Slate's Taylor Clark on the disappearance of Neutral Milk Hotel's Jeff Mangum.
Various liberals (Hendrik Hertzberg, Joe Klein, James K. Galbraith) have nice things to say about the late William F. Buckley, Jr. Buckley was evidently generous, eloquent, cultivated, intellectually honest, and ecumenical in his friendships. In that spirit, let's take a moment to recall Buckley's comments on antiwar demonstrators in 1965: "I wonder how these self-conscious boulevardiers of protest would have fared if a platoon of American soldiers who have seen gore in South Vietnam had parachuted down into their mincing ranks?"
Hertzberg writes that "he could not have been happy with the vulgarity of the movement he did so much to spawn." Maybe so. Perhaps Buckley disliked hearing Ann Coulter call John Edwards a faggot. But one suspects he opposed the syntax more than the sentiment.
Massive balls award: So this guy writes and draws a webcomic called A Rusty Life for six years, and no one really reads it, because it's not very good. So he posts on Reddit, with the heading "Dear Reddit: What is it about my webcomic that no one likes!? I've been drawing it religiously for 6 years and I can't manage more then 100 hits." And then everyone on Reddit tells him what sucks about his strip. I doubt that this will enable him to make the strip any better, but you've got to admire the effort.
Obvs I'm in a full-on swoon over Obama, and I'm sorry to inflict that on you, the loyal readers of RoBros. But take a look at this speech he gave to a bunch of Cleveland Jews on Saturday, and the Q&A that followed. Is it not a model of direct, reasonable, adult discourse? Is this not the sound of a man who thinks of his listeners as thoughtful, mature humans, rather than as some constituency to be assuaged? Is it not incredibly weird to hear this kind of talk coming from someone who is at this moment the front-running candidate for president of the United States?
Interesting poll numbers from the NYT. Apparently Bill Clinton's little meltdown around the South Carolina primary did some real damage:
According to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, only 22 percent of respondents said they were more likely to vote for Mrs. Clinton because of him, while an equal number said they were less likely to support her because of him. In December, 44 percent said they were more likely to vote for her because of him, while only 7 percent said they were less likely.
Y'know who rules? Brown University president Ruth Simmons. Back in 1992, when we were taking over buildings for need-blind admssions, then-president Vartan Gregorian was like, "We don't have the money," and we were all like, "It's a question of priorities!" and he was like "People give money for specific shit, like buildings with their names on them, and nobody wants to give money to let poor people in! You can't stick someone's name on the poor people!"
And then Ruth comes in and does need-blind admissions her first year as president. And does she stop there? The fact that you even ask that question demonstrates that you don't know Ruth Simmons very well. Now she's eliminated tuition for families making less than $60K.
What does she have to say about this? “Since 2001, Brown has made financial aid for our students one of our highest priorities."
Ruth Simmons, you totally rule.
The finger-pointing has already begun: she spent too much money on fancy hotel rooms, her husband made too many blunders, she never settled on a theme, and so on ad infinitum. But all that may be beside the point—the point being that Barack Obama is a phenomenon that comes along once in a lifetime. Unfortunately for Hillary, it’s her lifetime; fortunately for the rest of us, it’s ours.
Remember the typography wars of 2004, when Bush-Cheney signage used those big italic capital letters and Kerry-Edwards had that prissy New England serif face and as a result everyone voted for the wrong guys and we got the Iraq War?
Well, 2008's gonna be different. Obama is using Hoefler and Frere-Jones's righteous Gotham typeface, all-caps, whose early-'60s-style vernacular neomodernism matches his message of positive change and Kennedy-style thin lapels perfectly. Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones discuss Obama's use of Gotham on their company blog, then go negative on the Clinton and McCain campaigns' inferior typography.
David Simon defends season five of The Wire:
We legalized drugs in West Baltimore in season three and did so in full view of half the police department, if not the community itself. Certainly, on that basis it required as much a leap of faith as anything conjured in this season.
Dumb musicological thing: The Guided By Voices song “My Valuable Hunting Knife” is in one very specific way the exact opposite of “Comfortably Numb” by Pink Floyd.
