From the monthly archives: "January 2013"

Subway Guy, plus Spanish anti-smoking PSA

Self portrait on Coney Island

Tourists on the Brooklyn Bridge

 

 

  • Barack Obama sadObama administration no longer even pretending to be opposed to indefinite detainment, or Gitmo in general. 
  • The New York Times’ John Tierney on why the crime rate in New York City has declined so much — soft on police, but a very good and useful read. I intend to study this further — perhaps while wearing my minarchist hat. I guess I would rather have more police and fewer prisons as well, but I doubt it’s that simple…
  • Two phenomenal ’60s collections of Life photos: a piece of 1969’s drug war, and  a look at Appalachia in 1964.
  • SWAT team silliness and video game hysteria and Sweden!
  • Wonkette is at least as tedious as Gawker whenever the word “libertarian” comes up.
  • Everyone panic!
  • North Korea continues to make everyone want to throw up — even if every single story that appears isn’t true.
  • Colorado prison population declines.  Yay. [Via: John Payne]
  • School choice week, bitches. I say bitches, because this link goes to The Hill.
  • I am a feminist asshole about high heels, I freely admit it. But have you seen The Towering Inferno or other disaster movies? Even with Steve McQueen and Paul Newman saving the day, those are not shoes to flee in. And also, people who lazily lean on the nature of nature vs. nature, remember when men wore high heels?
  • Girls apparently continues the glorious tradition of mocking magazine maestra Jane Pratt. 1) Daria will forever do it — and everything — better because 2) Girls is just pretty okay. But my God, the few times I have visited xojane.com — yeah it deserves to be satirized.

esq-megan-fox-cover-0213-lgEsquire, oh Esquire. You’re the confederate vampire character Jasper in Twilight — compared to  the other characters/magazines (Bella/Cosmo), you are the weightiest, most literary thing.  But there you are, somehow still being terrible and shallow. You’re always there, a reminder of how bad you are, but don’t have to be, but how much better you are than things that are worse.

But first, a list. Cosmo and associated lady magazines think that women are interested in sex, men, make-up, clothes, things that will kill you, and not much else. Esquire, according to their February issue, believes that you, a Man, are interested in the following things:

Megan Fox’s weirdness and her hotness and her sadness (more on that later), Barack Obama’s second term, how the Post Office is the Best Thing in the World and is Also America, Everyone Should Calm Down About Sex Scandals, head injuries in the NFL,  Kevin Bacon wearing a 5,000 dollar suit, Alan Arkin’s life advice, how to make mushroom gravy for your steak, various sexual things, short stories, poetry — one poem is even by a lady, alcohol, which smartphones have the best cameras, the war in Afghanistan, jokes told by scantily clad women, clothing, the World Trade Center, Chris Christie.

Yes, they are selling you lots of shit, same as lady magazines do, but nobody who has given even a cursory glance at both general interest men magazines and lady ones could ever argue against this summary; that men’s magazines, even the most shallow ones, suggest a lot wider, and meatier range of interests than any women’s ones (even more than, say, Bust, which is just a little too into knitting and shit). You, a Man, have a lot of interests. Sexy ladies are just one of them. Sexy ladies are interested in their looks and in men, men are interested in doing things and thinking things and, yes, getting sexy women. This is not new. This is still frustrating.

Thankfully, Esquire also has some really solid examples of appalling sentences and paragraphs. Their fault, intriguingly (again, when contrasted with Cosmo, which is written at probably a fifth grade reading level) is most often that they are pretentious.  And so, presenting the top five most awful piece of writing in the February Esquire —

1) No reaction to the cover profile of Megan Fox could beat Caity Weaver’s blog for Gawker. Her headline, “Megan Fox Speaks in Tongues and is Symmetrical” is an impressively accurate summary of the content. Weaver’s takeaway, that Fox alludes to a lot of weird, fascinating beliefs, mentioning Pentecostal church, leprechauns  aliens —  but the writer — Stephan Marche — is much more interested in her face, is correct. The worst part of Marche’s writing (read it out loud in the most theatrical tone possible):

The symmetry of her face, up close, is genuinely shocking. The lip on the left curves exactly the same way as the lip on the right. The eyes match exactly. The brow is in perfect balance, like a problem of logic, like a visual labyrinth. It’s not really even that beautiful. It’s closer to the sublime, a force of nature, the patterns of waves crisscrossing a lake, snow avalanching down the side of a mountain, an elaborately camouflaged butterfly. What she is is flawless. There is absolutely nothing wrong with her.

