Friday, October 29, 2010

Wailing Walls: An Introduction

Note: As tensions again rise in the Middle East, we, the good people of Et tu, Mr. Destructo? turn for insight to General Rehavam "Gandhi" Ze'evi, former Israeli Minister of Tourism. Having faked his assassination in the Mt. Scopus Hyatt Hotel at the start of the Second Intifada, the General has been in deep cover, in Judea and Samaria, posing as an American goy pursuing graduate studies in the Middle East and slowly learning Arabic, focusing especially on settlement activity in East Jerusalem. In his free time, he enjoys saying very little about himself, because he's terrified of Kachist/Islamist extremist internet aficionados.

'Now the Aktion Begins'

"Let me tell you about what I saw every morning."

Arieh gingerly stirred his cappuccino with a silver sugar spoon. He was less like the sober, Glock-toting wheeler-dealer I’d seen on Arutz Sheva than a soggy springer spaniel. It was winter in Jerusalem; the Western Wall Plaza was slick with rain. Arieh looked snug in his olive wool sweater and chocolate-colored corduroy slacks, sipping from an impossibly fluffy mug of cappucino. Even his black felt kippah, pinned over his thinning hair, looked soft. One of my companions, a jocular Moroccan, had wagered me twenty shekels Arieh had at least eight kids; I was sticking at six.

The man before us didn’t betray any such vitality, lisping as he answered, "Six kids." His gentle, open-handed gestures toward the window were the airy movements of my sincere, gay high school guidance counselor. I could almost picture Arieh and me stretched out on the Mount of Olives, sharing a Dannon Activia yogurt and running through SAT prep.

"Every day, walking from French Hill to Mount Scopus" — at this, he gestured beyond the obstructive silver dome of Al Aqsa Mosque, unbelievably close to the plate glass windows of the bistro where we sat — "I looked down at the Temple Mount. And every day, I remembered what it said in Tanakh. Once the Third Temple is built, the fresh water beneath the temple — you know of the tunnels beneath? The fresh water will flow out of the Dome of the Rock, east," he gestured once again towards the Mount of Olives, "down, down, down through Judea and Samaria, down the slopes and into the Dead Sea, which will be made fresh again. The Jordan will flow with this water."

Monday, October 25, 2010

Criterion Recollection: a Close Reading

Note: We, the good people of Et tu, Mr. Destructo? are proud to present Criterion Recollection, an analysis of the popular Criterion Collection of historic and unique achievements in film. Your guide is Mark Brendle, a former media critic for and a short-fiction writer. Brendle lives in the Pacific Northwest in a small post-recycled yurt adjacent to America's largest family-owned retail video and book store, Art Trough. When not writing or staring purposefully at culture, Brendle works as a fair-trade coffee beanist. You can follow him on Twitter.

In Bourgeois Hell—Between Discreet and Discrete: Spine #102: The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)

Luis Buñuel’s satire of modern capitalist life, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, operates on several levels. It is satiric social commentary but also a picaresque farce and an absurd comedy of errors. These levels bind together around the core of the bourgeois consumer-capitalist lifestyle, exploring both desire and the bourgeois subject's inability to satiate it at any meaningful level. For him, desire is always just missed — postponed, interrupted, or otherwise barred — but always with the promise of future satiety. This manipulation of desire acts as the engine maintaining the semi-perpetual state of late capitalism.

This Tantalus-like arrangement is fitting, for Buñuel sees bourgeois existence as a kind of hell, similar to Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit, except instead of being other people, Buñuel’s hell is the gaze of other people. The concept of the gaze, of being observed, suggests the key word of film’s title, "Discreet." Discretion serves at least a two-fold purpose for Buñuel’s hapless protagonists: it removes their acting upon their desires from the gaze of the observer and allows them to take their place within the prescribed symbolic order. This double-life represents the cornerstone of consumer-capitalist existence: compartmentalization. The film could just as easily be named The Discrete Charm of the Bourgeoisie.

Because the looming fears and momentous events of bourgeois existence are often so quotidian and discrete from others' experience, it seems only too fitting to look at this film with an intense focus. The following is a thorough, scene-by-scene analysis of the film and how it exposes the truths of bourgeois existence.

