Saturday, May 21, 2005

Did You Realize?

That Steve Merloni of Law and Order: SVU fame, played the crazy vietnam veteran cafeteria cook in Wet Hot American Summer, and "Freakshow" the swinging, boil-covered gospel singer in Harold and Kumar go to WhiteCastle.

Thanks goes to my little sister for this invaluable knowledge.

Friday, May 20, 2005

In Defense of Hipsters

Q: How many hipsters does it take to change a light bulb?

A: Oh, you don't know?

I am not now nor have I ever been a hipster. I'll admit I pioneered the whole messy hair, bearded stubble, filthy jeans look back in my high school days. I still look this way, but it has nothing to do with trying to be fashionable (not that this is the look du jour anyway, but I do recall a time when people were aping my steez). But when you get right down to it, I'm fucking lazy and lacking in the most rudimentary attention to basic hygiene. I'll also admit that a few of my friends are what you might legitimately call hipsters. But me, I'm just not fashionable enough to be a real hipster. I'm also too lazy. And there's too much midwestern redneck in my blood.

On the other hand, I do have unbelievably good taste in things like music, books, and movies. And so I've watched with chagrin the rise in anti-hipster attitudes we've been seeing lately. Primarily because these anti-hipster attitudes strike me as terribly misdirected. So many people seem to hate hipsters because they are sneering elitists with superior taste, rather than for the real reasons we should hate hipsters: they're basically as stupid as everyone else, they just dress better.

Some people just need to come to terms with the uncomfortable reality that some of us are just a whole lot better than the rest of you. Expecting us not to be snobby about our superior taste is ridiculous. In fact it is fucking ridiculous. What's the point in being better than you, if I have to pretend like I'm not? I'm sure you're slightly above average at something, let's say bowling or whatever. You're proud of that aren't you? Why can't I be proud of the fact that I'm better than you in every concievable thing that matters? You need to stop being a dick about it.

Some of you, I've heard like to say things like, "oh you're clinging to some high-school sense of cool that normal people grow out of." Well, nay to that, I say. You are the one who is clinging to your high school attitudes. Your anti-hipsterism is just another manifestation of the high school ritual where the dumb kids use their numbers to direct animus at their betters. Plus ca change, as they say.

In conclusion, yes, I am going to sneer haughtily at the sitcom watching fans of the Dave Matthews band for whom Longhorn's steakhouse is a night out on the town. That is my privilege, and I've earned it as a member of an elite class of people posessing superior powers of cultural discernment. You don't have to like me, but if you're as fat and happy as you seem, you shouldn't really care now should you?

Declaring Victory in the Culture Wars

As much as I enjoy Yglesias, there are days when I have to admit, he's somewhat emblematic of what's wrong with liberalism, both past and present. Today, is one of those days. And so I might humbly suggest to Matthew that the commoners upon whom he gazes from his studious perch just might be a tad bit more libertarian than he gives them credit for.

The religious right, electoral results aside, are a very loud, but very distinct minority in this country. The majority of the populace, it seems to me, while ambivalent about abortion and homosexuals, don't really give a shit about what their neighbor is up to and they don't really give a shit about "cultural issues." If anything they approve of the coarsening of the culture, what with their desperate housewives and their Howard Sterns and their I don't know what else but I'm sure its very very dirty. They also like their taxes low and are pretty damn ambivalent about government programs. This is a fairly small "l" libertarian attitude friends.

But perhaps Yglesias can be forgiven as a free-trading liberal who's not exactly on the front lines of the clash between secular depravity and the morally upright. God knows, I've done my level best to spread depravity and amorality. And you know what? Every now and then I lift my head out of the trenches, and take a look around. And like Robert Duvall after catching a whiff of napalm in Apocalypse Now, I smell victory. How far we've come friends. When the first lady of the United States jokes about her limp-dicked husband jerking off horses, and there's no outrage, you know that the coarsening of our culture is almost complete. Can you imagine if Mamie Eisenhower had said something like that? Of course not, and not just because Eisenhower was a virile man who exuded sexual competency and a disinclination for touching horse erections. Or what about Lady Bird Johnson? She never would have said such a thing and not just because LBJ would have given her the beating of her life if she had. No, my obsequious sycophants, there was a time in this country when dignity was something to be cherished, when women and children were to be shielded from profanity, when you couldn't casually glimpse up a woman's skirt on a Sunday afternoon stroll through the park. Those times are over. And for that we can celebrate.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, there is much work left to be done. Massive gay pride parades with leather-clad men fellating each other on floats are not yet a weekly phenomenon in this nation's suburbs. Cruel and authoritarian age of consent laws still exist. Hollywood is still peddling their nefarious G-rated movies and other trash meant to speak to man's more noble instincts. We must put a stop to these things. We shall put a stop to these things. But it will require diligence and perseverence. We have come far, but there is work left to be done, so that one day our grandchildren might live our dream of living in a society where rape is but a theoretical possibility, and not a criminal reality.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

A Long Meandering Serious Meta-Post Whose Purpose is to Insult Arriana Huffington's New "Blog"

I haven't read enough political philosophy to know whether or not any legitimate political philosophers have already made these observations, so I'm just going to take credit for them, even if they're not all that profound.

