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“You know when you see a photograph of someone you know, but it’s from years before you knew them.”

[ 131 ] July 20, 2013 |

As previously noted, my chronic insomnia and the scheduling of television in the night’s more obscure recesses often compel me to watch Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. One side-effect of such viewings is that I sometimes drift in and out of consciousness during commercial breaks, and I assume that anything I remember watching is a daft melange of half-heard words and half-remembered dreams of the sort an almost-deaf person might concoct to explain the episode to himself after the fact. Like the time I watched that episode about Big Boi being eaten by hyenas after Detective Stabler was shot over a monkey in a basketball — that had to the product of secondary elaboration.

Only it wasn’t.

So, when I awoke this morning convinced that I’d seen two seasons of Doctor Who spoiled by a 2008 episode of SVU about “sexting,” I couldn’t just chalk it up to shoddy dreamwork. I fired up the Netflix machine, turned on the closed captions and wouldn’t you know it? A 2008 episode of SVU does contain the mother of all spoilers for the fifth and sixth seasons of Doctor Who. See what I mean below the fold:

Read more…

Seriously, about that Rolling Stone cover

[ 193 ] July 19, 2013 |

I was initially dismissive of the “controversy” concerning the latest Rolling Stone cover because it originated from people making arguments like this:

The cover of Rolling Stone was once reserved for the newest bands, the hottest singer-songwriters or the pop culture phenoms grabbing the country by the scruff of its neck.

Christian Toto, the author of this one, strikes me as one of those “internet researchers” whose store of knowledge consists of ideas half-mastered and mistakenly remembered, the sort that require a quick search to “confirm” that Rolling Stone is “about” music. He has no personal connection with or real knowledge of the magazine and doesn’t desire any. This lack of intellectual curiosity is made manifest in the rest of his post, which consists of quoting “celebrities” like Ralph Macchio re-tweeting the sage words of “one of the creative forces behind HBO’s Entourage.” The limitations of such critics notwithstanding, they accidentally stumbled over a solid point. To quote joe from lowell:

The picture they chose to make the cover of Rolling Stone looks too much like a rock star. It looks like a zillion Rolling Stone covers we’ve all seen. The graphic designers were clearly going for that “ordinary, attractive person is really a monster” effect that the text describes, but they picked the wrong pic. The photo doesn’t read as “ordinary, attractive person who might live next door,” but as “the latest pop star Rolling Stone wants to promote.” It gets in the way of what they were trying to do and muddles the message. They should have used a photo in which he looked a little goofy, or a photo of him at eight years old, instead.

The criticism here isn’t that a lowly music magazine is breaking from routine and lionizing Tsarnaev — it’s an aesthetic judgment that acknowledges what Rolling Stone tried and failed to do. The difference, in other words, between conservative and aesthetic critics of the image is that only the latter are capable of correctly assessing its intent and judging its effectiveness. Conservative critics legitimately believe that Rolling Stone‘s trying to disseminate images of dreamy Islamic radicalism to impressionable American youths, whereas aesthetic critics can read the words beneath the image and understand that the cover fails rhetorically. I think Other Scott need not fear the progeny of strange bedfellows — this is just the most recent case of deliberate conservative misprision. They see what they want to, so when they look at the Rolling Stone cover, instead of seeing what’s printed:

They see what’s politically convenient:

The context is still technically there, but it’s rendered inscrutable by the controversial imperative: “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that all should become offended by a universal flaw.” Defining the entire cover down to Tsarnaev’s self-portrait — treating it as if the words didn’t exist — allowed conservatives to circulate an ahistorical and acontextual version of it that’s offensive to everyone. Much like the fight between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman began when Martin landed his first blow, conservatives have managed to bracket the conversation about this “controversy” such that the image being discussed is, by and large, the second one above. Having done so, they can rally their cultural warriors against the Shariah-loving editorial board of Rolling Stone with the usual dishonest gusto.

