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18 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
07:45 am

Death to Mickey!!

Turns out that Mickey Mouse is haraam:

As it happens, there are four Disney comic books published in the UAE and distributed by in Saudi Arabia. Here’s one called, of all things, “Mickey.”

The distributor is none other than Al-Arabiya, the Saudi-owned, UAE-based media company that competes with Al-Jazeera.

I had a fatwa issued against me once.  I always thought it was because of my human rights work.  But maybe it was because I had the same name as a cartoon character.

Hat tip:  Checkpoint Jerusalem

Comic book: Disney Comics Worldwide

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17 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
08:45 pm

Mostly Harmful

I read somewhere that during the life of Theodore Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, he refused to allow his characters to be licensed for commercial use, and turned down numerous requests to turn some of his books into musicals, movies, or television shows.  Those he did allow — most famously “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” — had to receive his approval at every stage of the process.

If you want to know why Geisel was so careful, just say the following words:  Mike Meyers is. . .The Cat in the Hat!”  It’s enough to make a grown man weep for humanity.  At some point after Geisel died, his widow ignored his wishes and started cashing in bigtime and selling his creations to well, anybody with the money.  The end result has been a pile of some of the most disgusting crimes against celluois that anyone could have imagined.

Today, another surviving spouse sold out:

Douglas Adams wrote his fifth and final Hitchhiker’s book, Mostly Harmless, 16 years ago. He died of heart failure in 2001 aged 49.  Now his widow, Jane Belson, has approved a plan by publisher Penguin to resurrect the hapless Arthur Dent in a sixth book, entitled And Another Thing…

The novel will be written by Eoin Colfer, best known for Artemis Fowl, about a teenage criminal mastermind. The series has sold more than 18 million copies. . . .  He said he was “terrified” by the prospect of creating a new Hitchhiker book almost a quarter of a century after being introduced to what he described as a “slice of satirical genius” in his late teens.  He said: “I feel more pressure to perform now than I ever have with my own books, and that is why I am bloody determined that this will be the best thing I have ever written.”

“Being given the chance to write this book is like suddenly being offered the superpower of your choice.”  Adams’s widow Belson said she was “delighted” that Colfer had agreed to the project.

I’m trying to think of the right epithet for Ms. Belson.  Perhaps the most appropriate would be Vogon Poet.

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17 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
04:45 pm

Paralympics: Helping NBC Do the Right Thing

The Paralympics ended yesterday and will return in 2012 in London.

International Paralympic Committee chief Philip Craven hailed Beijing 2008 as “the greatest Games ever” during a moving, colourful closing ceremony. . . .Craven paid tribute to “the best ever Paralympic villages, a never-ending and self-generating supply of passion and emotion, superb organisation and wonderful volunteers” in his speech.  He hailed “millions of new Paralympic sports aficionados both here in China and around the world.”

Of course, thanks to NBC, none of those “new aficionados” live in the United States.

I have a suggestion.  Let’s spend the next four years urging NBC to get their act together and broadcast this event live on one of what, by that time will be the 117 channels they own.

Mr. David Zucker
President and Chief Executive Officer
100 Universal City Plaza
Universal City, CA 91608

Dear Mr. Zucker,

We the undersigned were dismayed to discover that the NBC-Universal family chose not to televise the Paralympics in real time (live and tape-delayed rather than as a special taking place long after the event was over) in the same way that it chose to feature the Olympics.

We write you today, however, not to object to your current actions, but rather to urge you to make a different decision in 2012, when the Paralympics come to London.  he athletes competing in the Paralympics are as extraordinary as any in the world, and deserve our attention and respect.

We also think you would find them to be a tremendous ratings success.  Covering them therefore would be not only the right thing to do, it also would be the best business decision for your company.

We hope you will reconsider your decision and give Paralympics fans in this country the opportunity to support our athletes and share in their achievements.


If you’re willing to sign such a petition, please add your name and city/state to the coments section below.  And feel free to share it with others.  If we have enough interest, I’ll pass it on to NBC.  I will not share any contact information — only your name and city.

