(Note: Although my selections are numbered, they're actually listed alphabetically by artist, not in order of preference. So please don't write me asking how I could possibly prefer Beck to Ellington...)
Also: The July issue of Reason (print edition) has just been published. I have no substantial articles in it, but I did contribute two brief items to the front of the book: one on private military companies (somehow I avoided the word "mercenaries") and one on Bush's Medicare propaganda. They aren't online, so you'll have to track down the magazine if you want to read more.
BONZO GOES DUTCH WITH BITBURG: Over at Hit & Run, my boss is listing his favorite Reagan memories; at The Simpleton, another colleague is doing the same thing. I'm no Reaganite, but I've got a couple favorite moments as well. The first was when the president was joking around during a mike check and said, "My fellow Americans. I'm pleased to announce that I've signed legislation outlawing the Soviet Union. We begin bombing in five minutes." Everyone seemed really upset about it at the time, but even as a teenage left-liberal I thought it was pretty funny. It seemed like the same sort of jackass prank I would pull if I were president.
The other moment, of course, was when Reagan looked James Stewart in the eye and said, "Jimmy, don't make me have to kill you." Most historians, I should add, believe this did not occur, on the grounds that it actually happened in a sketch on Saturday Night Live. Well, tough: these are my memories, and I can put whatever I want into them.
My answer: I didn't say that he's a hero. I said -- or at least meant -- that it's nice to see him cutting loose, taking some risks, and acting like a human being. The day I see Gore as a hero is the day I need to get my head examined.
Beyond that: I enjoy Gore-baiting as much as the next guy, but the Republican reaction to his speech has been so ridiculous (and at times dishonest) that I just had to stand up for the guy. It goes to show how surreal life in Bushtime can be: I'm actually defending Al Gore.
BROTHER, CAN YOU SPARE A SLIME?: There's three articles about Al Gore's speech to the MoveOn mob on National Review Online today, all of them fairly ridiculous. David Frum essentially suggests that the former vice president is mentally ill; Byron York assures us that Republican leaders are privately "delighted" that Democrats like Gore are going unhinged; Barbara Comstock joins York in dragging the Cold War cliché "blame America first" out of the mothballs, and also repeats the long-discredited canard that MoveOn "has promoted ads comparing Bush to Hitler." (This should be enough to convince you that Comstock is a partisan hack.) All this for an address that, whatever you think of its specifics, is well within the mainstream critique of the Iraq war.
MoveOn has hitched itself to some awfully silly stuff over the years, but this speech is nothing to be ashamed of. As with the Nancy Pelosi pile-on, it says more about the attackers than the attackee.
One of the pleasant byproducts of Bush's victory in 2000 is that it's allowed Gore to turn into a human being. For the first time since -- his teens? his childhood? -- the fellow isn't trying to become president. To judge from his sudden willingness to speak impolitic truths, it's been a liberating experience. I still can't say I'm a fan of the man, but I no longer believe that it would be unbearable torture to be locked in a room with him.
(Footnote: I don't want to pick on National Review too much, so I'll also note that they have an interesting article on the site today about health insurance deregulation in Maryland. See? I can be positive when I want to.)
THE ANSWER MAN: In the course of knocking the new movie Saved!, I wrote, "The movie offers the liberal Christian theme that Jesus accepts everybody, but the credits include a nod to George Smith's defense of atheism. What's up with that?" The director (or someone posing as the director) e-mails me an answer: Smith's book appeared in one scene, and "a condition for using that book was to have a thank you in the end credits." Now that I've wracked my brain a bit, I do seem to recall that scene, though my memory may be playing tricks on me.
Curiously, Smith himself tells me he was unaware of this agreement, so presumably the party who insisted on the condition was his publisher. It seems odd that you'd have to get permission to include a shot of a book in your movie, but intellectual property law can be an ugly thing.
Also, I wrote an article about Indymedia and blogs for the June issue of Chronicles. It isn't online, and I haven't actually seen the magazine yet, but two people have mentioned it to me so I assume it's out there somewhere.
Cute, with a capital "C" and two "u"'s. Cuute. That's the adjective of choice for that which is appealingly amusing without being great art, inoffensive without being bland, and clever without being jarring. A top is cute. A boy is cute. DreamWorks' animated franchise follow-up Shrek 2 is cute. Look, it's almost June, and it's pleasant to sit in a cool theater and watch the cinematic equivalent of holding a sweating glass of lemonade to your fevered brow. What did you want, a cure for cancer?
That's Violet Carberry reviewing Shrek 2 in the Baltimore City Paper. She later notes that the movie "isn't a neo-Freudian, smarty-pants reinterpretation; it's more like acknowledging that Mister Rogers had a sex life, sat on the toilet, or cursed when he hit his finger with a hammer."
That reminds me of a tale. R. grew up in Pittsburgh, and it seems like whenever we go back there someone tells me a Mister Rogers story. My favorite was relayed by a fellow who once found himself sharing an elevator with Rogers at the hospital. A friend or relative of the TV star was about to have a second surgery, and he was asking a doctor, in that mild-mannered, sing-songy Mister Rogers voice, whether he was the same man who had done the first operation.
"Yes, I was," replied the surgeon.
"Well," said Rogers, his voice unchanged, "try not to fuck it up this time."