Saturday, August 09, 2008

The Great Awakening


Wow.

I sit here struggling for words to describe how eye-opening the Opening Ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics were to me.

I struggle not for the impression the ceremonies made on me, I can write volumes on the artistry. Nor do I struggle for words on how the ceremonies showed me what China will become in the very near future.

What I'm struggling with, what I realize now, is my deep naivete about what China has been: a distant, secret place, whose image in the mind of this fairly sophisticated American was clearly incomplete.

The China I saw introduced last night was at once precisely disciplined, yet wildly creative; technologically advanced, yet almost wholly reliant on the human element; richly historic, yet able to rebuild and remodel itself in almost a moment's notice.

The juxtaposition of these opposite values was made quite clear in the precision of the artists on stage. As a performer myself, I can tell you that it's near impossible to get twenty people to perform in near-perfect unison (The Rockettes spring to mind as the exception) but to get 2,000 at a time? Often with no more visual cue than your muscle memory and some awareness of the "chi" of the people around you?

As Matt Lauer, one of the hosts of NBC's coverage of the ceremonies, pointed out last night, China has had the largest GDP in the world for 9 of the last ten centuries.

The sole exception? The United States in the 20th Century. China clearly aims to take that title from us once again, and I can't see how they will fail.

Which brings me back to the image I had of China. I, like many of you, was aware of the China we were introduced to during the Nixon administration: grey and blue jacketed men and women, deliberately muted and homogenized in their diversity, struggling to break the shackles of governmental regulation and economic morosity.

As the years rolled on, I began to hear stories of how the Chinese were slowly awakening to the 20th Century: gleaming buildings in Shanghai, more freedom to pursue individual goals, a burgeoning middle class.

I sure wasn't expecting that, less than thirty years out from her commitment to becoming an economic lion, she had come this far. I assumed that the nation had done it thru sheer force of will and brute strength.

The delicacy and beauty of last night's show, reminding us of 5,000 years of heritage while reinforcing China's paternalistic centralized power structure, spoke volumes of how a great nation does not have to be "ruggedly individualistic" nor supremely sovietized in order to be a world player.

China has found some sweet spot in the middle, and by now throwing human minds and creativity into the mix, have become a formidable and powerful competitor to the United States.

I wonder how we'll handle them?

Friday, August 08, 2008

Friday Music Blogging

Manfred Mann - Runner

Best Olympic video ever.

Personally, I Hope He Ignores This

UPDATED

What is it with politicians and their sex lives that makes them any of my business or yours?
RALEIGH, N.C. – Two weeks before their national convention, some Democrats are calling for former Sen. John Edwards to publicly address National Enquirer stories that he had an affair with a campaign worker and fathered her baby.

Mr. Edwards, as the 2004 vice presidential nominee and a presidential candidate who won delegates this year, ordinarily would be locked in as a convention speaker.

"He absolutely does have to [resolve it]. If it's not true, he has to issue a stronger denial," said Gary Pearce, the Democratic strategist who ran Mr. Edwards' 1998 Senate race.

Mr. Edwards' decision not to take questions about the allegations has allowed doubts to linger and political bloggers to speculate.
If you haven't heard the story, the National Enquirer, which is to journalism what a four leaf clover is to hard work, has been following the tales of one Rielle Hunter who allegedly delivered a baby that John Edwards conceived.

Last December, an Edwards' campaign staffer, Andrew Young, who is also married and has children, came forward and admitted to being the father.

You'd think it would have ended right then and there, but it merely lay dormant.

Much of the interest in this story, clearly designed to throw a wrench in the Democratic coronation of Barack Obama as a candidate (and drop Edwards off the short list for VP, which no one took seriously anyway), has been generated by Fox News, the National Enquirer run by the improbably named Dave Pecker, and the usual gang of dust-dry vaginas and Jello-soft penises on the right wing (e.g. Michelle Malkin and FreeRepublic.com).

The rationale? Well, I don't know the extent of toe-nail clipping that has gone on over on the far right, but I imagine there's the whole Clintonian "If it matters at your house, it matters in the White House" nonsense, but since Edwards' is no longer running, that ought to be a non-starter.

An unique excuse is Edwards' marriage to a terminal cancer victim, Elizabeth, thus neatly dovetailing their gloating over her apparently imminent death while torturing her for the last few months she might have left to her.