The hook from “Comfortably Numb” depends on a colloquial mispronunciation. The title phrase gets exactly four notes, sung on even triplets, which requires Roger Waters to sing it with the t before the r: “cumf-terb-lee,” as opposed to “cum-fer-tub-lee.” (I know no one pronounces comfortable correctly, but you can bet that if Cole Porter wanted to use it in a lyric, he’d give it four notes.)
“My Valuable Hunting Knife” does exactly the opposite: valuable gets four notes all to itself (“val-yoo-uh-bull”). Robert Pollard emphasizes the unnaturally elongated pronunciation by (a) setting those four syllables to an up-and-down pattern of pitches that can’t be elided or slurred, and (b) singing a three-note melisma on my right before it: “mah-ah-aye val-yoo-uh-bull.”
Thinking about this has made me think once more about the ubiquity of the pronunciation “cumf-terb-ull,” which is something I’ve probably thought about on twenty separate occasions in my life. Of course, the main reason it has achieved such hegemony is that it’s easier to say. But is it possible that its adoption was encouraged by the way the first two syllables of comf-terb-ull rhyme with disturb – that the mind unconsciously recognizes comf-terb as an antonym for disturb and perturb?
At this point we all know the rap on Barack Obama: he's inspiring, he gives good speeches, he's bigger on rhetoric than policy specifics. What somehow doesn't get mentioned much is that he's the most photogenic person in the world. Every time he wins something they show a photo of him, and I always think, Huh, why are they using a stock photo provided by the campaign? and it always turns out to have been taken fifteen minutes earlier. If this blog had enough readers to take advantage of many-to-many crowdsourcing web2.0 you-are-Time's-Person-of-the-Year dynamics, I would start a contest for people to send in the worst photo of Barack Obama they can find. I bet the winning shot would still make him look like a young god.
SHAWN: Additionally, my wife wants to know (a) what you eat for breakfast, and (b) if you like to hug your wife?
JOHN: I’m on an oatmeal kick this week, but usually just a banana. The big thing, though, is coffee, always coffee. And who doesn’t like to hug their wife? Is there an anti-hugging contingent out there I’m not aware of?
SHAWN: No. My wife just likes to know how other wives are treated by their work-from-the-home-office husbands.
I have this kind of self-important rule about not seeing movies of books I really like. (When T and her dad went to see Atonement over Christmas I saw Juno instead, which, incidentally? Schmaltz for hipsters.) But I will make an exception for the Coen brothers.
Steve Gerber, creator of Howard the Duck and Omega the Unknown and writer of some awesome and weird Defenders comics, died on Sunday. Gerber is one of those figures who seem to have occurred at the wrong moment: in the fifties he could have worked with Harvey Kurtzman at EC and seen his stories illustrated by Bill Elder; in the eighties he could have helped draft the Creator's Bill of Rights with Scott McCloud and Dave Sim and published Howard the Duck with Eclipse or Aardvark-Vanaheim. Instead he was a 1970s fan-turned-pro, like Roy Thomas and John Byrne, and he worked for Marvel, and he probably had very little chance at happiness in that situation, but fortunately for us all he was too ornery to turn into a bitter old drunk and instead he fought. If he hadn't appeared, no one would have filled his strangely shaped spot, and comics today would be different and worse. Tom Spurgeon has a lovely obituary.
If Microsoft gets its paws on Yahoo, it'll be a disaster for both companies. The reason Microsoft hasn't managed to build a decent online presence in, what, twelve years is not that there are no smart people there. It's that Microsoft is constrained by the need to protect its shrinkwrap software business. Windows and Office bring in maybe $50 billion a year (revenues), at absurd profit margins. Google wants to replace those megabucks with the (much smaller) ad revenues from cloud-computing services like Google Docs. Microsoft's efforts at competing are half-assed and hamstrung, because MS doesn't want successful network services. (This is also why MS uses its crappy web browser's huge market share, gained by exploiting a monopoly, to retard the development of web standards: they want the web to suck.)
If the deal goes through, Microsoft's interests become Yahoo's interests, and one of the first great web companies will be conscripted into a rearguard action against the web itself.