Photo:  Jonas in China via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license

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17 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
09:45 am

Additional Thoughts on David Foster Wallace

David Foster WallaceWhen the first reports of David Foster Wallace’s death hit the internet, the mainstream media clearly had no real sense of his impact or his influence.  The Washington Post, for example, called him a “nontraditional writer” and a “cult figure popular among ’90s college students.”  Other outlets described him as the author of Infinite Jest, as if that work somehow captured fully his contribution to American letters.

Fortunately, there have been a number of posts and articles since then that convey his brilliance, his important place in American letters, and — from those who knew him — his generosity of spirit.  I particularly appreciated the tribute to him at McSweeney’s — I urge you to take time to read it yourself.

I never met Wallace, but his writing captured my imagination in ways that few other authors have.  As I noted in an email to Reihan Salam thanking him for his post, I regard Wallace as Orwellian in all the best meanings of that word — precise, smart, truthful, shorn of pretense.  Or as Zadie Smith put it over at McSweeney’s,

It was the. . . purity one finds in the books: If we must say something, let’s at least only say true things.

There are very few other essayists I would put in his class — Orwell, of course, and among his contemporaries, Sarah Vowell, Nick Hornby, and perhaps Jonathan Franzen.  His essays were small polished gems, each word carefully chosen to capture a mood, a sense, a moment.

I first read Infinite Jest shortly after it came out in paperback, largely because it caught my eye in a local bookstore and I was looking for one book to take with me on a four-week trip to Africa.  I had never heard of Wallace at the point, and had no idea what I was getting myself into.  Reading that huge wonderful mess of a novel in places like Eritrea, Uganda, and Tanzania gave it a particular poignancy and resonance.  The challenges of everyday life in places like Dar es Salaam and the turbulence of the characters’ lives in the novel just seemed to go together.

I remember exactly where I was when I finished it — sitting in the living room of a friend who happened to be assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Dar.  My friend had to attend an official function, so I spent the evening reading the last few chapters and listening to the surf.  I remember how angry I was at the novel’s ending, enough so that I almost threw the damn thing across the room.  Yet I also remember raving about it to my host, and leaving it behind so she too could experience it.

In 1998, after the U.S. Embassy in Dar was bombed, my friend’s house became the interim embassy.  My friend had moved on to her next posting by then, but it felt as if a place that had been an idyll had become part of the chaos.  Infinite Jest thus took on a new meaning for me beyond its content:  a placeholder for memories whose meaning had changed over time.

When I sat down to write this, I went to my library to get A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again.  I discovered that I no longer owned a copy of it, or of any of Wallace’s other books.  Over the years, I had loaned them out to friends.  That’s what Wallace inspired in his readers — not merely a passionate devotion to his work, but an intense desire to share it with others.

I can think of no better tribute than that.

Photo:  Steve Rhodes via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license

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17 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
06:45 am

Morning Buzz: Silliness amidst the Ruins

Two hurricanes hit in the past week — Ike in Texas and Lehman Brothers in New York.  Both are deeply serious situations affecting the lives of thousands of Americans.

And yet there are those who cannot help but see an opportunity for mischief.  First New York:

Now Galveston:

Just wait until AIG fails — I’m betting we’ll see gay bears.

Hat tips:  Andrew Sullivan (bear) and Slog (dudes)

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16 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
08:20 pm

Uh, Yes We Have

Andrew Sullivan earlier today:

Tina Fey is sexist? It is not sexist to point out that the Palin candidacy is a farce. A man with her non-qualifications, long, long record of demonstrable, outright lies and utter lack of interest in foreign policy would never have been considered for the role.

I can contradict Sullivan’s thesis in three words:  George Walker Bush.

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16 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
05:45 pm

Site of the Day

The Sarah Palin baby name generator.

My new name is Steak Leather Palin, my wife’s is  Mole Valdez Palin and my daughter is now Churn Scorpion Palin.


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16 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
10:15 am

“It Was Sarah’s Turn to Bring the Juice. . .”

Hockey Moms for the Truth open a can of whoop ass on Sarah Palin:

Make sure you read the disclaimer at the end — it’s one of the best parts.

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16 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
07:45 am

Et Tu, Mitt Romney? (UPDATED)

UPDATE:   Turns out that this is from the primary season.  Thanks to reader KMD for pointing out the mistake.  I will say, however, that it goes to show that charges that McCain lies are not new.  That said, I apologize for the misleading information.

