So in the course of breaking the news in Slate that it's a shame people don't write letters anymore (seriously), Anne Applebaum slips this in:

Letters have gone the way of the gentle anecdote, the meandering sentence, and the ironic paragraph. Try lengthy irony in an e-mail, and you'll be misunderstood. Try it in a newspaper column, and you risk furious attack. I once attempted to mock Americans' deep suspicion of voting machines, in contrast to our implacable faith in the solidity of ATMs and the safety of Internet shopping. Eight paragraphs of tongue-in-cheek do not go down well in the culture of instant point-scoring.
Wait - what?

So she's now saying that this Washington Post column, in which she argued that there's no need to require voting machines to provide a physical record because we all use ATMs and often don't ask for a receipt (and which, as numerous people pointed out at the time, is just unbelievably stupid and offensive) was tongue-in-cheek. So she didn't really believe it at all. She was writing a parody of a stupid Washington Post column.

No wait. I think the point is that she genuinely was making that argument, but that she used "tongue-in-cheek" techniques to do it, and that was what pissed people off.

First of all, she didn't. There's nothing in there you could call tongue-in-cheek. But more important, even if she had, that's not why people got mad. They got mad because the idea that there's no reason for voting machines to be required to produce paper records since we all use ATMs is just stupid and offensive in itself.

And then to try somehow defend yourself two and a half years later by mischaracterizing what the people who objected to it were saying is just focking infuriating.


Fun thread of "famous songs rewritten as limericks." Samples:

Shall I get you a drink, Maggie May?
Though I'm used, I don't care what they say.
While you're older (and how)
Please enjoy my youth now
'Cause 'Hot Legs' is just five years away.

Stevie Ray brought his Strat to the jam
When DB said "I'm through being glam.
"I'll no longer be soulful,
"'Sperimental, or doleful,
"So Let's Dance and cash in. Where's my gram?"
Third Avenue and 53rd
I stand without saying a word
Where once I turned tricks
Stabbed a guy just for kicks
Now it's luxury condos ... absurd!


So I was thinking that I should maybe do a post on Scott Thomas-gate since I've been thinking about it a bit, but then I saw that Hilzoy has said absolutely everything that needs to be said on it, way better than I ever could.


If you haven't been reading Fake Steve Jobs lately, he's been on something of a roll. Here's Caroline McCarthy on the anonymous blogger's old-school charm:

In a culture captivated--obsessed, even--by the antics of high society, an anonymous satirist starts publishing over-the-top missives purporting to be from an insider in that privileged niche. In the process, the faux-mogul skewers political elites, entertainers, business titans, and ordinary people in a way that's at once outlandish and provocative, hilarious and appalling. It reeks of Swift or Dickens or Twain.
Plus: Andy Ihnatko forthrightly denies that he's FSJ:
I say this here and now, without a single wink or ironic note: I’m not him. I had nothing to do with the blog’s creation and have never had the slightest thing to do with any of its content.


My alma mater is up for America's Most Annoying Liberal Arts College at Gawker.

Firmly under the heading of "bad for the Jews" is the tragic story of Darren Sherman, who met some girl on JDate, took her out to dinner, and then, when she failed to call him, demanded that she pay him back for her share of the meal. Fortunately this is 2007, and so his e-mails and voicemails are available for all to enjoy.


"Reading Comics"

Signs of comics' maturity are coming thick and fast these days -- I was in Forbidden Planet last weekend, and I swear there was at least 40 percent women in there -- but one of the most hopeful is Douglas Wolk's new book, Reading Comics. The book isn't a history of comics or a survey of the canon or an Understanding Comics-style dissection of the medium's mechanics. It's an intelligent critic's attempt to think about his responses to works of art. It works because Wolk is a a terrific reader -- attentive, insightful, sensitive, broad-minded -- and because he's very good at explaining his enthusiasms in layman's terms.

Wolk (who I've hung out with a couple of times) is unusually good at addressing initiates and novices at once: there's enough hand-holding for the reader who knows only, say, Maus and Persepolis, but even the most remedial paragraphs are larded with nuggets of interpretation and commentary for afficionadi to chew on. The bulk of Reading Comics comprises essays on specific cartoonists and works -- some canonical, some contemporary, some pure pulp. There's no attempt at completeness: Kirby and Crumb, among other colossi, are absent. (The book also largely ignores manga and strip cartoons -- the latter a surprising omission, given the reprint boom and the influence of Herriman, Schultz et al on art comics.) Some of Wolk's readings are clearly intended to upset a few applecarts -- Eisner and Ware come in for sober reappraisals -- but he's never ungenerous or capricious. In every case, he points out things I hadn't noticed in the work, even when he discusses cartoonists I've spent a lot of time with.

