May 1st, 2006

Brad @ Burning Man

Sleepy-Time Quicktakes

On a personal note, I just can't stay awake long enough, can't concentrate enough, to get anything written tonight. I'm not surprised; I had to struggle like mad to get the last couple of things written, and they're the culmination of something I've been thinking about ever since I set out to figure out how someone could be as monstrous as our home state's gift to the nation, the left wing's most prolific fund raiser (we have only to mention him in a letter and money comes pouring in), the monster under the bed that liberals scare their children with, former Missouri governor, former US Senator from Missouri, former US Attorney General John "Deacon" Ashcroft ... and still have everybody who knows him personally, both Republican and Democrat, insist that he's actually a pretty nice guy, not any kind of a monster at all. Reconciling the monstrosity of the theocratic and plutocratic positions he's taken his whole political career with his personal reputation was a challenge, to say the least. So I've had a lot of time to think about it.

But maybe I'm coming down with something, or something, but I've done almost nothing but sleep for the last 60 hours. I get up for a few hours, can't keep my eyes open, go back to bed for four to six hours, over and over again. Even when I am awake, I feel like I'm running on maybe half my cylinders. Weird. So, rather than continue the thought above where I could in theory explain to you why I think that John Ashcroft sincerely thinks for reasons that are neither insane, nor ill informed, nor monstrous that he has stood for the right things his whole life, and rather than write any of the things I promised some people I'd get around to writing by now ... you get some more Quicktakes. Hey, at least it gives me an excuse to empty the Temp bookmarks folder some more.

Is This Why Disney Isn't Making Classics Any More? There's a blog out there called Re-Imagineering where former Disney employees scratch their heads over how recent Disney management could have managed to produce so many awful movies and so thoroughly muck up (in their opinion) the signature theme parks. About a month ago, one of the tiki-themed discussion groups I read passed along a link to a point-by-point analysis of the things that were changed between Walt's original Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland, the attraction for which audio-animatronics was invented for crying out loud, and the current Enchanted Tiki Room: Under New Management, called "When Birds Attack!" The long and short of it is that to make it more "current" and "relevant," they added Zasu from The Lion King and Iago from Disney's Aladdin to the cast of audio-animatronic birds that decorate the place, complete with extensive dialog. And here's the part that's interesting to me ... the dialog is entirely contemptuous of the Enchanted Tiki Room itself. Is it possible that Disney is dying of irony overdose? Is it possible that there's hardly anybody left at Disney who actually likes their classic products for un-hip, un-sarcastic, un-ironic reasons, that almost everybody at Disney secretly looks down on and despises anybody who likes Disney's old stuff?

Greenpeace Owes Us an Apology. A couple of weeks ago there was a guest editorial in the Washington Post arguing that the safest, most environmentally friendly, most economical, most efficient way for the US to meet its energy consumption needs, and the only way to do so without burning so much coal that we trigger runaway greenhouse effect, is by rapid expansion of our civilian nuclear power capacity. Which would be no big deal, because nuclear industry shills have been saying that for decades now. No, what makes it a big deal is that the essay "Going Nuclear" was written by one of the co-founders of Greenpeace, one of the original and most fervent anti-nuclear lobbying groups out there. It's big of him to admit that he's been wrong about this for 30 years, pretty nearly his whole adult life. Too bad so many people listened to him.

Satire is Impossible. The Onion weighed in on one of the issues I wrote about a few weeks ago. I wish I was sure this was funny: "EPA Didn't Know Anybody Was Still Drinking [Tap] Water." That's just a little bit too plausible.

Hmm. Suddenly I Feel an Urge to be Sequenced. There was a fascinating long science article in the Sunday New York Times entitled "A Question of Resilience," by Emily Bazelon. They're collecting data to see if they can confirm a correlation between people who react badly, for a lifetime, to trauma and a particular genetic variation, the "two short alleles" variation of the 5-HTT gene. Apparently there may be inheritable neuro-chemical reasons why people with one long allele do a better job, after trauma, of reconnecting with people who can help them, and people with two long alleles do an even better job than that, that the people with the naturally more resilient neuro-chemistry do a better job of building new relationships after major trauma. Apparently there's a company called Neuromark that's about to offer 5-HTT tests to the public. I'm tempted to get one.

And, in honor of today's planned marches and boycotts: There are many reasons why Chris Muir's "Day by Day" is the only conservative webcomic I read. It's funny in a way that cartoons about politics haven't been since Gary Trudeau's stuff during the Nixon administration. The characters are fresh, and the female leads the two sexiest characters I've seen in recent fiction, especially Sam. And Muir frequently rises above the conservative/liberal spectrum to find new ways to look at things that are side-splittingly funny. I'm not sure the following metaphor holds up well, but I laughed myself silly over it:

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot: Told You So. I predict that history will record that George Bush's popularity bottomed out at 32% and rebounded steadily from there. Why? Many months ago I said that Scott McClellan had broken the one unbreakable rule for a presidential press secretary. You're allowed to tell the story however you want. You're allowed to emphasize any facts you want. You're allowed to ignore any facts you want. You're allowed to refuse to answer any question you want. But the one rule going all the way back to when FDR invented the modern media daily press briefing 60 years ago, the one thing that a presidential press secretary may not do is get caught knowingly lying to reporters. It was a stupid lie, not an even especially important one. But the fact of the matter is that neither the conservative press nor the liberal press nor the corporate press have been giving the Bush administration the benefit of the doubt about anything since then, and Scott McClellan's press conferences turned into daily beatings. I said at the time that if anybody in the Bush Administration had any sense, Scott McClellan would have been encouraged to pursue other interests. Apparently that couldn't be done because McClellan is a person friend of Bush's. So when Bush got desperate enough to bring in a new chief of staff, John Bolton, who actually knew how these things are done, the very first thing he did was exactly what I suggested. And on Tony Snow's first day, his first time at the podium, he told reporters in the White House Press Corps just how much he respected them and looked forward to working with them. Contrast that with Scott McClellan's not-even-thinly-veiled contempt for the entire institution of the press, something that he considered "just another lobbying group," just another business instead of a pillar of freedom, an attitude that was primarily his that the whole White House got blamed for. McClellan was so incompetent at his job that by comparison, a second-rate pro-administration flack from right-wing radio looks both professional and honest. Starting now, you watch and see -- the administration is going to get the benefit of the doubt from the press a lot more often.