The film's protagonists, to use the word loosely, are six upper-class bourgeoisie, three men and three women. One of the men, Rafael, serves as an ambassador to Miranda; the others are French businessmen. The two businessmen, Francois Thevenot and Henri Senechal, are married to two of the women, Simone and Alice, respectively. Simone’s sister Florence completes the sextet. However, characterization is not so important. These six people represent an entire class and as such are vague, symbolic and nearly interchangeable. Only the ambassador's specific role gives him any differentiation, and as will be shown later, this differentiation plagues him throughout the film.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Face of Yankee Fandom

Because it's become a habit in the last few days, I kept up a running post of last night's game, the Rangers at the Yankees for ALCS Game 4. It was an interesting game. The shaky AJ Burnett turned in a competent performance before a stupid intentional walk and homer gave the Rangers the go-ahead run. From there, Josh Hamilton engaged in his own one-man home run derby, and the Rangers put the game well out of reach.

However, today many people will surely be talking about the disputed fan interference in the bottom of the second inning, which made the rest of the game seem merely conventional, despite the 10-3 score. The Rangers' going up 3-1 on the Yankees makes for good times in Texas and dire forebodings in New York, but the terrible officiating speaks to concerns held by all fans of baseball. And while that's worth exploring, it's important not to forget that the interference in right field not only threw baseball's replay problems into high relief, it did the same with the image of Yankee fandom.

With one out and no men on, Yankees second baseman and candidate for 2010 league MVP Robinson Cano lofted a ball to right field. It seemed to come down on the barrier between the seats and the playing field, atop the wall, and go into the stands, whereupon it was ruled a home run. But Rangers right fielder Nelson Cruz argued that he was interfered with, preventing him from reaching an eminently catchable ball and making an out. Replays showed that a fan in a Derek Jeter jersey who caught the ball put his hands out directly above Cruz's glove, while a second fan immediately thereafter put his hands directly on Cruz's glove and pushed it.

MLB Playoffs: (Not Really) NLCS Game 3, via Chatlogs

As soon as I knew I was going to do a few more playoff blogs this year, I sent an email to my buddy JShap, who last showed up in "The Emmys Are for Idiots, Part II," and asked if he was interested in joining in. Last year, during the second game of the World Series, he and I wound up commenting on the game via AIM, and it was easily the best part of the piece and the most fun I had writing about the postseason. Because I still find myself quoting from it — and think it has two of the best lines ever printed on this site — I figured there was no way another chat couldn't make the Championship Series at least a little more fun.

I was right, but inadvertently, we wound up overshadowing the game, almost bailing on it completely. That probably happened for a few reasons:
1. JShap had to do some work, which meant that he had to choose what to de-prioritize. Work wasn't an option, and since he was ostensibly there to chat with me, the game wound up less scrutinized.
2. I was up until eight that morning doing work and managed to get about three and a half hours' sleep. Basically, my brain was too sluggish to really follow too much at once.
3. Joe Buck and Tim McCarver were normal and on-point. I've covered them when they've been off-the-rails nutty, staggeringly stupid, offensively disinterested and plain mediocre. This was not only one of their better games, it might be one of the best that I've heard them call.
4. I was a little burned out on baseball in general, from having written two pieces and 6,000+ words about it the day before.
5. The game was quick, efficient and pretty conventional. The innings flew by, and nothing untoward happened. Apart from a few unfortunate errors for the Phillies, this wasn't a game where you could point to anything particularly momentous or worthy of contention.
In short, NLCS Game 3 was one of those ballgames where you can understand everything that happened by just reading a box score. There wasn't something visually odd that needed interpretation, nor was the announcing or presentation mistaken enough that it would be important to note in a way that an ESPN article would not.

Because of that, the few notes I took were mostly useless. They're play-by-play stuff, the sort of thing ESPN does better and that you don't need to hear from me. At the end of the game, well over 90% of what I'd written came in the form of chat. I'll go ahead and try to ground some of that conversation in terms of action on the screen, but much if it is untethered to the game drama. If you hate chatlogs, my apologies, but it's best you punch out now.

We open with the national anthem performed by a member of Death Cab for Cutie, putting his band's unique spin on the material, which is to say acoustical, stylistically inert, vocally sub-competent, and deadly fucking dull, dull, dull. His presence here also guarantees that of his wife, Zooey Deschanel, a Manic Pixie Dream Girl best known for playing the same tissue paper-thin waifish characters, making tissue paper-thin music of forgettable quality and being so genuinely banal that a website once asked (and answered), "Is Zooey Deschanel the Most Boring Person Alive?"