Edwards' is a private citizen and therefore entitled to a bit more consideration and compassion than these numbnut assholes have chosen to give. Indeed, these self-same "pundits" (more like ersatz samizdats) raked Edwards over the coal for uncloaking his public persona in the face of his wife's illness, to some extent forcing him back into private life.

Let's assume for a moment the story is true, and Edwards is the father: If I was a terminal cancer patient, on chemo and radiation and exhausted and nauseous, I would probably give my blessings to my wife to go out and take care of her needs. The Edwards deserve at least as much privacy in their decisions as some shlub blogger in New York City.

Indeed, was it not Malkin herself who got her cheerleader panties in a twist when some faux-conservative blogger, Jesus' General, published her home address as well as a map of the neighborhood, citing privacy and safety concerns?

Now let's assume it's not true. Which it sure seems to be the case. Then Edwards deserves to be let alone and the two people who actually admit to the child, also private citizens, ought to be let alone. That Edwards hasn't complained loudly and long about their instigation of a horribly ugly episode in American politics is a testament to his loyalty and his belief that privacy is a right at the Constitution.

I agree with Edwards.

UPDATE: Then again, I could just be as naive an idiot as any Obomber.

Oh Brother!

The apparent desperation of the McCain campaign is being revealed this week:
It's not easy to make the infamous Willie Horton ad from the 1988 presidential campaign seem benign. But suggesting that Barack Obama is the Antichrist might just do it.

That's just what some outraged Christian supporters of the Democratic nominee are claiming John McCain's campaign did in an ad called "The One" that was recently released online. The Republican nominee's advisers brush off the charges, arguing that the spot was meant to be a "creative" and "humorous" way of poking fun at Obama's popularity by painting him as a self-appointed messiah. But even this innocuous interpretation of the ad — which includes images of Charlton Heston as Moses and culled clips that make Obama sound truly egomaniacal — taps into a conversation that has been gaining urgency on Christian radio and political blogs and in widely circulated e-mail messages that accuse Obama of being the Antichrist.
I'm going to make allowances for the "humour" angle of this ad, since McCain is notorious for being able to hold his own with Jon Stewart and Jay Leno.

And yes, Obama does have a slightly elitist, messianic air about him. Sorry, Obombers, but that's just a fact, and the way you guys flocked to him wasn't exactly discouraging either that independent observation or his messianic complex.

The truth is, however, that successful politicians (read: Presidents) of all stripes have been compared to the AntiChrist. It comes with the territory. The prophecies in John are pretty specific when it comes to describing ol' AC there, as well as in Daniel, and these have been pinned together by the idiots who ascribe to dispensational interpretations of the Bible as the truth.

The tell? His ability to irrationally sway multitudes (Daniel 7:10-11): A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.
I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake: I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame.


The Antichrist has been identified with leaders, including the Papacy, ever since it was first revealed when the New Testament was compiled in the first century ACE. It's no wonder that it is being applied to Barack Obama now.

Indeed, the first hardcore mainstream reference to Obama as the AntiChrist is actually from the liberal wing of the Democratic party in August 2004, shortly after he spoke at Kerry's convention. Granted, "Kynn" is quoting heavily from a Christian bulletin board (that link is hosed).

One could reasonably make the same comparison to John McCain.

But I have a better one:

Indeed, McCain even admits it!

Frist!

WTF? Bill "I calls 'em like I sees 'em on tape" FRIST?!?!? Part of Bono's "ONE.org"???

Is this the Apocalypse?

Nobody Asked Me, But....

1) I don't really follow the NFL anymore, but I do from time to time follow the NY Jets. This is the dumbest move they've made since, well, ever.

2) Brett Favre has just become the world's most expensive tackling dummy.

3) Hm, this might be fun. I hope I get invited.

4) More Republican sexcapades.

5) New uses for your tool.

6) At least SOMEONE'S being impeached over this stupid war!

7) Yea, this will help people forget that New Yorker cover...

8) I want to take this moment to wish all our athletes in Beijing the best of luck, particularly Michael Phelps who would be breaking my record if not for that stupid boycott in 1980.

9) As long as I am posting wishes....Andy, Gordon, Stewart, thank you for the years of memories and music. I wish you all the best in your future and you know, Stewart, never say never. Or as Andy put it the other evening, "Never say never say never say never!"

10) I'm surprised Obama let the clearly better speaker out ahead of him. It ought to be a barnburner!

