Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Escaping 'Escaping North Korea'

Jon Stewart needs to come to some sort of arrangement with America about books. At this point, he represents probably the #1 conduit for information about new books for most people under 50, and he's only fulfilling a third of his responsibilities. He owes us more.

Is this unfair to say? Probably. Americans can always read book blogs or magazines. There are CSPAN broadcasts. If all else fails, there are those weird daytime cable commercials where James Patterson looms up from a Dianetics-ad-like background and thrusts his fucked-up beard at you. For most of us, though, Stewart's Daily Show offers the most convenient and least stuffy or "promotional" showcase for new books.

Unless I loathe the author's politics or find his topic too much of a niche interest to add something to my life, there's always a chance that I'll finish watching a Daily Show interview and add the book in question to my wish list. Stewart's a funny guy who's very good at showing his interest in books, and that's infectious. The problem is, about half the time that I finish these books, I have a reaction of, "Yo, what the fuck, Stew-beef?"

See, at this point, Stewart and his staff have gotten so good at picking out entertaining or thought-provoking parts of books to highlight that they can make anything seem pretty decent. However, they have declined to concurrently develop a means of signaling important qualifications to the audience. What viewers need to know is not whether something can seem worth talking about for a few minutes but how much they should want to read something. They need to be told something like:
1. While we have made this book seem interesting, it's actually a load of fact-free garbage that you will learn nothing from.
2. In the five minutes we spent making this book seem interesting, we have told you everything of interest about it.
3. There's plenty more interesting about this book, but it's sort of fluffy.
4. This book is good. Buy it.
I have no idea how to implement this subtly enough. It's not my job. But, in a pinch, I'd suggest the following system, based off the fact that Stewart likes banging the book on the desk. For number one, merely prop the book up and hold it. Number two, bang the book once and hold it up. Number three, bang the book twice. Number four, bang the book three emphatic times. That way we'll know.

I bring this up because I'm looking at my copy of Escaping North Korea and resenting John Stewart at the moment. After a Daily Show segment, I put it on my wish list, intending to go back later and decide whether to leave it on the list after user reviews filled in and gave me an idea of how good it was. Instead, I forgot about it; some well-meaning family member bought it for me for some reason, and here we are.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Isner, Mahut and 'Levels of the Game'

Just moments after tuning into American John Isner and Frenchman Nicholas Mahut's five-set epic at Wimbledon, I started thinking of John McPhee's Levels of the Game.

It was an odd thought. If they were to reach for any analogue at all, most people would probably think first of Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe's 1980 Wimbledon final, with a fourth-set tiebreaker that went to 18-16. That's assuming they thought it worth the effort to try to draw any comparisons at all. At this point, Isner-Mahut defies most of them.

Consider the following:
at 7 hours, 6 minutes in length, the fifth set alone eclipsed the duration of the longest tennis match in history by 33 minutes;
Isner has already broken the record for aces (78) by a solid 20 (98);
Mahut has broken it by 17 (95);
they are tied at two sets and 59 games apiece;
59 games is enough to win over three different matches in straight sets;
the match is not over.
This is no ordinary degree of overtime. During the broadcast, increasingly loopy broadcasters whom one suspects were obliged to urinate in empty jars behind the desk on set kept mentioning sports overtime anomalies that might seem comparable and failing. There are none. Not only has no one done anything like this in tennis; no one has done anything like this ever. The longest baseball game in history went 25 innings over eight hours. Isner and Mahut have been playing this match for ten hours over two days, set to try to conclude it on a third.

Another reason not to think back to Borg-McEnroe is that it's likely to be the default analogy for sportswriters looking for sloppy means of putting this match into perspective. Why bother?—everyone else will do it for you. Journalists in general don't like to work without comparative examples: it's why they measure everything in Rhode Islands. But sportswriters in particular seem beholden to forcing analogies, even if the only purpose is to break them later. Take the Boston Red Sox's incredible comeback against the Yankees and first World Series title in 86 years. Even then the default strategy for demonstrating the scale of the achievement was to labor to liken it to something else, only to explain why the similitude failed. This was totally unique because it was just like these other things, except for how it wasn't.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Democrats' Authority Problem

Note: unlike many guest pieces on Et tu, Mr. Destructo? today's article comes from a real, live person. Idi Amin Dada has a Bachelor's degree in political science, the rank of Field Marshal and was the last ruler of a free Uganda. Since his exile at the hands of imperialists, he has busied himself researching topics ranging from politics to philately. Fans can find him engaging in lively debates on FreeRepublic, Redstate, AIPAC, and Stormfront, where he blends in seamlessly. He has not eaten anyone since 1980.