But liberal and aesthetic critics should have sense enough to realize that the problem with this cover wasn’t in its intent so much as its execution. In all honesty, I don’t think Rolling Stone should be criticized for its visual-rhetorical failure here, but for rehashing the tired trope of “The Monster Next Door.” That’s Keith Morrison‘s bailiwick, and Saturday mornings on MSNBC would be infinitely poorer if Rolling Stone put him out of business.

An LGM podcast: Life is “The Kingsroad,” they want to ride it all night long

[ 18 ] July 18, 2013 |

Steven Attewell and I decided that we didn’t want to wait until next February to continue talking about Game of Thrones, and so we decided to start over. Here’s our take on “The Kingsroad,” the series’ second episode.

Works Attewell discusses (warning, all of these posts contain spoilers for all five books):

  • Daenerys III (learning the dothraki way, cultural assimilation as a source of strength)
  • Tyrion I (slapping princes, having breakfast with his siblings, Tyrion as Richard III/Claudius)
  • Jon II (making his goodbyes,  his complicated family dynamics)
  • Catelyn III (the attack on Bran,  the ahistorical nature of “always a Stark in Winterfell,” Bran as Fisher King)
  • Sansa I (Sansa as a critique of romantic medievalism within fantasy genre)
  • Eddard III (Robert’s trial, Cersei’s political skills or lack thereof, royal justice)




About that Rolling Stone cover?

[ 119 ] July 17, 2013 |

I don’t see the big deal. It’s not even that great of a picture:

Now that I have that out of my system, I can write a serious post about it tomorrow.


Your black best friend isn’t an “Unfamiliar Black Male”

[ 172 ] July 17, 2013 |

I’m getting more than a little annoyed with the self-righteous proclamations of conservatives that George Zimmerman’s been proven innocent of profiling by virtue of his acquittal on charges of manslaughter and murder. The evidence all points to Zimmerman becoming increasingly obsessed with the presence of black males at his apartment complex in the months leading up to Trayvon Martin’s death. Prior to April 2011, Zimmerman’s 911 calls were the work of the neighborhood busybody. For example, he called to report:

  • 12 August 2004: “a male in a green Ford pickup”
  • 20 August 2004: “an open garage door”
  • 27 April 2005: another “open garage door”
  • 17 March 2005: “pothole that is blocking the road”
  • 21 September 2005: “a stray dog”
  • 10 June 2009: “fire alarm going off”
  • 7 September 2009: another “pothole in the road”
  • 22 September 2009: “yellow bike … doing wheelies”

But starting in August of 2011, Zimmerman’s calls took on a decidedly different note. He reported:

  • 3 August 2011: “[a] black male last seen wearing a white tank top and black shorts,” who he “believes … is involved in recent [burglaries]”
  • 6 August 2011: “two black males … in their teens”
  • 23 September 2011: yet another “open garage door,” but specifies reason for calling is “neighborhood watch [meeting] last night”
  • 1 October 2011: “two black males … 20 – 30 [years old] in Chevy [possibly] Impala at the gate of the community,” about whom Zimmerman’s concerned because he “does not recognize [the subjects] or [vehicle] and is concerned due to recent burglaries”
  • 29 January 2012: children “running and playing in the street”
  • 2 February 2012: “[black male last seen wearing] black leather jacket, black hat, printed PJ pants [who] keeps going to [the same] location”

And then on 26 February 2012 he calls about Trayvon Martin. There’s a pattern here obvious to anyone without an investment in not seeing it. What began as annoying 911 operators with pointless complaints escalated to notifying the authorities any time he saw a black male he didn’t know. The argument that he’s not racist and wasn’t profiling is based on the fact that he “mentored black children” and “had black friends” and is entirely beside the point, because it presumes that he’s an overt and deliberate racist. Those who make it claim victory when they demonstrate that he never wore a white hood or bedecked his body in Nazi ink.

I’ll grant that that Zimmerman didn’t pine for the days of short ropes and sturdy limbs.

I’ll grant that he didn’t dream of goose-stepping down the Champs-Élysées in his dress browns.