Okay, this is getting craaaaazy.  Mitt Romney — Mitt Romney! — is calling out John McCain for lying.  Mitt Romney?

Et tu, Mitte?

My guess is that Romney recognizes that a McCain victory in 2008 effectively kills his chance to be President — Sarah Palin will become the heir apparent.  Romney needs to create an environment where McCain and Palin both go down in flames as dishonest lying liars who lie.

This also may be a bit of sour grapes:  Romney swallowed his pride and sucked up to McCain in the hope/expectation that he would get the VP nod.  And instead, McCain picks that woman.  It must have really frosted him.  And now it’s payback time.

Romney is no paragon of virtue in my book.  Anyone who wants to triple the size of Guantanamo is not a person I want to see anywhere near the White House.  In war, however, you don’t choose your allies.  And if Romney wants to go on the attack, more power to him.

Hat tip:  Matthew Yglesias

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16 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
06:45 am

Morning Buzz: Music for an Economic Meltdown

The Flying Lizards, 1979.  Your love gives me such a thrill, but your love won’t pay my bills.

According to a VH1 special, the video was made for £7.  Today, that would buy you about 62 shares of Lehman Brothers stock, which closed with a value of 21 cents per share yesterday.

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15 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
07:45 pm

Department of Unintended Consequences

Looks like Palin outdrew McCain today.

Roughly three quarters of the 16,000-seat Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena was empty when McCain took the stage with his wife, Cindy. The empty spots were littered with dozens of signs prepared in advance–the hand-painted ones meant to look like supporter-made signs but were actually made by campaign staffers. Among the discarded, untouched signs: “We (heart) Todd” and “The Winning Team McCain Palin.”

To be sure, the unofficial crowd estimate of 3,500 is much larger than many of the events McCain held over the summer. But it is a far cry from the more than 15,000 that have shown up at joint McCain-Palin appearances both before and after the Republican National Convention.


Oh man, that’s just priceless.

That, my friends, is karma we can believe in.

UPDATE:  Ambinder is reporting via Twitter that McCain will rejoin Palin (not the other way around) on Wednesday.  Heh.

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15 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
12:45 pm

The Future of Music in China

Former Ministry/Public Image Ltd./Killing Joke drummer Martin Atkins went to China in 2006 to meet and record the next generation of Chinese musicians.  The result is Sixteen Days in China.  Here’s the trailer:

My favorite line:  “He’s such a good scratcher, he should have leprosy.”  Heh.

Atkins believes that what’s happening in China now is not unlike the London punk scene circa 1977 and New York’s new wave circa 1980:

The backdrop is different, but the immersion, the focus on just the music and attitude feels like a definite ripple from those times. It doesn’t feel strategized in a careerist way. The guys in D-22, who now have a label called Maybe Mars, and their venue reminded me of the vibe of CBGBs. . . .I think a natural process is underway. One of the reasons I mentioned New York in 1980 and London in 1977 is that both of those places and times seemed to be on another planet to me. . . . I thought I was going to get shot in Times Square while eating pizza. Whether that was true or not, it certainly adrenalized our activities and adrenalin opens up the pathways.

You can find more on the documentary, including the full interview with Atkins, here.  I can’t wait to watch the whole thing.

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15 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
09:45 am

McCain: Whatever. It. Takes.

In a number of previous posts, particularly back in July, I suggested that McCain’s campaign had been taken over by Steve Schmidt and a bunch of other Rovians, that he was now letting the very people who smeared him back in 2000 run his campaign.  I wondered how he could be in bed with such people.

Then something I read during the latest kerfuffle around his campaign’s lies got me thinking about a passage in Christopher Buckley’s most recent novel, Boomsday.  One of the main characters is Randolph K. Jepperson, who is loosely modeled on John Kerry.  There is one scene early in the book, which takes place after Jepperson has lost his first run for the Senate, that reminds me of the McCain we’re seeing now:

[After the defeat, p]eople around Randoph K. Jepperson remarked on the change that came over him.  He went into what is usually called “seclusion,” with no movie-star girlfriend or ex-rocker’s wife.  When he emerged, he had a look in his eyes that one staffer called “kinda spooky.”