11) Sometimes, Senator, karma's a bitch.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

From the Thumbper File

Give this dog a steak!
Napoleon rools!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

I'm Going To Miss George Bush

President Bush is rehearsing his speech, using the teleprompter, for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

He begins with "Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!"

Immediately his speech writer rushes over to the lectern and whispers in the President's ear:

"Mr. President, those are the Olympic rings. Your speech is underneath

File This Under "WTF?"


Now, admittedly, the demographics in this Presidential race make small niches groups key in any McCain victory, since Obama seems to be drawing a broad audience and is generally ahead in the game (despite recent polls).

But this?
Here at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, the annual gathering of all things leather, Harley and free as the wind across an open plain, Senator John McCain came to ask for the votes of America’s bikers.

“It will be a good day on election day if there are a lot of bikes parked outside polling places,” Mr. McCain said, at a tribute to veterans and those who serve in the military held in the midst of the ongoing party that locals says consumes this part of the country for several weeks.
Huh?

The image of Harley Davidson and the whole motorcycle culture seems to be taking a hit here. Somehow, linking the "what the hell" attitude of bike riders with John McCain, despite his faux image as a maverick, seems one of the more absurd pieces in the political theatre that is America.

And yet...
The rally has been known for its wilder days but it, like its devotees, is getting on in years. This was the 68th Sturgis and the atmosphere was suitably respectful (give or take a few naughty signs, T-shirts and encounters). The men, most commonly dressed in black shirts, jeans and boots, doffed their caps and head scarves at key moments during the pre-McCain program honoring veterans.
Truly, things do get a bit long in the tooth after 68 years, and presumably many of those attending, drawn by a concert performed by Kid Rock and Kellie Pickler-- lest you thought McCain could draw more people than could fit in a phone booth by himself-- were like McCain, former Viet Nam veterans paying respects to one of their own.

Still, there's a surreality to the entire proceeding. McCain will talk about gas prices, I'm sure, and then go on to talk about...Iraq? To men who have fought a war and probably know a thing or two about clusterfucks?

This is probably more his target audience: naked old men lost over the wilderness:

Fat, Fat, The Water Rat

If Michaelangelo's David had been sculpted in 21st Century America

Most kids' meals at top restaurant chains have way too many calories to be healthy, according to a report released yesterday.

Nearly every possible combination of the children's meals at KFC, Taco Bell, Sonic and Chick-fil-A are too fattening, the report on meals at 13 major restaurants found.

The average 8-year-old should eat about 1,200 to 1,300 calories a day, or about 430 calories a meal. But 93 percent of the meals at the chains had more calories than that. Instead of fried and fatty foods, restaurants should offer more choices that include fruits and whole grains, the report said.

Although some chains including McDonald's offer apple slices as a substitute for french fries, the Center for Science in the Public Interest said many restaurants make it hard for kids and their parents to make healthy choices. Subway fared best, with 12 of its 18 kids' meals having fewer than 430 calories, although that's in part because Subway meals don't include beverages.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Here's An Attaboy

I am remiss. I should have posted this already last week, but I was running into MIS problems with work so was keeping a low profile.

One of the few people in Blogtopia (© Skippy) who actually gets my jokes, and since she's happily married I know she's not fawning when she laughs, Madeleine Begun Kane (you can find her in my blogroll) has won the 2008 Robert Benchley Society Award for Humor.

She has some interesting things to say about it all, including a copy of the missive she received-- genuine and direct-- from the selector (I leave that surprise for you to uncover).

Robert Benchley...what can be said about him that Dorothy Parker wouldn't mock as pretentious droolings of an inferior mind, a steak to my veggie burger. He is a writer I admired growing up for his wit and inexorably attractive fashion of drawing you in for the sucker punch.

A charter member of the Algonquin Round Table, one could argue that Benchley's membership in that esteemed body (apparently he steamed many bodies there) sealed his fate as not only a raconteur but as an influence for comedians as diverse as Dave Barry...OK, it's a stretch...to James Thurber.

He was, in short, his generation's James Wolcott.

Ah wit! All is vanity, fair.

Congratulations, Ms. Kane.

PS Does this get me back on the barbecue list?

Has It Really Been...

..three years?

Yup. Three years and 203,000 readers later.

Don't you people have anything BETTER to do?

The Devil You Know

I've been following with some interest the rise of the new meme, the Presumptious Nominee:
The candidate's crowning demonstrations of hubris, according to those building a case, came during his extended trip to Iraq, Afghanistan, the Middle East and Europe. Recall the pundits demanding the freshman Illinois senator prove he could be presidential in the foreign arena?