As previously noted by The Awl and Jezebel. Marche also calls Amy Adams and Adele and Lady Gaga “perfectly plain.” This is obviously ridiculous. But says Marche, they are basically signs that ugly women have been okayed by society now. That leads him to his thesis — not that Fox believes weird shit and hates her body being used as dissected and that could be interesting, np — that it’s hard out there fore the symmetrical-faced.

Marche also has to put “I” in his lede. Every single profile of a sexy celebrity needs to start with the author sitting next to or across from their subject. It’s very important. It’s key. I am there, the sexy celebrity is there, look how she eats food, how she curls up her feet onto the sofa, look at her.

(All of this makes me realize how God damned good that New York Times Magazine article about Lindsay Lohan actually was.)

2) I am not reading your article about Barack Obama, Charlies Pierce. You are boring. Okay, fine, here’s something:

“The personal victory he won over most of the things that are cheap and lazy and stupid in our politics has given him the power to disenthrall the public from those same things, and to disenthrall his own administration from its notion that there was some good to be found in the people who so fastened themselves to the cheap and the lazy and the stupid, and that there was some patriotism to be found in the politicians who so profited from them. In his second term, it should be Barack Obama’s job to make that personal victory ours as well.”

Shut up.

3) “This isn’t a story about whether we could live without the post office. It’s about whether we’d want to.” Gawker, my God, your talents could be so great mocking this ode to American postal greatness, if only Hamilton Nolan wasn’t a God damned commie he could skewer this absurity so well.

The name Lysander Spooner sure never shows up in this piece. Nor is a query that maybe private folks could do this easier ever answered. It just hangs there for a paragraph. There is just a worried collection of numbers about privatization — we have 110,000 military contractors, private companies house 16 percent of federal inmates — that have nothing to say about efficiency or morality or public versus private. The person who wrote this piece had better be 150 years old, or we are doomed.

4) “He was the Martyred Jesus of Oral Sex with Interns…” No. Fuck you. Stop it. Your writing makes my my teeth itch. And if you’re pleading for a less puritanical America (fair enough!) do not include Eliot Spitzer in your list of fallen, free love heroes. You get to go to prostitutes, or you get to use your powers as attorney general to crack down on sex workers. You do not get to do both and not be awful. (Though, of course, cracking down on prostitution is gross either way. ) Author, your good points are buried under my urge to punch you.

5) Turns out everything else is tolerable. Tom Junod wrote about head injuries in the NFL, and Junod is overrated, but also not so bad. However, I already read about concussions in sports in Rolling Stone, and I cannot read two articles about sports in one day.  Pleasantly enough, many of asides and briefs are even funny. Something about this issue is slightly more charming than usual, but only the bits and pieces — which, as I know from Reason days, take plenty of time to ensemble, too.

And three out of nine poems aren’t bad — that’s a whole lot better than The New Yorker does.

The laundry list of wide, interesting subjects, the occasional humor, the excessive need to be literary about everything (calm down, we know you published Salinger, you don’t need to get so swoony about Morena Baccarin)… Esquire, you try. I want to like you more than I do, every damn time. This is why you’re are on my love/hate list. I want to write for you, but you piss me off at least half the time. You’re like the Red Eye of magazines, but with much, much worse politics. And yet, every time I start to rant about you, Esquire, I get even more depressed that women’s magazines aren’t even close to being as good as you.

There are many, many, many reasons to hate on Gawker, but somehow Jezebel always manages to do a hell of a lot worse than its older sibling, even in political matters. Gawker is left, it hates on libertarians (or rather, conservatives, objectivists, and libertarians, being unable to tell them apart), and it, in Daily Show style, hates a lot harder on the dumbest critics of Obama and co than the ones with actual power.

And yet, Gawker is never quite this bad.

The headline: “President/Valedictorian Obama Gets Sweetly Nostalgic Following the Inaugural Address” — the actual comments:

Penabler  an hour ago OH GOD HE STILL LOVES US, EVEN WITH ALL OUR SHIT. America seriously doesn’t deserve this guy. We are so awful.

crazyshapedlady and 1 more I know I get really ashamed of America sometimes..

