. This, I think, is what drives this story: it's just so, as the Germans say, märchenhaft.

In this rare instance I feel that I have a small direct, debunking window into the news. Today's Express (subway version of the Wa Po) summed it up this way, "Technical, stylistic and material composition evidence had experst believing that had found a da Vinci as early as last year. The discovery of the fingerprint now has them convinced." But I note that these "experts" don't include anybody from the Louvre, the National Galleries of England or the United States, nobody from the Uffizi, the Prado, the Hermitage, and so on. They don't seem to even include anybody with a name or anybody who would call a painting by the author of La Gioconda " a Leonardo" -- as scholars of the period do.

Now it's true, even real, named experts speaking on the record are sometimes wrong and it will certainly be interesting if they are in this case. But I wouldn't bet the rent.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Other White Meat

With all due apologies to Jonathan Swift, seeing as how fat babies cannot be insured these days, maybe the best thing is to roast them up with some fava beans, wash them down with a good chianti. I'll bet that, given a yummy new marketing name, and substituted for beef, bambino would save us a lot on greenhouse gas emissions.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Booby Prize

As for the Nobel Awarded today to the First Jellyfish: many have noted that when your predecessors were admitted war criminals you're bound to look unnaturally good, by contrast. It's kind of an optical illusion. Let's just hope Obama doesn't become convinced that he's actually done something.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Ode to the Odious

I see not a revealer but
the Jim Jones sort of black-hole soul
which must suck others into its influence
and otherwise is only its own implosion.
It must feed its need free beings
whom it subsumes into its vampire mass.
The more it has, the more it has to have;
its black gravity grows asymptotically
towards absolute impaction.
It would drown out the howl
of its black-hole heart with the hosannas
of its victims, an atom of its blackness
lodged, a ticking malignancy,
in the brain, the spine, the mind
of each needy believer.