Anyway, I'm thinking these things when JShap finally swans in:
ME: You're late. The national anthem was sung by a douchebag from Death Cab for Cutie. The one married to Zooey Deschanel. Which is why, supposedly, Zooey Deschanel is singing "God Bless America" later. Really. The Land of the Twee and the Home of the Reedy, Weak and Affected.
JSHAP: I'd rather ride in a Death Cab for Cutie than listen to that!
ME: You realize you just backhandedly called yourself cute? I like this decision, though. It's like the people in the Giants' front office were programming the singing for this game and thought, "Wait, what if people in America don't know they're playing this game in San Francisco?" "Good point. Do you think we could have someone perform the national anthem as a series of pops and clicks?" "Yes, and let's have it sung by a tree." "The Stanford Cardinal is busy that day. Just go down to the Mission and straw poll people about what indie piece of crap they most want to hear."
JSHAP: What I love about Zooey and America both is that they're just so down to earth and relatable.
ME: I remember one time being on this plane going somewhere. I didn't know. I think I was trying to find myself, you know? Anyway, I had this really long layover at Midway, maybe four hours. I just wanted to be left by myself to work things out, but I met this really amazing country that wouldn't leave me alone until I came out of my shell and helped it perform an acoustic guitar song by clapping my hands and letting it see me smile. That country was America.
JSHAP: America totally got me into the Shins and taught me not to sweat the bullshit.
ME: America smiled at me, and I pulled a thin sundress over America's head and saw its tiny breasts, and it self-consciously covered the faint chestnut down of its pubic hair with a small hand girlish hand that had chewed fingernails and chipped polish.
JSHAP: My laughter is stifled by my erection. It's usually the other way around.
ME: I got uncomfortable typing that.
JSHAP: Well it was tastefully done, and the story called for it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

MLB Playoffs: Rangers/Yankees ALCS Game 3

Game 3 was over for maybe three minutes before my instant message client started popping with the sounds of people who never talk to me about baseball IMming me to talk about baseball. Texas Rangers starter Cliff Lee was sublime. No, on second thought, he was just vicious. Or, as a guy I know named Jim put it:
JIM: In three starts, Cliff Lee has thrown 34 Ks and walked one batter.
ME: I know.
JIM: If your blog about his pitching doesnt include the word "nasty," you should find a better synonym that sounds nastier than nasty.
ME: Filthy.
JIM: Pornographic. Although you're going to be posting about balls being thrown, so that may cross the line.
ME: Ahahaha.
JIM: Just say that it was "some Harry Potter golden-snitch-type shit."
It was. Cliff Lee threw his cutter as if he had bewitched it, striking out 13 Yankee batters and holding them to two hits — one a broken-bat blooper — through eight innings. But if you saw the game, you know that, and you're here for something else. You want the abuse, and the commercials and announcer scorn.

Call me Mr. Sharon Jones and dap-king me, motherfucker! Blog it! BLOG IT! Bwooooosh!


Your cretins for this game appear courtesy of TBS. On play by play we have Ernie Johnson, with John Smoltz and Ron "Hello, Darling!" on color. By the end of the game, Smoltz will have appeared funny and rational, Darling will remain unchanged, and Johnson will have his mic cut off for a prolonged attempt at an Orson Welles impression.

This has been a thing with every bit of bumper music for every TBS game this postseason, but can someone explain to me what the fuck Kid Rock's "I WAS BAWRN FREE? I WAS BAWRN FREE? I WAS BAWRN FREE?" has to do with baseball? Seriously, just read this shit. If the rest of the album is anything like this, I'm pretty sure this is the first time someone ever cut an LP with the aim of selling Chevy trucks on TV for half a decade and spending the rest of his life having his face airbrushed on American flag tank tops. Also, my kid brother can probably grow a better 'stache than Kid Rock. Fuck anybody who gets in a truck with or because of him. You can't trust him, not with that Frenchie-stache action.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Profiles in Florida: Bill McCollum

I've always considered being a Republican for the last 30 years to be somewhat idiotproof. I just figured it'd have to be. Remaining electable never seemed especially difficult, so long as one avoided having sex with children or coloreds and refused to display the hobgoblin of the small-minded: a consistency to not appear foolish by reasoning out an issue first and finding a conclusion about it second.