Most recent comics criticism wants to see comics as a new kind of literature, rather than a thing in itself, and thus winds up missing comics' drawn-ness. Wolk, on the other hand, is really good at looking: he's alert to the small touches that add up to a drawing style, and he loves the fact that such a style creates reality for the reader. This leads him to focus more on the nuances of illustration than on the panel-to-panel mechanics of comics storytelling (the kind of thing Scott McCloud emphasizes). Peeking out from behind Wolk's judicious tone there's a personal aesthetic. He particularly likes: pages that work as unified designs; comics that explore the connections between parts of a system; thorny, scratchy, "ugly" drawing styles; wild spatial abstraction. (Every item on that list is associated with Steve Ditko, the book's secret hero, and I suspect that if Wolk has an agenda it's to elevate wiry, intellectual Ditkoism to a position alongside massive, kinetic Kirbyism in the American tradition.)

Because Reading Comics is such a personal book, everyone will take issue with a few of Wolk's conclusions. He doesn't have much time for virtuosity, which causes him to underrate Crumb and Ware and to begin a strong essay on Locas by saying that "it's easy to like Jaime Hernandez's comics for the wrong reasons." (Really? Enjoying attractive drawing and witty dialogue is wrong?) And his long discussion of Grant Morrison probably has more to offer the converted than the newbie: he makes The Invisibles sound like an elaborate New Age metaphor, without capturing the punk dynamism and humor that make it a thrilling elaborate New Age metaphor. (I have a similar problem trying to convey what makes Morrison so awesome: if there were a parallel earth that was exactly like ours except that on this one I hadn't read any of Morrison's work, and if in some "Roth of Two Worlds"-style crossover I got to meet my counterpart and was encouraging him to read New X-Men and Seven Soldiers, I'm pretty sure my descriptions would be unconvincing and I would wind up waving my hands and shouting, "No, you don't understand -- it's awesome!")

Far more often, though, Wolk made me want to go back to work I've loved -- Love and Rockets X, Chester Brown's Yummy Fur, Ditko's Spider-Man -- armed with his insight, or to pick up things I haven't read yet. He gets Sim, Moore, and both Hernandezes dead-on. Mostly, he demonstrates that a love of comics can be as meaningful and as rewarding as a love of books or music. Recommended to fans and the curious alike.


This is pretty funny.

I've stopped posting about each latest Bush-admin outrage, because, hey, what's the point? And yet somehow they continue to come up with these little meaningless rhetorical things that drive me fucking nuts. The latest: Peter Stamison, the regional head of the General Services Administration, was in San Francisco, along with Nancy Pelosi, for the ribbon-cutting of some new federal building. Outside a police barricade were protesters shouting "Impeach now!" and "How about cutting the funding for war?"

So what does this GSA dude have to say? He says, "I think we all as taxpayers — those of us taxpayers, as opposed to you people back there — are the ones that make this work."

In other words, that majority of the country that opposes the war and the administration obviously don't pay taxes, are criminals, have abdicated our rights as citizens, and can therefore justifiably be ignored.

Do I sound hysterical? I feel like I might be getting a little hysterical. It's just that this shit has been going on for a long time now, and I'm kind of losing it a little bit.


So, so true.

Of course, there's something annoying and depressing about conservatives abandoning Bush, because, after all, everything awful about him was clearly visible in 2004, and things didn't have to go the way they did. But this Peggy Noonan column is a satisfying read anyway, and she gets off a couple good insights that might not be available to those of us who never fell for W's bullshit:

I suspect people pick up with Mr. Bush the sense that part of his drama, part of the story of his presidency, is that he gets to be the romantic about history, and the American people get to be the realists. Of the two, the latter is not the more enjoyable role.

Americans have always been somewhat romantic about the meaning of our country, and the beacon it can be for the world, and what the Founders did. But they like the president to be the cool-eyed realist, the tough customer who understands harsh realities.

With Mr. Bush it is the people who are forced to be cool-eyed and realistic. He's the one who goes off on the toots. This is extremely irritating, and also unnatural. Actually it's weird.


I guess maybe everyone already knew this, but Ryan Lizza is going to be the new Washington correspondent for The New Yorker. This is totally a brilliant move on their part. Over the last couple years, the worst thing about The New Yorker has been its political coverage, which has almost never gone beyond rehashing the most conventional of conventional wisdom. Jeffrey Goldberg, though apparently a great reporter and writer on the Middle East, was never cut out to do the job, as a former New Yorker writer recently admitted to me. (Ha! this makes it seem like I hang out with former New Yorker writers all the time!) Lizza understands politics, and how it's changed in the last decade, and how to write about campaigns, in a way that no one I've ever seen writing for The New Yorker does, and he's also just a great reporter. Also a nice guy, in my limited interactions with him.

My friend and colleague Rachel Morris now has a blog. Go for her brilliant Columbia Journalism Review cover story about an Al Jazeera cameraman detained at Guantanamo. Stay for the links to gay-sweater-gate, the secret cause of McCain's implosion.


When you're writing a novel, you start to sort other people's novels into the following categories: novels that you're confident your novel will be better than, novels that you hope your novel will be better than, novels that you'd love for your novel to be as good as, and novels that you know your novel has no hope of coming close to. (This came to mind because I'm finally reading Mating, which is squarely in the last category.)


Surowiecki fans: Here's a smart review-essay from Foreign Affairs, covering globalization, progress, and simplistic free-market homilies.