So he appeared at ease with world leaders, talked animatedly with beaming American troops and drew huge civilian crowds. Then the pundits -- who had been taking a round of bashing for supposedly going easy on Obama -- told Obama he needed to beware of appearing too presidential.
You'd think the media would welcome a Presidential wannabe who actually acted as if the job itself was more important than the campaign to get it, but that's a small digression.

After eight years of Bush acting completely UNPresidential despite actually, you know, being President, Obama's grace and ease with foreign leaders and with foreign audiences (as I mentioned last week) is probably less a function of Obama's demeanor and poise than it is the simple acknowledgement that a man who feels no compunction about sexually assaulting world leaders is unwelcome and it's about damned time America got rid of the creep.

And that would be the least of the gripes they'd have with Bush, that "Old Europe"!

The most curious trope to arise from this meme is that somehow, Obama was screwed during his visit to Germany by declining to visit Landstuhl Hospital, where Iraq invaders and Afghan warriors are nursing their wounds and receiving treatment:
Opponents would like to put the Democrat in another can't-win box over his "failure" to visit wounded troops at a military hospital in Germany. Obama canceled a visit to the Landstuhl hospital and was accused of being self-centered.

What if he had appeared at the hospital? David Kiley reported in BusinessWeek magazine how a Republican operative described plans to attack Obama for -- that's right -- using wounded troops as campaign props, if he had gone through with the visit.
Now, here, I agree with the critics: he should have gone.

Yes, he was doomed in a "damned if I do, damned if I don't" kind of way. But here's the thing: The GOP has successfully painted nearly every candidate for President as "soft," mealy-mouthed liberals who won't or can't stomach war and won't do what is necessary to defend you and me from "them", whomever "them" was: Soviets, Cubans, Al Qaeda, Iraq, Panama, Grenada, and so on.

In this instance, Obama was, I believe, wrong to skip the troops. Yes, we've heard a few somewhat confusing rationales, making his plight all the more difficult. He really needs to find someone who can get on message faster. David Axelrod is not doing the job.

He didn't want to politicize the troops. He was told he couldn't bring the media. He couldn't visit with campaign staffers. So on.

So what?

You might recall this little trope:
President Bush's day-old reelection advertising campaign generated criticism and controversy yesterday, as relatives of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist strikes charged that television commercials using images from the attacks were exploiting the tragedy for political gain.


Or this image:



Yes, in both instances, Bush was accused, correctly, of politicizing the troops. The charges had no effect on the course of the campaign, and Bush won re-election. More devastating was painting his opponent, John Kerry, into a box that forced Kerry to expend precious resources defending himself, unable to make the case for why he should replace Bush.

In Obama's case, this is one time the devil you DON'T know, visiting the troops, would have been the correct choice. He could defend his decision by pointing out his Senate subcommittee positions made this a point of protocol, and damn the campaign for a few hours. He could have walked in practically alone (they don't send even a secretary with him?) and spent a few moments on one ward.

It would have been the right thing to do, especially if you are going to make the case that you opposed the war from the get-go.

See, one of the lasting images of the Vietnam conflict is of veterans returning home to be villified and hated by the anti-war protestors. By directly linking himself as a spiritual descendant of the "No More War" crowd-- and I count myself proudly among their numbers-- he has left himself open to the darker side of that crowd.

He's already been painted as a radical sympathizer through his connection, albeit tenuous, to William Ayers and Bernadette Dohrn...oooh, he met them at a local strategy event! Oooh, they co-served on a board somewhere!...who were notorious radicals in the Weather Underground.

Ayers and Dohrn deserve our contempt. The bombs they helped make, the one that blew up the townhouse they rented, were intended to hurt innocent Americans and American troops. Much like Al Qaeda today.

Not visiting the troops gives that ridiculous charge of involvement with "known radical terrorists" an inadvertant ring of truth.

Already, the story line for the fall election is that Obama is aloof and above the fray: elitist in a way that makes John Kerry (who ran a pizza parlor, fercrissake!) look like a regular Joe in the eyes of the GOP.

I'm not suggesting that he has to, you know, hoist a glass of scotch at a gin mill to show he's a man of the people, or in any way shape or form run his campaign as an offset to this idiotic idea that a man can be TOO ambitious or TOO intelligent to be President.

Just don't give them a freebie, is all I'm saying.