 LittleFlower This scene is so beautiful for exactly that reason… you’d think he’d be completely worn out by now, but that’s a look of pride on his face. He’s soaking it all in, and he looks happy and grateful and humble. God, I love that man. Not even an American, over here. I just love that whole family so much; I’m so relieved he’s getting another 4 years. I hope there’s less opposition to change, this time, but maybe that’s naive of me? Fuckit, I’m happier when I’m naive. *La la laaaa hearts and flowers*
AshleyAutumn I have this in .gif format and it made me weepy when I saw it, so I saved it.
badmutha 1 of 5 replies @Penabler It is funny that you write this because when I read FB and other sites, and read all the awful things the red necks and others say about him, it just breaks my heart. Even with all our shit, he wants to be our President.
Penabler1 reply @badmuthaan hour ago Its super silly, but I love the Obamas, Clintons, and Biden with the manic intensity that a 13 year old has for Justin Bieber. I really hate all the crap we give him collectively as a country.

Hot on the heels of President Obama’s 23 new executive orders upping gun control, famed and fearsome conservative commentator Ann Coulter has a new column entitled “Guns don’t kill people, the mentally ill do”. Under that straight to the point headline, Coulter points to the mass-murders at Virginia Tech, Tuscon, and now Sandy Hook and mentions that each of the killers there had a history of mental illness — Tuscon shooter Jared Loughner in particular was feared by several acquaintance and teachers.  And yes, there are rumors, still unconfirmed, that Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza snapped because his mother wanted to commit him to a mental institution.

Writes Coulter, not bothering to source anything:

Innumerable studies have found a correlation between severe mental illness and violent behavior. Thirty-one to 61 percent of all homicides committed by disturbed individuals occur during their first psychotic episode — which is why mass murderers often have no criminal record. There’s no time to wait with the mentally ill.

Coulter, of course, doesn’t bother to address the confirmation bias when it comes to trusting “warning signs”. Yes, some people who end up being killers frightened other people beforehand. What about all the people, even seriously mentally ill people, who weirded out their neighbors and teachers and never shot up a schoolhouse? Do they have rights, or don’t they? Coulter suggests no. Because it’s just no longer easy enough to involuntarily commit crazy people.

Or rather, she says don’t take guns from the rational and the law-abiding, instead — well, what?

Coulter bemoans the American Civil Liberties Union who “have decided that being psychotic is a civil right”, thereby making involuntary commitment standards overly strict.  She implies that this is yet another lefty, PC outrage that will spell our demise, but that is all. What exactly to do, and how to do it, is lesft unsaid.

Lefties who cry for gun control, especially the stricter than is popular variety, never seem to answer the question of how it shall be done. Banning guns — even only those that became legal post-assault weapons ban expiration —  sounds great, okay. What’s the punishment for defying the ban? Who is going to make sure it happens? How will it be organized? Do we need another bureaucratic office to oversee the proceedings? Liberals have a habit of crying out for government intervention and ignoring the potential costs in money, time, and on occasion, life. Conservative queen Coulter is doing exactly the same thing here.

If she wants America to “try something new” and make it easier to involuntarily commit individuals, how shall we do it? Will it be up to cops? Professors? Teachers? How long will people be kept? By what standards shall the mentally ill be judged unable to be free? Actual threats of violence, strange behavior, unorthodox opinions, paranoia? When will they be fit to be released? Are there appeals?

There are 300 million guns in America, yes, but according to the National Institute on Mental Health, 1 in 4 Americans suffers from a mood disorder, 1 in 17 from a “serious one.” How many of those 57 million Americans should lose their Second Amendment rights, according to Coulter? Or do you just lock the mentally ill up, thereby ignoring messy gun rights questions altogether?

There’s not really any point to appealing to Coulter’s attachment to civil liberties, because judging by past history, she has none. She does, however, profess a theoretical objection to government excess by mocking liberals and embracing conservatism.

The murderers that Coulter describes should have perhaps been kicked out of their schools, and perhaps prosecuted in the case of the Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho who stalked three women. He also spent time refusing to talk. And Adam Lanza had trouble looking people in the eye! However, none of these young men, until they massacred scores of people, had done anything that would justify locking them up indefinitely at a psychiatrist or a judge’s pleasure. And, as Reason’s Jacob Sullum put it today “Stopping Mass Murderers Would Be Easy If Psychiatrists Were Psychics”.

Even law and order conservatives usually think that someone locked up should actually have committed a crime first.  But Coulter offers nothing concrete in policy suggestions, only a breezy disdain for the heroic work of the ACLU, and people like the late Thomas Szasz, who dared to object to easy involuntary commitment.

Coulter, it is worth noting, is also pro-Gitmo, so at least she is consistent in her approval of holding people without trial. But her suggestion that the government “try something new” because “there’s no time to wait” in regards to the mentally ill makes Coulter sound exactly like the big government liberals she so loathes.