But I won’t grant that race didn’t color his judgment when it came to young black men with whom he wasn’t personally acquainted. From 3 August 2011 forward he’s increasingly — and almost exclusively — concerned with unfamiliar black males in his apartment complex. Maybe confirmation bias is more the problem here than racism, but the fact remains that the bias being confirmed is that young black males are suspects until proven otherwise. You can’t look at the 911 calls in the months immediately prior to the shooting and argue otherwise. (At least not honestly.) He transformed from a harmless nudnik into someone very concerned with the presence of unfamiliar black males, which at the very least means that by 11 August 2011 his worldview contained the category “Unfamiliar Black Male” and that the presence of people belonging to it warranted calling 911.

That’s indisputable.

Whether he volunteered the race of Trayvon Martin to the 911 dispatcher or responded to a question about it is immaterial. As evidenced by previous calls, this one was triggered by the presence of an “Unfamiliar Black Male.” And as the escalation of 911 calls indicates, he was becoming increasingly frustrated with the presence of people belonging to this category. Because, in his words, “These assholes always get away.” You can argue that he’s simply referring to generic burglars of an undetermined and irrelevant race, but doing so requires ignoring the larger context of Zimmerman’s recent 911 calls in which all the subjects were of a determined and relevant race.

But if you want to make that claim in order to win an argument with someone on the Internet, by all means, please tell me about call from 2007 in which he reported seeing two Hispanic males with a “slim jim,” or the one from 2009 in which he didn’t identify the race of the people “going into the pool and trashing the bathroom.” Feel free to ignore the cluster of calls immediately before the shooting in favor of the ones from three and five years previous, because we all know that beliefs don’t develop and concretize over time. While you’re at it, continue to insist that people who instigate confrontations are in no way culpable for their outcome. You know why? Because to everyone but you your argument amounts to this guy:

Being in the moral right to shoot away should he decide that the danger he sought is more dangerous than he thought it’d be.

“Yo, word up: shit’s getting Riehl up in this house, shorty.”*

[ 212 ] July 15, 2013 |

Dan Riehl’s so cute when he’s being racist:

Put directly and too harshly, the tragic reality is that Trayvon Martin got, not only what he deserved, but what he sought, with or without realizing it, on the night of his encounter with George Zimmerman. Less bluntly, thug-life and even wannabe thug-life is not a good life, rarely a long life and never a life that any young man — or woman — of any color or race should want to pursue.

Now, I know he’s saying that no person of any “color or race” should want to be a thug, but we all know that Dan Riehl has a long history of cowering in corners:

Dan Riehl recently encountered some black people who “were technically thugs.” What did these “technically thug[gish]” black people do? “There was no confrontation,” Riehl informs his readers, but “there were maybe ten or so” of them in the bus, which is about nine or so more than is required to trigger a flight-or-flight response in folks like Riehl. Somehow, he managed to keep it together long enough to hear what these “pretty young, not that big” black “kids” were saying.

Re-reading that post, I’m struck by the similarities: a white man’s confronted by “pretty young, not that big” kids who he considers “technically thugs,” but luckily for all involved, “it [by which he means, not insignificantly, the black kids] went on but not really to a level that was so loud, or so confrontational that it needed to be addressed.” The implicit question is, of course, “Addressed by whom?” In the wake of Trayvon Martin’s death, for Dan Riehl the answer is “By the likes of George Zimmerman.”

Because Zimmerman’s going to become a folk hero in the style of Bernard Goetz, someone white people call out to in their moment of desperation when a black kid approaches them on a sidewalk, armed with concrete. Or maybe he’ll become an Arthurian figure who will rise again in their hour of greatest need when the kids behind the counter at McDonald’s have tattoos and wear their caps crooked. Or maybe the next time Dan Riehl finds his ass on a bus with some black kids it won’t be so clenched because, like his hero, he’ll be carrying concealed heat.

Because maybe next time those kids won’t “get away” with threatening Riehl with their youth and blackness, but will get “not only what [they] deserved, but what [they] sought, with or without realizing it, on the night of [their] encounter with [Dan Riehl].”