On his first day back in Congress, he fired everyone in his office. . . . He replaced his loyal staff with the equivalent of Capitol Hill mercenaries.  He lured away seasoned pros from other congressional offices, paying above-standard salaries.  He hired expensive lobbyists and operatives from K Street; trade association sharks and hired guns; legislative dogs of war.  By the time his restaffing was complete, his office colleagues were referring to his office as “the Death Star.”

When Randy called Terry several weeks after his defeat, Terry assumed it was to fire him, too.  But instead, in a voice that Terry also thought kinda spooky, “Next time we win.  Whatever. It. Takes.”

Sound familiar?  John McCain concluded after the 2000 race that all politicians are mean and nasty, and that if he wanted to win, he had to be meaner, nastier, and faster.  Think of it as a perversion of the OODA loop:

The OODA loop (for Observe, Orient, Decide and Act) is a concept applied. . . .at [the] strategic level in both the military and commercial operations. . . . [D]ecision-making occurs in a recurring cycle of observe-orient-decide-act. An entity (either an individual or an organization) that can process this cycle quickly, observing and reacting to unfolding events more rapidly than an opponent, can thereby “get inside” the opponent’s decision cycle and gain a military or business advantage.

That pretty much describes McCain’s strategy right now.

So the problem isn’t that John McCain is surrounded by Rovians.  The problem is that he has become the Rovian-in-Chief.

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15 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
07:45 am

Another Day, Another Bad Frame

Here’s a memo the Obama campaign sent out yesterday:

To: Press Corps
From: Obama Campaign
Re: Unraveling the myth of the Straight Talk Express

Since naming Governor Palin as their Vice Presidential nominee, the McCain campaign has distorted, distracted, and outright lied to the American people about her record in a desperate attempt to hide the fact that a McCain/Palin Administration would be nothing more than a continuation of the failed Bush policies of the last eight years.

Indeed, today alone we learned that the McCain campaign’s claim that Governor Palin traveled to Iraq is a lie. In fact, she didn’t cross the Kuwait border. We learned that the McCain campaign is desperate enough to tell the press phony crowd numbers, which they falsely attributed to local elected officials and the United States Secret Service.  And we learned that despite Senator McCain’s claim that Governor Palin is a fiscal conservative, spending actually increased during her brief tenure as Governor.

Here are the facts. Governor Palin supported the Bridge to Nowhere, requested hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarks, never visited Iraq, increased spending as governor, increased taxes as governor, and was about as successful selling that luxury jet on eBay as the McCain campaign has been selling her reputation as a reformer. Oh yeah, and the gas pipeline she touts won’t be usable for at least a decade, if it’s completed at all.

While the media is slowly starting to call the McCain campaign on their dishonest tactics, McCain’s staff boasts that they don’t care. As a McCain spokesman told the Politico, “We’re running a campaign to win. And we’re not too concerned about what the media filter tries to say about it.”

In other words, McCain is lying PALIN PALIN PALIN PALIN.

That is not the message people.  This is exactly what McCain wants you to do.

Repeat after me:  McCain is a liar.  McCain is dishonorable.  McCain will do anything to get elected.

Stick to the main topic here.  Palin’s lies are merely a secondary distraction.  Ignore her, or at the very least separate her from your main argument.

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15 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
06:45 am

Morning Buzz: Creepiest. Action. Figure. Ever

Offered without comment:

The “Sarah Palin School Girl Action Figure,” from “Herobuilders.”

So why, exactly, did they think it necessary to dress her up as a porno-style schoolgirl?  Blech.

Okay, so maybe I did comment, but you have to admit this is both creepy and appalling.

By the way, she’s also available in “Action Figure” and “Super Action Hero” versions.

Among their other models are “Beach Blanket Obama” (seriously), John McCain, Elliot Spitzer, and John Edwards.  They also have Pez dispensers and plush dolls.  But no Joe Biden figure.

All they’re missing are the bobbleheads.  Something tells me that those are coming soon.

