Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Very Skillful, Mr. Colbert

"[T]here was no significant difference between the groups in thinking Colbert was funny, but conservatives were more likely to report that Colbert only pretends to be joking and genuinely meant what he said while liberals were more likely to report that Colbert used satire and was not serious when offering political statements...." *

That's a real testament to the skill of Colbert.

I'm not generally fond of the improvisational funny, partly because the bounds of "improvisation" are, oddly, fairly circumscribed in a narrow and specific way. The observer is meant to laugh at how well the performer is improvising: "Gee, they thought up that quip on the spot!" But we've all known people who can make up funny quips. Even Peter Cook couldn't make them funny all the time.

Colbert has created his own little world he works in. Most of his show is written, but the countless gestures, moues, and quips aren't-- he improvises lines and gestures in addition to the writing. And he has a fully fleshed out character (one that's defined as "that specific Colbert twat" rather than the general Improv Comic's world of "someone who may make a funny quip occasionally."). His character is so fully formed that he can actually perform the Talk Show Interview in character.

Colbert can pay attention to the shifts and drifts of the daily and weekly news, and to the currents of ideology that week. He can make that funny with his pre-formed character, a lot of funny gags from writers, and his own improvised delivery and asides. And he makes the character seem as natural as Bill O'Reilly or Hannity playing themselves--as the study above seems to indicate.

Of course, Colbert is by all accounts a very nice guy. But, most of all, he's funny.

And, of course, your average Republican really is dumb.

The Irony of Satire
Political Ideology and the Motivation to See What You Want to See in The Colbert Report
Heather L. LaMarre -The Ohio State University, HLaMarre@gmail.com
Kristen D. Landreville - The Ohio State University
Michael A. Beam -The Ohio State University

Friday, April 24, 2009

Simpletons think Complex Questions are Simple

From (Republican, of course) Rep. Joe Barton's YouTube page, with this info: "When Rep. Joe Barton asked the Nobel Prize winning Energy Secretary, Dr. Steven Chu, where oil comes from - he got a puzzling answer."

Dr. Steven Chu is a Nobel-Prize winning Physicist.
Joe Barton is evidently a sub-idiot.

This really is exasperating. It's like a very young child asking one of those "simple" questions such as : "How does television work?" There is a simple metaphorical answer ("Images come over the wires!") that doesn't tell an adult much.

But if an adult asks such a question, one has to probe how much they already know about how the world works.

In the case or Rep. Barton, I guess one would have to ask him "Have you ever heard of geological time? Plate tectonics? Continental drift? Subduction? Pangea or Gondwana? As for Alaska, have you heard of glaciation?"

It appears, from Rep Barton putting that clip on his own Youtube page that the answer would be "No, I don't really know about any of those."

And then, the answer to him would have to be, as it would be for a six-year old child: "God put it there."

And again we are forced to ask, What are the bipartisan solutions that can be reached with someone who is proud of asking that and thinks Chu's answer is "puzzling" but doesn't realize the question is juvenile?

I realize that there are Democrats who aren't geniuses, too. But Republican congresspeople, like Barton, seem to be proud of it.


Friday, April 17, 2009

Miscellaneous notes on my mind

  • Re the DHS report (which was initiated under Geo. Bush): Hey, wingnuts: If your hero is Ronald Reagan and you're collecting Ayn Rand books, you're fine. If your hero is Timothy McVeigh and you're collecting fuel oil and fertilizer, you're not.

    Why do Republicans want to be associated with Timothy McVeigh, the KKK, and Stormfront? Can't they just say "Good: keep us sane conservatives safe from those violent kooks?"

  • Re the OLC torture memos: really disgusting stuff from a bunch of sadistic cowards. I would hope that Yoo, Bybee, and especially Addington could be prosecuted.

    But I'm with Kevin Drum's current thinking on whether the CIA operatives should be prosecuted: " It just seems as if tackling the practical issues involved in figuring out who did what, and under what circumstances, is too vast an undertaking for too small a probable return. "

    You'd basically shut down the CIA during the investigation.
    I figure there's a better than 50/50 chance the CIA operatives would be acquitted anyway, thereby legitimizing torture by a jury of their peers.

    If there weren't 20 other epochal crises left to Obama by Bush, I'd be more inclined to say go for the prosecutions of the CIA guys.

  • Related: I'm still stunned about the absolutely horrible collection of shit-hurricanes that Bush and his Fox News government left behind. Not just a wretched recesssion, but a financial crisis that cripples attempts to ease recession (Federal Reserve interest rate at zero -- for the first time ever -- by the time Obama took office), and a huge deficit to boot, during the only time when governments must spend massively to prevent collapse.

    From the big things to the smaller things. For instance, here's George W. Bush in 2001, speaking to the President of Mexico:
    Mr. President, you and I are keeping the pledges we made in Guanajuato this past winter to expand the freedom of trade, to build an equitable prosperity, and to honor the rule of law.