For reasons I never quite figured out, I ended up on the Morality in Media email list. Today they sent me a smug, seemingly self-written and self-quoted press release by Dawn Hawkins, their head busy-body. The good news, since potential anti-smut crusader Mitt Romney lost the presidency and all? Well, a 61-year-old pornographer named Ira Isaacs was just sentenced to 48 months in prison, plus three years of “supervised release” and a $10,000 fine. Why? Well, prosecutors know obscenity when they see it. And they must know art when they see it, too. In spite of Isaacs’ pleas that he was making “shock art,” in this third attempt since 2008 to pin charges on him, they finally stuck Isaacs with five federal charges in April.

According to xbiz.com :

In motions prior to sentencing, U.S. prosecutors had attempted to sway the court to enhance Isaacs’ sentencing two levels to seven years and three months by using the theory that “vulnerable victims” were exploited in the commission of federal offenses.

But prosecutors backed off on that plan after [prosecutor Damon] King said in his “tentative view” that the vulnerable victim sentencing adjustment does not apply in the case.

King said that if scat actors consented to performing in the films, then as consenting adults who helped produce obscene materials, they are better characterized as co-participants in the offenses than as victims. The performers at center of the scrapped testimony include Veronica Jett and another former adult performer named April.

The pair of actresses told federal prosecutors that they never would have taken part in several scat films if they had not been high after allegedly being fed drugs by Isaacs at the time of the shoots. Jett attended Wednesday’s sentencing hearing.[…]

The LAPD officer ordered and received through the U.S. mail four videos — “Euro Scat Girls,” “‘My Pony Lover,” “Violet: Dog and Pig Fuckers” and “Hot Girl With Dogs” — that weren’t part of the Isaacs obscenity trial.

King said that because of Isaacs’ post-conviction behavior, he said it was pertinent to sentencing. Diamond, however, asked the court to grant Isaacs full probation.

“I have viewed the videos for this sentencing hearing, and I find them just as obscene as those used in Mr. Isaacs’ conviction,” King said. “He has not accepted his responsibility to the community.”

King further said that he didn’t buy Isaacs’ contention that his operation was based on the vision of art.

“I have totally rejected during the course of the trial that he’s a shock artist,” King said. “He has cloaked himself as a First Amendment defendant. But the fact is that he did it for money. He’s not a defender of the First Amendment. He cheapens the First Amendment.”

Isaacs may be an unrepentant sleaze — he may be less of a charmingly unrepentant sleaze-peddler than good old John Stagliano, who escaped the DOJ’s reach in 2010 — but it’s deeply disturbing that obscenity exist as a category of speech. It’s also troubling and telling that the Department of Justice has continued these pursuits even post-John “cover the boobs of Justice” Ashcroft. Attorney General Eric Holder is not just a lying weasel about guns, drones,  and drugs, he also lets his goons follow their awfully conservative-sounding agenda of hunting down and punishing peddlers of consensual smut.

[Edit: my friend Julia points out that Holder DID at least disband the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force and has been criticized by social cons for not doing “enough” about porn. So he’s not quite as heinous as Ashcroft in this particular area.] 

It’s also really awesome that the LAPD seemingly has nothing better to do with their time than order gross videos from a willing seller, then attempt to bring him to “justice.”

Please note the vague detail that these women claim they wouldn’t have done these films if they hadn’t been “fed drugs.” Might Isaacs be a creep, someone who pressures desperate women? Sure.  Should we shun him at the next libertarian cocktail party? Perhaps.  Are we saying the women didn’t  voluntarily take these non-specific drugs, then voluntarily engage in bestiality?  It’s insanely condescending towards adult females to act like they need to be protected from what is (somewhat arguably) a very bad career and life decision.

And as to the familiar libertarian thought exercise, should bestiality be illegal, well —  there are, logically, ways of engaging in it that are cruel to animals, and ways that are…not so cruel. If women and dogs are the participants, it’s probably moreso the latter. Gross, but so is prison rape. So is prison, period.

The Porn Harms press release notes ends, deeply  satisfied:

“Morality in Media will not rest until the federal laws designed to protect women and children from the porn criminals are fully enforced.”

They may not need the help of a nervous Mormon. Obama’s people are doing just fine.

Isaacs’ attorney says they plan to take their appeal all the way to the 9th Circuit, if possible. Reason’s Jacob Sullum has covered the Ira Isaacs case. Sullum also noted that Isaacs initially faced 25 years in prison. If that’s not obscenity, there’s definitely no such thing.