Jedmunds First Law of Political Philosophy: All enduring power will eventually acquire legitimacy.

Jedmunds Second Law of Political Philosophy: Fleeting power, having acquired legitimacy, will remain powerful until another power subjugates it.

Jedmunds Third Law of Political Philosophy: Power seeks equilibrium, and the maintenance of a disequilibrium of power leads to social and political unrest and instability.

To illustrate these laws, we'll begin with man in the Hobbesian state of nature. But in our reality, in contrast to Hobbes' theoretical world, everyone is not basically equal. Power imbalances exist, and in this state of anarchy, the powerful subjugate the weak. Over time this subjugation achieves legitimacy as the leader of the marauding horde becomes the warlord becomes a monarch, and a form of feudalism develops.

The stability created by the emergence of this regime leads to the creation of markets, which leads to the emergence of the bourgeois class. The existence of the bourgeois, an enduring power, creates a situation where a disequilibrium of power exists, and in accordance with the first and second laws, over time the bourgeoisie acquires legitimacy by subjugating the monarch. This leads to the rise of the liberal democracy.

Subsequent industrialization brings the emergence of a labor class, and we'll give Marx some credit here for recognizing labor's potential for power in the form of collective action. However to the chagrin of those clinging to the notion of a Marxist utopia, the liberal democracy, while resilient at weathering the social unrest that results from this power disequilibrium, has proven remarkably flexible and adept at accommodating these new sources of power and reflecting new and changing equilibriums, or at the very least diffusing competing sources of power.

This is in contrast to the communist experiments history has seen. The fatal flaw of communism is that it demands that all of the power be put in the hands of labor and requires the maintenance of an inherent disequilibrium. This is why every Communist system has required a Stalin, a Mao, or a Castro. It is an inherently authoritarian form of government, demanding that labor subjugate all other forms of power. The maintenance of a political disequilibrium like the maintenance of disequilibrium in chemistry requires an enormous expenditure of energy, which over time proves impossible to maintain.

This brings us to the debate about blogs, their effect, and the mainstream media. I argue that most of the mainstream media's power exists almost exclusively due to Jedmunds Second Law of Political Philosophy. It has acquired legitimacy, and its continued influence derives almost solely from that legitimacy. David Brooks, Thomas Friedman, and other New York Times columnists are influential because they are New York Times columnists. They were chosen to be New York Times columnists for good reason, we can be sure, but the decision to make them New York Times columnists was not made by you or me. This is the way of the old media. Prior to blogs the "self-anointed elite" chose who we read and who influenced our opinions. But we no longer need the New York Times to tell us who to read. The printing press revolutionized literacy and education, and now blogs are revolutionizing the creative end, giving worldwide distribution to anybody. Like Louis XVI we no longer need to supplicate before "opinion leaders" whose influence is explained by a tautology.

But this is not to say that all of the mainstream media's influence is fleeting though much of it is. But the organs that survive will have their decision-making processes transformed. Opinions that will matter will come from those who have earned their place in the market, not appointed airheads like Cokie Roberts and Tim Russert who seem to have gotten their positions more by knowing the right people and less by the compellingness of their efforts. What this will ultimately look like is anybody’s guess, but perhaps we could take late 70's punk rock as a guide. This was an era that proved you didn't have to be Jimmy fucking Page or Mick Jagger to pick up a guitar and make compelling rock n' roll. Likewise you don't have to be Maureen Dowd to make snide remarks about politicians, or Larry King to make stupid observations, or Judith Miller to lie to people. But perhaps the story of punk rock gives us more despair than hope.

In that vein, if blogs are at all akin to punk rock, then the Huffington Report is our first glimpse at New Wave. I've spent some time there and it's remarkable by its complete absence of anything I like about blogs. More power to those people and their efforts, but I'm still somewhat hopeful that tomorrow's important voices will not be chosen by the rich and already powerful.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Happy Mother's Day

In celebration of my enduring Oedipal complex, and to thank all of my loyal readers who made the irrational choice to squeeze one out, I bring you some words from Russia's finest 20th century poet.


This greatest hour was hallowed and thandered
By angel's choirs; fire melted sky.
He asked his Father:"Why am I abandoned...?"
And told his Mother: "Mother, do not cry..."


Magdalena struggled, cried and moaned.
Peter sank into the stone trance...
Only there, where Mother stood alone,
None has dared cast a single glance.

--Anna Akhmatova, "The Crucifix"