    We have before us a great prospect, an era of prosperity in a hemisphere of liberty. In this task, our cooperation is broad and unprecedented. Our sense of trust is strong, and it's growing.

    Then 9/11 happened, Bush got all "Let's get Saddam for no good reason," then Bush got tired of playing President and Mexico has gone to hell just like nearly everything else the idiot touched.

  • Following from the above: I've long been a partisan Democrat, but I've voted for a handful of Republicans in the past. After seeing how horrendously these people can clusterfuck everything they touch, I'll sit out an election with a bad Democrat rather than vote for another Republican, no matter how anodyne they seem. The "decent" republican I vote for (say, if I had the opportunity to vote for Olympia Snow, though I don't live in Maine) may end up supporting the countricidal lunatics years down the road. They're unsafe in positions of power.

    If the scale of the failures weren't so immense, I probably wouldn't feel that way. But they are immense, they were supported by nearly every elected Republican for nearly eight years, and I do feel that way.

I've seen various wingnuts complaining that Democrats keep pointing an accusing finger at Bush when discussing America's current problems. Well, I'm pointing at the problems he created or exacerbated. The economy and foreign policy are the main things the President has to pay attention to, and he didn't just fuck them up in ways that ended in January 2009. The consequences of Bush will last for years if not decades.

I'm still hearing giggles from wingnuts about the horrible deeds of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, and neither of them left the steaming pile of fetid sewage behind that Bush and Cheney did.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thomas Paine, Not a Republican

I've been gobsmacked to see references to and (apparently) readings from Thomas Paine as part of the wingnut freakout du jour.

Many of Thomas Paine's ideas were not just radical for his time, but would be scandalously radical now.

For instance, Paine was a proponent of a guaranteed minimum income (note, this is NOT the minimum wage, but a guaranteed minimum income.

He was a scabrously anti-religious deist ("The whole religious complexion of the modern world is due to the absence from Jerusalem of a lunatic asylum." and "What is it the New Testament teaches us? To believe that the Almighty committed debauchery with a woman engaged to be married; and the belief of this debauchery is called faith.")

Those comments couldn't be uttered without corporate apology on Fox News today, 200 years after Thomas Paine's death.

Chris Kelly has a short rundown of Paine clashing with the Republican Party ethos.

I'm amazed that self-professed conservatives would evoke the radical spirit of Thomas Paine, given how his spirit would knock out their underpinnings.

While Obama isn't a radical, it's less surprising that he would evoke Thomas Paine, as he did in his inaugural address.

As some of you may note, I enjoy UK radio, and there's a nice current series called "Mark Steel's in Town," where Mark Steel goes to various smaller places in Britain and does a standup routine written for that locale. I enjoy Steel quite a bit (he did a wonderful series called "The Mark Steel Lectures" for both radio and television, one episode of which, in each medium, focused on Paine). [These Lectures also gave Emma Kennedy a chance to perform for the public, and Steel is sainted in that regard.]

One of the towns he visited for "Mark Steel's in Town" was Lewes (pop. 16,222), where Paine spent some years. I've put it up for those who may be interested. The section about Paine begins around 8:30 in, but the whole episode is quite ably handled and funny.

Mark Steel's in Town: Episode 3 - Lewis. Broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on April 1, 2009.

Finally, one more Paine quotation that reminds me of Obama:
"Moderation in temper is always a virtue, but moderation in principle is always a vice."

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Drizzling Easter Morning

And he is risen? Well, be it so . . .
And still the pensive lands complain,
And dead men wait as long ago,
As if, much doubting, they would know
What they are ransomed from, before
They pass again their sheltering door.

I stand amid them in the rain,
While blusters vex the yew and vane;
And on the road the weary wain
Plods forward, laden heavily;
And toilers with their aches are fain
For endless rest--though risen is he.

Thomas Hardy wrote many great things. If only he'd have been a slam poet, thoughtful as they are.

Happy Easter.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Nice one, Charlie Brooker

I really like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, but the US could use someone like Charlie Brooker. [I presume a prole at the Guardian put "Daily Show" in the subhead for this article, sadly.]

He's a columnist for the Guardian, but I knew him first from his TV. He does tv-fiction (a previous comedy called Nathan Barley about new media peasants like those in Shoreditch Twat, and a reality-show-based zombie horror thriller dramedy called Dead Set.] And he does tv-factual -- His new show about news, Newswipe, is as funny as his TV-in-general show Screenwipe, but feistier.

Newswipe on Youtube [On Youtube each link is only to part 1 of each episode so you'll have to scour youtube for later segments, but it's worth it]:

Newswipe Episode 1

Newswipe Episode 2

Newswipe Episode 3, the most recent episode. --they include a nice look at the looniness of Fox News and especially Glen Beck from a Brit. And a thought-provoking mini-documentary from Adam Curtis about "Oh, Dearism" and how it obfuscates political argument. Episode 3 is the best so far, at least to this Yankee.
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