It's Unfortunate That Walruses Were Included, and It's an Embarrassment That They Were Included

More than 50 days into the largest oil spill in the planet's history, oil company executives converged on Washington for some finger-wagging from Democrats before being sent back to corporate headquarters to do the exact same thing they'd been doing before they were slightly inconvenienced.

That Congressman Joe Barton (R-TX) said a thing sympathetic to the company responsible for the spill is a shame, both because an opportunity was missed for conservatives to tell the country how they really feel about government regulation and because other important events went undiscussed, deemed unworthy of anything other than a cursory mention in articles covering the hearing. For instance, who at ExxonMobil could have allowed this to happen?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Let's Execute Fags; or, "Cliffy, Eat Da Poo Poo!"

You should watch a video. (Whether you can watch it at work depends on employer/volume issues.) It features Pastor Martin Ssempa, the chairman of a Ugandan group against homosexuality. It's important for two reasons, the second of which I'll get to in a moment. One, last year Uganda proposed new anti-homosexuality legislation that would extend the government's criminalization of homosexuality so that Ugandans abroad could be extradited back to Uganda to be punished. For repeat homosexual offenders — recidivists who engaged in homosexual sex with consenting adults multiple times and had cops notice — that punishment includes the death penalty.

Why does Uganda need this legislation? Let the Pastor explain for you:

Monday, June 14, 2010

Cliff Kincaid and Right Side News: When Gay Abortions Are Arizona's Down's Genocide

People send in links pretty often, and most of the time there's not much to do with them, short of repeating earlier pieces or pasting a picture I have of myself from the time I visited a church in Brazil and started weeping blood. Now and then, though, someone tweets or IMs something fascinating. Last week, a very funny Twitter poster and nice guy named Sskylark sent me a link to a website called Right Side News and their article, "George Will Sells Out [sic] to Cultural Corruption."

In the interest of citing sources, I will provide relevant links, but first let me implore you not to click either the link to the site or the article in question. (Most of the article is quoted below.) I know; you're tempted, drawn with a complex and unfamiliar yearning toward their content. They offer news from the Right Side, a pledge that unhouses your beliefs. You were wrong all this time and never even knew it. What side are you even on? The wrong side? The side that has more animal droppings in its food? The side that can't gamble well? You will not find these answers at these links. Instead, you could only destabilize the fragile world of simultaneous conservatism-and-correctness that their name has erected.

According to their media kit (do not click), 77% of their audience is aged 45-74. Feral youths hopping willy-nilly from this site will only tear their ad algorithms away from absorbent adult pants toward discounts on absorbing African beats. Worse, you might crash their servers. Accustomed as they are to 3,200-5,500 readers per day, referred readers from this site could dangerously increase their traffic by 50-100%, and conservatives are constitutionally unprepared for flooding. As for why a dead African dictator writing 10-15 times per month can compete popularly with dozens of contributors posting daily articles and op-eds, know too that popular approval and demand is the nostrum of the liberal, who needs his seething hordes to overwhelm the elite and narrow privilege of hard, sensible reality.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Youtube Doubler VIII: It's a Gusher!!!

I stopped making YoutubeDoublers a few months back. For one thing, my friend Robert's heart wasn't in it anymore, and if there wasn't anyone to compete against, the achievements seemed somehow hollow and unremarkable. For another, it seemed like every time I came up with a good one, Youtube would take down one of the videos that made it work. They even took down the instrumental loop of Grandmaster Flash's "The Message" which made it and the Unintelligible Empanada Truck the best YoutubeDoubler ever. The swines. You could watch that thing for ten minutes.