Other than that, you could just fax lobbying groups your Direct Deposit info and take a nap. This is probably why I like Bill McCollum, because somehow he fucked up the formula for empty parroting, sweetheart lobbying and venial constant sleaze that everyone seems to tolerate from the GOP. Somehow, he managed to keep losing, in 2000, 2004 and finally in a primary this year. On top of that, he did it in Florida, where GOP corruption is pretty much considered:
a. a sport;
b. an essential lubricant for the governing process — almost exactly like the function of Mexico's PRI, only don't tell these people that, because Mexicans are the worst people ever (unless they smell like orange rinds);
c. such a non-story that probably half the lawmakers in Tallahassee greeted The Daily Beast's naming Florida as one of the nation's most corrupt states with a massive dose of white-man's overbite and a belt-high firing of the index-finger gun.
This was the easy stuff to inoculate against, the unsweatable small stuff. Florida and corruption is still like the Playboy Club before AIDS. Florida can suffer anything, apparently, but Bill McCollum.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Rays 2010 Post-Mortem: Someone Started a Few Playoff Games and Two Crime Scenes Broke Out

If Boston's performance in the 2004 American League Championship Series taught us nothing else, it's that even a team down to single-game elimination can surge back to win it all. I have no doubt that, given a time machine and some clever disguises, the 2004 Red Sox could have done that in the ALDS this year. Unfortunately, the team I'm talking about is the 2010 Tampa Bay Rays, and obviously it's over. For regular fans watching at home, it might have been over the moment Rocco Baldelli limply struck out with the bases loaded in game one.

For most web-savvy fans it probably ended the moment their RSS feed binged and brought the news of the starting rotation for the ALDS. Manager Joe Maddon slated James Shields to start game two, something that writer Joe Posnanski outlined as a BAD IDEA pretty neatly:

[He’s] starting James Shields in Game 2? My buddy Ed Price has a piece up at Fanhouse quoting Maddon saying that while Shields’ more obvious numbers like ERA and home runs allowed and such were dreadful (he led the league in runs, hits and homers allowed), his “deeper numbers” were better. And his xFIP — what is basically his expected ERA if you take fielding out of the equation – is a very good 3.72, better, in fact, than CC Sabathia’s.

I certainly appreciate the nod to xFIP, but I can’t help but think that the REAL reason why the Rays are starting Shields is because of that absurd “Big Game Shields” nickname that someone stuck on him. And while I love Maddon being unconventional, I can’t help but worry that he’s overdoing it. Joe Maddon is really smart. I just hope he doesn’t think he’s smarter than that.
For fans of old Warner Brothers cartoons, the title says it all. Wile E. Coyote bore the title "Super Genius" around on a business card whenever urbanely introducing himself to somebody, and still he spent every waking moment of his life being incidentally murdered by himself due to a dumb bird.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Profiles in Florida: Unholy Unions

Democratic candidate for Florida governor Alex Sink recently caused a stir among Republicans and law-enforcement officials with a barrage of ads touting her endorsement by the Florida policeman's union. Though she received the endorsement months ago, the ads are the first time many are hearing it, which means that the rest of the state must now cope with a few people recognizing that the apocalypse is upon them. This is the first time in 20 years that a Democratic gubernatorial candidate has earned the nod.

The St. Petersburg Times has more:
Rick Cochran, vice president of Tampa's police union and a registered Republican, explains the union's reasoning:

The Florida Police Benevolent Association doesn't want Republican candidate Rick Scott to become governor because Scott supports pension reductions and the privatization of prisons.

That would cause prison guards to be laid off, and it would affect officers' pension plans, said Florida union deputy executive director Matt Puckett.

Cochran said that some local members have visited the union's office this week to ask why their group would endorse a Democrat. The party has generally carried the perception of being soft on crime.

"When we explain it, the majority get it," he said of the endorsement. "I've had a few people say that they're a Republican, and they just can't do it."

Thursday, October 7, 2010

MLB Playoffs: Rays ALDS Game 1 & Roy Halladay's Gem

Welcome to the postseason. I promised a reader that I would do at least one full day of "liveblogs" of the MLB Divisional Series playoff games, so yesterday found me setting aside a 12-hour block of time to endure such indignities as drinking beer, eating Thai food, drinking iced tea, eating sausages, watching a no-hitter and sitting down. I also typed.

I can't promise that I will do a full day of these again, so let's play ball!


