The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
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by Jesse Walker

Thursday, May 27, 2004
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.)

posted by Jesse 4:50 PM
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Wednesday, May 26, 2004
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.

posted by Jesse 8:54 PM
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Tuesday, May 25, 2004
SELF-PROMOTION: My most recent
column for Reason Online explores the sad case of David Reimer, one of the better-known victims of the therapeutic state.

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.

posted by Jesse 9:49 PM
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LEDE OF THE WEEK: Properly speaking, it's the lede of last week -- hey, I'm behind on my reading -- but it's still a
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."

posted by Jesse 9:40 PM
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Saturday, May 22, 2004
BEST CHALABI THEORY YET: The thought that Newsday's
take on Chalabi might be true is arousing my pettiest instincts:
The Defense Intelligence Agency has concluded that a U.S.-funded arm of Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress has been used for years by Iranian intelligence to pass disinformation to the United States and to collect highly sensitive American secrets, according to intelligence sources.

"Iranian intelligence has been manipulating the United States through Chalabi by furnishing through his Information Collection Program information to provoke the United States into getting rid of Saddam Hussein," said an intelligence source Friday who was briefed on the Defense Intelligence Agency's conclusions, which were based on a review of thousands of internal documents.
Carp all you want about the gaps in the sourcing, moan if you must that Iran might not actually want a U.S. occupation force next door. Just think of all the hawks who, if this pans out, would be Iranian dupes. The very concept is clouding my vision. It's like learning that Pat Buchanan is getting money from the Mossad.

It's a disturbing story. If it is true, the dignified response is surely not to revel in it. But until the weekend's over, I'll be doing just that. For fear of the karmic retribution, I will try not to gloat.

posted by Jesse 12:23 PM
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Thursday, May 20, 2004
SELF-PROMOTION: My review of
Hollywood, Interrupted, originally published in the May American Spectator, is now online.

posted by Jesse 8:43 PM
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HEY, COACH: Yeah, there's no I in team. But there is an m and an e.

posted by Jesse 8:06 PM
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Tuesday, May 18, 2004
PAPERBACK WRITER: My book Rebels on the Air is now out in
paperback. Its official publication date is actually in June, but I suspect it will be appearing in stores before then; my own copy came in the mail last week.

Much has happened in the world of radio since this book first appeared in 2001, so anyone hoping to read the very latest about Clear Channel or Pacifica is better off doing a Google search than scanning my tome. Still, flipping through these pages again with hindsight, I think I did a pretty good job of exploring the hidden history of American broadcasting. If nothing else, reading my book might give you some perspective that's missing from those articles on Google. And hey, the thing's cheaper now. Let's not forget that.

I'm not very good at tooting my own horn, so to incite you all to buy the thing I offer these words from other folks, as quoted on the covers of either the old or new edition of the book:
"Rebels on the Air is a joyous, smart, lucid, hilarious, critical and engaging celebration of community based, non-commercial radio in the United States. Jesse Walker vividly captures the people, their visions and achievements, their friends and enemies -- all in a book that is great fun to read."
--Matthew Lasar, author of Pacifica Radio: The Rise of an Alternative Network

"Present-day American radio -- both public and commercial -- has, with its blandness, hidden the bodies of hundreds of idealists who tried to make it meaningful and interesting and alive. Whether it's micro radio, pirate radio, the Citizens Band, or Pacifica, Jesse Walker has done his homework, digging up often funny tales of strange characters who tried, in one way or another, to better the airwaves."
--Lorenzo W. Milam, author of Sex and Broadcasting and The Radio Papers

"Just as lively and packed with information as its subject....Rebels on the Air does a good job of underscoring the crucial role that an array of independent media plays in a democratic society." --Salon

"Jesse Walker's lively book is the first to offer a thorough history of what's come to be known as alternative radio." --Time Out New York

"Without a doubt, this is the most detailed and well-researched book ever published on the history of free radio in America. This includes the most comprehensive history ever written on the modern micro radio movement; culled from personal interviews, the writing is mostly engaging and fast-paced....A must read."
--The About Guide

"Walker goes a long way toward showing the considerable creativity in nonmainstream radio, despite its lack of funds and other problems. An interesting balance to the perceived story of American radio." --Choice

posted by Jesse 3:13 PM
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Tuesday, May 11, 2004
SELF-PROMOTION: Today Reason Online
published my promised "longer appreciation" of Loretta Lynn's new album.

posted by Jesse 10:58 AM
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THE 2004 MARYLAND FILM FESTIVAL: a.k.a., What I Did Last Weekend:

Dog Days (Ulrich Seidl, 2001): Every year John Waters hosts a movie at the Maryland Film Festival. I'm not sure what he looks for when he picks his picture, but he does have an eye for the gruesome and the strange. This spring's entry was a semi-improvised collection of interlocking tales set in the hottest days of summer in a Vienna suburb. Its characters include a crazy (or retarded?) girl who spends each day hitching rides and tormenting her drivers with constant chatter and intrusive questions, a strange sadistic love triangle, and a divorced couple who still live together and seem intent on making each other's lives miserable, among many others. The film is by turns funny, violent, touching, and disgusting. It grew on me as I watched it, and (even more) afterwards.