However, at the risk of seeing this Doubler similarly disabled in coming days or months, here's something inspired by my recent road trip along the Gulf Coast (click image to load):

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

By the Time I Get Near Alabama

I'm going to say goodbye to some of my favorite beaches on the Gulf Coast. In some cases it's probably premature, but I don't know when else I'll have an excuse to drive along them. I'm not sure if I'll see the bleaker stuff. Last year I took a back way out of New Orleans and drove through part of the Lower 9th Ward and felt like a human vulture. Even if there is something visually awesome and profound about seeing white sand beaches turn pitch black, like an original-series Star Trek race metaphor, there's no guarantee I'd have the stomach for it.

It's always tempting on these trips to try to scan the AM dial and see if I can replicate the Simpsons' "Itchy and Scratchy Land" experience and skip to the next item on the Signs of Evil Countdown. Black oil gradually destroying significant economic engines — fishing, tourism — for each of the Gulf states certainly offers a key ingredient for approaching the apocalypse like David Letterman.

Monday, June 7, 2010

We Must Fight the Oil Spill with Decisive Ambiguity and Callowness

I got a letter from President Obama the other day. I thought I would share it here, in case I was the only one. Going off what you know is happening around the world and how these sorts of letters are written, you can guess the content pretty easily. You know, "RECENTLY I + POSITIVE VERB + LOCATION + BUSINESS + FOLKS + PROPER NOUNS + AFFIRMATION + THANKS." But I'm nothing if not generous, so here goes:
Yesterday, I visited Caminada Bay in Grand Isle, Louisiana -- one of the first places to feel the devastation wrought by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. While I was here, at Camerdelle's Live Bait shop, I met with a group of local residents and small business owners.
Obama went on to tell me about "folks like Floyd Lasseigne" and "Terry Vargas," with the homey specifics about their jobs and plight that would reassure any reader that, yes, they will be mentioned again many times during the 2010 campaign. These people are no longer in any immediate danger of suffering alone. We have deployed thousands of federal anecdotes their way. But that's not all:

Friday, June 4, 2010


As I said a while back, "Anybody could write two articles per day, forever, just refreshing the Weekly Standard or National Review and breaking down the current iteration of craven dishonesty. The trouble is that it's exhausting." But now and then, somebody at the WS or NRO makes it too easy.

Take today, in a piece entitled "Sir Jerk," where NRO's Jay "This Bra Bomb Better Work" Nordlinger has this to say about a joke from Sir Paul McCartney:

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I'm Not Saying Google Has a Policy About Having Sex with Horses, I'm Just Wondering If They Think About It

Last year a video appeared on Youtube for one day. In that span, it earned over 100,000 views, made a brief splash on sites that aggregate bizarre media, then got taken down. At the time, I tried to link it in a post named "Fucked Up Video Wednesday: Now on Thursday," which neatly describes this one as well. But between writing and publishing, the video disappeared. Just to prove that the video had once existed — and that, no, I had not fantasized it — I left the Youtube embed code there, so at least people could see the preview image.

I then finished with this parting shot:
Apparently Youtube are staffed by gutless turds who take down perfectly awesome Johnny Boob videos and also can't seem to deal with a ridiculously buff black dude with a horse mask cantering around a backyard in the most disturbing way possible. Fuck Youtube.
Then, months later, I ran across it again, this time on MetaCafe, where apparently it had resided since September, causing almost no stir at all.

Having finally seen it again, I can sort of see where Youtube was coming from. Sort of. It's called "The Black Stallion," and the description of it reads, "Horsing around before the photo shoot." Here, look at it:

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tuesdays with Marty: 6/01/10

Note: Tuesdays with Marty is a recurring segment on Et tu, Mr. Destructo? highlighting the opinions of our publisher, Marty Peretz. Mr. Peretz wishes to make it absolutely clear that he is neither responsible nor liable for any content in this site, including but not limited to words, ideas, images, and things implied by said means of communication, in addition to other forms of communication not involving the above methods, whether established or theoretical in nature.

How Palestine Was 'Lost'

Two powerful dramas ended in the last seven days. The first described an island of miracles to which only some could return, a place of refuge and possibility surrounded by a forbidding sea and malicious forces. Indeed, the Lost finale was a special event destined to be long remembered by fans of television—Vincent the dog lying down beside the hero, Jack Shephard (how appropriate), now at peace, as his spirit moves on to a new challenge.