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14 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
05:55 pm

The Hillary and Sarah Show

In case you missed last night’s SNL:

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14 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
02:24 pm

T-Shirt of the Day

From T-Shirt Insurgency:

Here’s the blurb that goes with it:

You gotta admit, it’s kinda strange how your mom hates freedom.  I mean, freedom is awesome and this is the freest country in the world.  You always feel so free here.  Like when you get out of college with $48,000 in debt, and you know you’re not at all enslaved by that debt because you’re free, ’cause this is America.


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13 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
10:17 pm

Tragic News

Just two days ago, I linked to and reprinted a phenomenal essay on September 11 written for The Atlantic about a year ago by David Foster Wallace, the noted novelist and essayist.   Today comes the very sad news that he died.

David Foster Wallace, the novelist, essayist and humorist best known for his 1996 [novel] Infinite Jest, was found dead last night at his home in Claremont, according to the Claremont Police Department. He was 46.  Jackie Morales, a records clerk at the Claremont Police Department, said Wallace’s wife called police at 9:30 p.m. Friday saying she had returned home to find her husband had hanged himself.

If you have not done so, make sure you read Infinite Jest. It is not the easiest novel to read — a huge chunk of it, including key plot developments, is written in footnotes to the main text, and I hated the ending — but there are few better — and funnier — critiques of contemporary American culture and the coming decline of American power.

A great loss, not just for letters, but also for everyone who is willing to think critically about those things that our leaders want us to ignore.

If you missed it the other day, you can find the essay after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

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13 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
05:30 pm

Flag Pins and Double Standards

If the mendacity of many conservatives was not enough to turn your stomach, let me share the following tidbit with you.

Remember the so-called flag pin “controversy”?  Barack Obama was supposedly un-American because he didn’t wear a flag pin.  Here’s what Conservatardia Conservapedia has to say about the matter:

Obama’s campaign has been financed largely by leftist donors opposed to the war and to the American military in general. Obama has encouraged this by refusing to wear the customary flag on his lapel during appearances (asserting that he would prefer his patriotism to be represented through his actions rather than an arbitrary symbol) and by other less-than-patriotic gestures and symbols, such as declining to put his hand over his heart during a patriotic recitation.

And they’re not the only ones to fan this particular flame.  If you do a search on The Googles for “Barack Obama” and “flag pin,” you get 198,000 hits.  Here’s a 2007 clip from Fox featuring the always execrable Ann Coulter suggesting that “liberals. . .just hate the flag,” and some guy named Stephen Johnson saying that Obama not wearing a pin suggests he is “embarrassed by the conduct of this nation.”  Charlie Gibson even asked him about it during a debate, for crying out loud.

To this day, there are still people who cite this nonsense as a reason not to support Obama.

Funny thing is, neither John McCain or Sarah Palin wear it either.  I took a few screenshots recently to demonstrate my point.  First, here’s McCain during his acceptance speech:

Here he is on “The View” yesterday:

Nope, no flag pin there.  McCain has said in speeches that he doesn’t always wear one.  T

Now here’s Sarah Palin during the Thursday night portion of her interview with Charlie Gibson:

Oh. My. God.

It’s worse than we thought.  Sarah Palin isn’t just not wearing an American flag.  She’s wearing a white flag pin.  Communist!  Eurotrash!  Liberal!  Moose eating surrender monkey!

In fact, she is wearing a Blue Star Mothers’ Service Pin, a custom dating to the Second World War.  Traditionally worn by the mothers of servicemembers in combat, today it can be worn by anyone who has a child or relative in the armed forces.

I’m going to give Senator McCain and Governor Palin the benefit of the doubt on this one.  Too bad the wingnuts won’t do the same for Barack Obama.

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13 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
02:51 pm

Cool Map of the Day

This picture appears in an old acreditation fo...As I’ve said before, I’m a huge George Orwell fan, and have been avidly reading his diary, which the Orwell Prize is publishing, day-by-day, as a blog (today, for example, includes his initial observations of Morocco, where he would spend the next six months writing Coming up for Air.

Now they’ve added a Google Map showing where he was each day, with a brief annotation on what Orwell was doing at each point.  Here’s a screenshot:

If you’re as geeked out as I am about all things Orwell, you’re going to love this.

Image:  Public domain, via Wikipedia

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