*Actual quotation from the article: “That’s life in the big city, or just another day in the hood if you prefer, bro. Deal with it.”

UPDATE: According to Robert Stacy McCain, “Nobody is saying Trayvon Martin ‘deserved it,’ and it is astonishing that the Tampa Bay Times would employ a reporter who would write such a dishonest sentence, or editors who would let that lie appear in print.”

The implications of the acquital for people who look suspicious to George Zimmerman

[ 107 ] July 14, 2013 |

We’ve all been saying as much, but right now Charles Pierce is — to paraphrase Hunter S. Thompson talking about himself — really writing the fuck out of words:

Some night very soon, if he so chooses, George Zimmerman can load his piece, tuck it into the back of his pants, climb into his SUV, and drive around Sanford, Florida looking for assholes and fucking punks who are walking through neighborhoods where he, George Zimmerman, defender of law and order, doesn’t think they belong. He can drive around Sanford, Florida and check out anyone who is dressed in such a manner as might frighten the average citizen who has been fed a daily diet of “Scary Black Kids” by their local news and by their favorite radio personalities, and who is dressed in such a manner as might seem inappropriate to their surroundings as determined by George Zimmerman, crimebuster. He can drive around Sanford, Florida until he spots an asshole or a fucking punk and then he can get out of his SUV, his piece tucked into the back of his pants, and he can stalk the asshole or the fucking punk, the one who is in the wrong neighborhood, or who is dressed inappropriately, at least according to George Zimmerman, protector of peace. If the asshole, or the fucking punk, turns around and objects to being stalked — or, worse, if the asshole, or the fucking punk, decides physically to confront the person stalking him — then George Zimmerman can whip out the piece from the back of his pants and shoot the asshole, or the fucking punk, dead right there on the spot. This can happen tonight. That is now possible. Hunting licenses are now available and it’s open season on assholes, fucking punks, and kids who wear hoodies at night in neighborhoods where they do not belong, at least according to George Zimmerman, defender of law and order, crimebuster, and protector of the peace, because that is what American society has told George Zimmerman, and all the rest of us, is the just outcome of what happened on one dark and rainy night in February of 2012.

If you go out, pick a fight, lose, then shoot your opponent…

[ 243 ] July 13, 2013 |

… just make sure he’s black.

After your inevitable acquittal, you’ll be the darling of the conservative lecture circuit for years.

After a couple of years, we won’t stand for that, will we?*

[ 80 ] July 12, 2013 |

My dissertation contains a rather lengthy discussion of Cesare Lombroso, his theory of being “born bad,” and the complicity of later evolutionary theorists in its dissemination. I could’ve saved myself quite a bit of hand-wringing had I these photographs at my disposal. They depict a young Adolf Hitler — recently released from jail and fresh off writing Mein Kampf — rehearsing the part of the “Adolf Hitler.” Because apparently Hitlers aren’t born but made:

And then there’s the strangest of the batch:

This is the face of evil. Do what I do everyday — laugh in it by being alive.

*I don’t know why I’m titling everything after comedy routines of late either. But I am:

Into every generation a Moran is born

[ 49 ] July 12, 2013 |

And after today’s “women must register tampons and maxi pads as lethal weapons” nonsense in Texas, I believe we’ve found this one’s:


“Whoever debases others is debasing himself.”

[ 123 ] July 12, 2013 |

Ann Coulter has an interesting column on the George Zimmerman case — and I say “interesting” because its sole concern is to indict Trayvon Martin for crimes committed by “young black males” who aren’t him. They may not even be themselves. To wit:

A few days later, another house was burglarized. The thieves made off with jewelry and a new laptop. Roofers working across the street had seen two black teenagers near the house at the time of the robbery. When they spotted one of the teens the next day, they called the police.

This time, the roofers followed the suspect so he wouldn’t get away. The cops arrived and found the stolen laptop in his backpack. This was the same black teenager Zimmerman had seen looking in a neighbor’s window.

