Why the British newspaper industry, and indeed English culture as a whole, is so awesome: Guardian restaurant critic Giles Coren excoriates the paper's subeditors (British for copy-editors); the subs respond. Can you imagine any U.S. newspaper hosting an exchange like this one on its website?

Customer service: ARWWC'JG' emails to request yet more Billy Joel commentary. Perhaps she doesn't realize that the last word on Billy Joel has already been written, by the NYT's excellent Dan Barry, two weeks ago:

SOMEONE must sing a proper song of farewell for Shea Stadium, the nice try of a coliseum in Queens, as its dismantling draws near and a new ballpark rises just yards away. But that someone must be able to convey emotions specific to the place, emotions beyond the sadness of many lost Mets summers and the euphoria of two World Series championships. There is so much more.

The romantic idealism and the yeah-right realism. The quickness to mock and to take offense. The need to prove oneself better than any Upper East Side twit and the guilt from having conceived such a hollow ambition. The restlessness, angst and ache of the striver. The Long Island of it all.

Copy-editing the election: Jonathan Chait writes:

Republican campaigns to impugn the character of Democratic presidential nominees have two major themes. The primary one is slipperiness or flip-flopping.... The secondary theme is to portray the Democrat as effete, intellectual and un-manly. ("Effete" is a common epithet used against Democratic presidential hopefuls of the last two decades, along with "Harvard Boutique," "Blow-dried," "drag queen," and "Breck Girl.")
What's interesting is that effete doesn't have anything to do with gender. It originally meant "no longer fertile" (it's related to fetus); more broadly it means "tapped out, sapped of strength, past its prime, exhausted." But it sounds a bit like effeminate, so Republicans can use it to mean "unmanly" and everyone will get the point.


Thing we just realized and got sad: Superchunk hasn't released an album of new material in seven years.


Department of impossibly awesome: Samuel Beckett pitching gag ideas to Ernie Bushmiller.

I think the problem you're having, Sam, is the same problem any literary man might have. You're not setting up the gags visually and you're rushing to the snapper. It seems to me you've got the zingers right there at the beginning, in panel No. 1, and although I have to admit you got Nancy and Sluggo in some crackerjack predicaments, I don't see how they got there.

For instance, putting Nancy and Sluggo in the garbage cans is a good gag, but in my opinion, you can't have them in there for all three panels. How did they get there? Same thing when you had them buried in the sand. I like to do beach gags, but I don't think that having Nancy buried up to her waist in the first two panels and then up to her neck in the third one is adequately explained, and I've been at this game for a while now.


What is the single most annoying way to return from a medium-length blog hiatus? You might imagine that it's the classic apology-for-the-lack-of-posts post -- and indeed, that was the conventional wisdom until today, when I happened upon a brand new and measurably more annoying way: the rare I-keep-stumbling-into-money post.

On Saturday I went to the track for the first time. (On the train I said, 'We are, quite literally, off to the races!' which is something you would only do if you had never been to the races before.) I put $20 on the special MetroCard-of-gambling thing they have, made some small bets, lost some, won a couple, watched my stake dwindle. And then I hit the exacta in the ninth (one of the best parts of going to the races was saying things like 'Who do you like in the ninth?') and walked away with $75.

Then today I took a bunch of old clothes to the hipster used-clothing store, expecting them to laugh at me, and instead they gave me $81.

And then the mail arrives and there's a tax-rebate check, plus a check from a class-action settlement. Time to fire up the blog again!

There's going to be more blogging in the next little while. It might be a little different from the RoBros blogging you're used to: I'm not going to link much, because I'm trying to regain some of my short-term-memory/power-of-concentration/general-mental-mojo by not spending as much time on the internet. Maybe it'll be a return to the classic here's-what-I-think-about-Apple/Billy Joel/superhero comics era. Maybe you'll be able to watch my thinking skills return, in real time! Dunno.

In a way my return to the blogodrome is overdetermined: there is, after all, a contretemps going on that involves Barack Obama, The New Yorker, and cartooning. Much of the commentary on Barry Blitt's cover has been along the lines of this, from Time's Michael Scherer. Scherer quotes 270 words from William Rehnquist to make the point that "Despite their sometimes caustic nature ... graphic depictions and satirical cartoons have played a prominent role in public and political debate."

Rehnquist was asserting that cartoons count as protected speech under the First Amendment. Scherer, on the other hand, is arguing with a straw man. Jack Shafer does something similar: "Has the public's taste for barbed drawings waned since the Paul Conrad, Herblock, Pat Oliphant, and Bill Mauldin heydays, or have the voices of the would-be bowdlerizers gotten stronger? Shall we don blinders and erect barriers so nobody is offended or misled? Only weak thinkers fear strong images."

The argument against Blitt's drawing is not that cartooning is worthless, or that there's no place for satirical illustration. The argument is that this specific cartoon is a failure of imagination, and that depicting a calumny is not the same thing as satirizing that calumny. Scherer's attempt to defend cartooning is in fact weirdly patronizing to cartoonists everywhere: if cartoons constitute a form of political expression, if they have any meaning at all, then they can legitimately inspire disdain. The First Amendment protects the right of the speaker to speak, but it also protects the right of the listener to boo.

I'll bet you Blitt's illustration appears, unmodified, on merchandise for sale at the Republican convention.