Oh, we can't do that yet. We have to wait. It's time for the absence of analysis couched in vague non-answers and predictions so over-qualified that they declare nothing. This year TBS airs all the divisional games, which means that we open in the TBS studio, with your hosts, Cal Ripken, David Wells, Dennis Eckersley and some other guy who I would like to murder.

Offscreen (I just mistyped that as "offscream"), Cal Ripken hits balls in a batting cage at the edge of the studio. Awesome. He's way too old to play at anything like a major league level, and some boy cowers behind a net throwing him meatball pitches. We might as well be watching your drunk dad potato a bunch of fat, slow lobs for all the heroics on display here.

MLB Playoffs: Yankees/Twins ALDS Game 1

For earlier playoff games, please see MLB Playoffs: Rays ALDS Game 1 & Roy Halladay's Gem.


After filling time to end the broadcast of the Reds/Phillies game, we have to go back to the TBS studio to fill time before the Yankees/Twins game. Because one of the most amazing things that can ever happen in baseball just happened, everyone in the studio feels he has to stamp his wisdom on it and offer some announcing stab at immortality. David Wells tells us all about how he knew Roy Halladay when he first came up with the Toronto Blue Jays and showed so much promise; then Halladay went back down to the minors and came out to throw a perfect game and have this kind of performance.

This is a really interesting summary, because Wells has just made 1998 and 2010 sound like they happened a few weeks apart. It's kind of like Kirk Douglas saying, "Well, I knew my son Michael had determination because once I showed him how to walk, he just wouldn't stop walking. That's how he graduated high school and produced One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and now he's finished filming the new Wall Street movie." I know Shakespeare used to compress time like this in many of his plays, but in this case a really dumb Falstaff just poached Doc Brown's DeLorean and used it to park on Octavian to keep him from murdering Prince Hal.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Answer the Petition, Ms. O'Donnell!

I have taken the liberty of writing a petition for concerned American voters, regarding Republican Christine O'Donnell and her candidacy for senator from the great state of Delaware. If you have been following this site, you likely remember our earlier misgivings, and these misgivings have only intensified as we've encountered more details about her personal history.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

You Are Christine O'Donnell

You've probably heard a lot about Delaware Republican senate candidate Christine O'Donnell in the last couple weeks. She gives everyone you know on Facebook a daily video that they can paste into their feed to seem politically "with it." Plus, she neatly helps the Democratic party make sure you never hear about its spinelessly walking back even faint promises to restore effective progressive taxation — like how they gutted and bailed on their attempt to kill the carried interest tax break. Pocket change you can believe in.

O'Donnell's so fucking nutty that she's almost a perfect distraction. First there was the video of her anti-masturbation opinion. Then it turned out that her passionate Christianity hit a speedbump a few years back when she was one of those loopy dorm-room-type witches. In 2006, perhaps because of witchcraft, she knew of classified Chinese plans to take over the United States. She thinks evolution is a myth because monkeys don't evolve pipes into their hands and turn into Presbyterians for no reason. Then there was the video where she admitted that she failed to become a hare krishna because she loved meatballs too much. And she claimed to have attended Oxford University in England, when in fact she didn't get her pedestrian American BA until a short while ago. Also, apparently somewhere along the line somebody asserted that her father was the official Philadelphia affiliate's Bozo the Clown, when he was actually just a substitute Bozo. Fine, whatever.

Anyhow, now O'Donnell has a video out to set the record straight, one in which she asserts, "I'm not a witch.... I'm you." Watch:

Monday, October 4, 2010

Progressives Burn Down House

Conservatives were just beginning to irritably push back against the liberal message-board argument that any "True Conservative" should move to Somalia to enjoy life in libertarian paradise. There were rumbling asides in blogs, the sorts of things that would reach full throat as soon as National Review could get their shit together and crib something from the Von Mises Institute.

Then some red state citizen had to go and have this happen to him:
Tennessee County’s Subscription-Based Firefighters Watch As Family Home Burns Down

The conservative vision was on full display last week in Obion County, Tennessee. In this rural section of Tennessee, Gene Cranick’s home caught on fire. As the Cranicks fled their home, their neighbors alerted the county’s firefighters, who soon arrived at the scene. Yet when the firefighters arrived, they refused to put out the fire, saying that the family failed to pay the annual subscription fee to the fire department. Because the county’s fire services for rural residences is based on household subscription fees, the firefighters, fully equipped to help the Cranicks, stood by and watched as the home burned to the ground.