I understand how the roofers could recognize one of the people they saw “near the house,” and that the police could positively identify him as one of the robbers because he’s in possession of stolen property. But how exactly does Coulter know that the black teenager arrested with the laptop is the same one Zimmerman saw? Especially given that — if nothing else — this trial’s proven that George Zimmerman is utter shit at identifying and assessing the relative threat of young black males. Given that this unnamed black teen was presumably convicted on the strength of the possession charge, from a legal standpoint it’s immaterial whether Zimmerman testified against him. But given the perspective of his current defense strategy — which amounts to him having been “socialized” by young black criminals to assume that all young black males are criminals — it seems odd that Coulter would defend Zimmerman by demonstrating that his profiling is vindicated. “He may be a racist who believes all young black males are criminals,” she essentially argues, “but Trayvon Martin was exception, and as a vigorously law-abiding citizen, Zimmerman had no choice but to abide by the rule.”

And here — and the following is graphic and I advise you not to click through if such things disturb you — here is what happens when men like Zimmerman treat an “exception” like the “rule.” The defense has released countless images of a teenage Martin puffing his chest in his bathroom mirror like every other kid his age, but this is the image of Martin that matters. A young man, dead in the wet grass, his life cut short because Zimmerman mistook Skittles for a deadly weapon. The defense’s reliance on those images of Martin posing like a “thug” points to the perfidy of their logic: Zimmerman hadn’t seen those images when he started following Martin, nor did he know anything about Martin being involved with the insidious crime of enjoying marijuana. He just saw the kid who’d been in that dead body and decided he needed to be taught a lesson.

Say what you will about the legal maneuvering about lesser charges, but it’s clear that Zimmerman’s guilty of a premeditated action, and if his defense manages to convince the jury that “sensible” racial animus trumps that, we’re all the poorer for it.

UPDATE: And Zimmerman’s defense closes with what Richard Wright, in a petulant interview with the French press, called a “behold this nigger” moment: a photograph of Martin sitting shirtless on his father’s couch. It’s just like a slave auction — right down to the selling of a black body.

It contains all the colors of the rainbow, from white to white.*

[ 183 ] July 11, 2013 |

Before you laugh, you should know that intellectual heavyweights like the Internet’s own Jeff Goldstein are a crucial part of the movement to make “North Colorado” the 51st state. The movement’s “willing to make our voices heard even while being labeled kooks and ‘fringe’ elements,” which is a good thing, since it sounds like something concocted by kooky fringe elements. Who are these people? Don’t know. But according to Jeff they

represent a growing number of contiguous outlying counties that surround the Denver/Boulder doughnut hole owned by the hipsters and Democrats, and the many out-of-state (and illegally out-of-country) imports who have taken over Colorado government, at least for the time being[.]

I wonder what those counties have in common? Let me see now:

  • Kit Carson – 94.8 percent white
  • Logan – 92.2 percent white
  • Morgan – 92.8 percent white
  • Phillips – 96.9 percent white
  • Sedgewick – 96.0 percent white
  • Washington – 96.2 percent white
  • Weld – 93.4 percent white
  • Yuma – 97.5 percent white

They “represent” a group wants to form a state that will be on average 94.94 percent white. They specifically want to exclude urban areas like Denver County, which threatens their Great White Fever Dream with its 10.4 percent blackness. Not that their desire for a white state prevents them from explicitly comparing their plight to the Civil Rights Movement. Except if you scroll down, you’ll see that their new white state will require that “the streets run with blood like we’ve never seen before.” (That sounds ominous until you remember how low a benchmark that is for shut-ins like these.) So it’ll be just like the Civil Rights Movement, only with lots of guns and violence. I bet Jeff’s sitting at home right now thinking about rolling naked on the floor — I mean grappling – and choking the life from some dusky liberal relativist.

Because there’s nothing racist about wanting to create a white state if it’s just an accident of ideology that everyone invested in its creation is white. Unrelatedly:

*Stolen from a comment David Cross made when I saw him perform at the Irvine Spectrum Center many years ago.

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