Underneath it all, Seidl is a humanist and his film is more sympathetic than cruel. It's not for all tastes. It's not even for most tastes. But I liked it. And so did R., whose tolerance for this sort of thing is much lower than mine.

Archangel (Guy Maddin, 1990): This one, on the other hand, produced a split decision. Maddin's film is either very poorly organized or based on an organizing principle that was too subtle for me to absorb; it contains some wonderfully bizarre images and ideas, but it doesn't hang together and at times grows very dull. It resembles Eraserhead in many ways, but where David Lynch managed to sustain and build a mood, Maddin wasn't able to link his sporadic moments of brilliance into a united symphony.

That's my opinion, anyway. R. just said "I hate this movie" and mulled whether to walk out early. She didn't, but she refused to watch any other Guy Maddin movies during the weekend. I was a little wary myself, but nonetheless went to our next entry:

The Saddest Music in the World (Guy Maddin, 2003): While I watched this, R. was down the hall seeing an excerpt from 50/50, an in-progress documentary directed by Ted (not Eric) Bogosian and produced by Oz's Tom Fontana. She liked it.

And I loved The Saddest Music in the World, a film that's as engaging and coherent as Archangel is alienating and confused. It's a Lubitsch-on-acid musical set in Depression-era Winnipeg, a devastating satire of Canada, the United States, and the Old World. It's the sort of comedy that cuts with a double-edged sword: I'm not completely certain, at the climax, whether Maddin is damning the U.S. or celebrating it, and I suspect he means a little of both. It's a wonderful picture, and it's my new candidate (if I'm still allowed to be playing this game at such a late date) for the Best Movie of 2003.

Saved! (Brian Dannelly, 2004): Dannelly is a Baltimore boy and a UMBC grad, so the place was packed with well-wishers. The movie is about Christian intolerance, the need to accept people, the importance of standing up for yourself, and -- is it obvious yet how utterly lame this picture is?

Actually, "lame" doesn't begin to describe this film. It's a smug, self-consciously "controversial" movie for people whose vaunted tolerance ends where the Red counties begin. The characters are caricatures, the plot is predictable, the jokes are weak, and the only redeeming factors in the whole mess are a couple funny lines from (of all people) Macauley Culkin. Alexander Payne could have had a field day with this idea, but in Dannelly's hands we get a conventional teen comedy with a heavy-handed anti-fundamentalist message. Or that's how it seems to me -- and I'm a fucking atheist.

(Speaking of which: 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?)

Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky, 2004): A rock documentary from the directors of Brother's Keeper and Paradise Lost. Heavy metal isn't really my kind of music, but I found this riveting: not just for its inside story of the breakdown and revitalization of a popular band, but for its in-depth look at the creative process. These musicians are as devoted to their craft as the players in a jazz or bluegrass band, and they can't stand the thought of doing something unoriginal or "stock." I came out of the picture with a lot of respect for them, personal warts and all.

Speedy (Ted Wilde, 1928): I'd leap at any chance to see the great Harold Lloyd on the big screen, but this was even better: it came with an original score performed live by the Alloy Orchestra. (Trivial aside: one member of the "orchestra" -- it's actually a trio -- used to be in Mission of Burma.) A terrific way to see a terrific movie.

The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1965): A new print of a classic. There's little to be said about this that hasn't been said already, except that it was my favorite film at the festival. (R.'s favorite was Speedy, which I'd put in third place behind Algiers and Saddest Music -- not that any ranking of three such radically different pictures could be anything but arbitrary.)

One movie we didn't see was Is It True What They Say About Ann?, a documentary about Ann Coulter. I'm not sure what the title refers to, but I'd like to think it has something to do with the fact that one of the most popular Google searches bringing people to this website is "Ann Coulter transvestite."

posted by Jesse 10:11 AM
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Friday, May 07, 2004
SELF-PROMOTION: The June issue of Reason includes one article by Yrs. Truly, titled "Mr. Showbiz Goes to Washington"; an earlier, rougher version of the essay has already been published
online. I also have a book review in the new American Spectator. The book under review is Hollywood, Interrupted, a mostly lousy attempt to do a liberal-baiting version of Hollywood Babylon. That article isn't online, so you'll have to go to your local newsstand if you want to read it.

posted by Jesse 4:40 PM
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POP MUSIC CORNER: For the last week, Loretta Lynn's new album
Van Lear Rose has been monopolizing my home and car stereos. The album's getting a lot of attention because it was produced and arranged by Jack White of the White Stripes, a band I haven't paid much attention to. I'm going to pay more attention to them now, because this is the best music Lynn has done since the '70s; indeed, it's some of the best music she's released in her career. Her voice is in top form, and the songs range from traditional country to something more akin to the Stooges.

I hope to write a longer appreciation of this album later, but for now I'll just say this: I will be amazed if anyone releases a better CD this year.

posted by Jesse 1:39 PM
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