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Marshall asks, “Did he really just do that?”—did John McCain just casually reveal, for no very good reason at all, Barack Obama’s travel schedule to a war zone?

Compromising the security of an American official, just because you can, makes you unfit for the presidency.

Just to be clear, Marshall means to say: just suppose the shoe were on the other foot, and Obama had done it? Who would be impossible to trust with the nation’s security then?

(thanks to B)

This New Yorker cover “combines a number of fantastical images about John McCain and shows them for the obvious distortions they are.”

For some reason, I find it exceptionally cool that the folks here at EotAW have introduced me on the feast day of St. Cletus. If you’ve never heard of St. Cletus, just think of him as the Thomas Jefferson of the Catholic popes — not because he acquired vast new territories or pursued a counterproductive foreign policy toward the British, but simply because he was the third fellow to hold the title of pontiff. Following Petrus and Linus, it was Cletus all the way. Twelve glorious years of Cletus.

Some papal chronicles, for what it’s worth, list him as the fourth pope — following rather than preceding Clemens — but that would simply make him the James Madison of popes. Which would also be fine. Better that than the Millard Fillmore of popes. Other chronicles distinguish between a “Pope Cletus” and a “Pope Anacletus,” as if there were two separate characters; few papal historians accept the distinction any longer, since (a) Cletus and Anacletus were never seen in the same room together, and (b) they looked strikingly similar, only with Cletus usually seen in a Mets cap, a suspicious-looking mustache, and a somewhat affected-sounding Queens accent.

For reasons that no one seems quite able to explain, Pope Cletus/Anacletus is regarded as an early Catholic martyr. Not to niggle over the details, but it seems that if you’re going to be remembered as someone who perished on behalf of his or her beliefs, you should at least — you know — sign off in a way that someone can describe in its proper, crimsoned gore. But none of Cletus’ contemporary partisans appear to have taken the time to honor him by noting how bravely he watched his entrails being gobbled by a tiger, or how beatific his eyes appeared as they were plucked, audibly, from their sockets.

Anyhow, my point here is that Cletus is an astonishingly great name for a pope, and I would gladly return to the Catholic swaddling of my youth if the college of cardinals would someday locate someone willing to adopt the papal moniker of Cletus II. Since the name hasn’t been claimed yet, I briefly considered blogging under the pseudonym of “Cletus II.”*

Instead, I’ll just use my real name. Readers of Lawyers, Guns and Money might have happened across my stuff before. There, I post under the disguise of “d,” which Ann Althouse, in one of her regular spasms of boxed-wine fury, once compared to a tiny penis. When Ari and Eric asked me to join them here at the edge of the west — where I do, in fact, live — I told them that I’d be whatever their readers wanted me to be, but under no circumstances would I serve as the blog’s tiny penis.**

* Actually, I didn’t. But since everyone here seems to rely on annotations, I thought I should do my part.

** I didn’t actually say this. I lie about a lot of things.

Senator McCain, didn’t you say that you “don’t know as much about the economy as you should” and that “The issue of economics is not something I’ve understood as well as I should” and that you depend on Phil Gramm to help you out in this respect, making him your “chief economic advisor” as well as your campaign co-chairman?

Follow-up, if I may…. then why are you disagreeing with your chief economic advisor on a subject he knows more about than you, and how is it possible that your campaign co-chairman doesn’t speak for you?

A Mr. Lincoln rose.

Thanks to a generous friend my kitchen now includes one of these espresso machines. I enjoy shiny things and it helps me remember my ethnicity but most importantly it provides the starting point (mercifully not “grounds”) for some reflections on the epistemology of value.

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Kieran picks up the Cookie Monster blogging beat. I totally remember this sketch from my salad days.

Oh, John McCain:

Reporter: We’ve learned that the exports to Iran increased by tenfold during the Bush administration and the biggest export was cigarettes…

McCain: Maybe that’s a way of killing them. <laughter> I meant that as a joke….

And I’m sure he did. But the underlying assumptions that make such a joke seem funny betray a fundamental unfitness for the office in two ways.

(a) Substantially: really, we’re just trying to kill random Iranians —among the most pro-American people of the Middle East? What do you call someone who doesn’t like a country’s regime, and takes it out in hatred on that country’s ordinary citizens?

(b) Rhetorically: really, even if you think killing friendly civilians is hilarious, you think it’s presidential to joke about it? That’s some straighty-McStraight-talk, there.

And all you members of the press corps who laughed: It’s your job to ask the jokester what, exactly, makes that a funny line.

(And honestly, the other big exports are much funnier.)

via everywhere.

Oh, and about Wall-E: today’s comments on Frank Rich’s column remind me that I’ve been meaning to note, the most interesting creative choice in the movie is the decision to present Fred Willard in live-action as Shelby Forthright, the long-gone CEO of Buy n Large.

Why? I assume it’s to emphasize the notion that the people who trashed the planet are people. Like us. Which is probably also why the only after-the-credits gag you get is the Buy n Large logo appearing on the screen.

Because they are:

From Penguin’s Great Ideas series, designed by David Pearson, Phil Baines, Catherine Dixon and Alistair Hall.

Cookie Monster continues his epic streak of awesomeness with an appearance on Colbert.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

“It run on … imagination.” <wiggly fingers>

A map derived from War Plan Orange, the US war plan for defense of American possessions in the Pacific, as drawn up in the years before the first world war. Or rather, perhaps a plan for the inability to defend American possessions in the Pacific: Orange asked the US garrison in the Philippines to hold out for sixty days against a Japanese assault until relieved by a fleet sailing from the Atlantic. The theory was that the fleet sailing from the Atlantic would engage the Japanese near Guam.


Only, of course, the facts couldn’t hope to match the theory, as the planners themselves admitted. The fleet wasn’t up to the chore, for although it had plenty of battleships, it didn’t have enough support ships or staff. And the army wasn’t going to be able to hold out for two months.


From p. 15 of J. A. S. Grenville, “Diplomacy and War Plans in the United States, 1890-1917,” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 11 (1961), 1-21.

As a youth I was fortunate that my parents put me in nerd camp—computer programming classes at the Science Center. They had a Honeywell mainframe, in a room full of tape drives and disk drives, the disks that looked like stacks of LPs in a covered cake dish made of clear plastic.1 All that was housed in a room with plate-glass windows, and on the other side was a room full of terminals. Many if not most of them were basically teletypes with keyboards—every time you hit a key, it would dot-matrix the character right onto a roll of perforated paper that just kept on scrolling as you typed. At first I preferred these to the LED screens, because they reminded me of typewriters and if you had to debug code you reached behind the machine and lifted up a yard of paper to scan down it, holding a pencil, making you look like someone reading the stock-ticker or telegraph tape in an old movie. We started in BASIC, and the first program they showed us produced an ASCII art picture of Snoopy.2 Oh, brave new world. I think the appeal of the thing was basically identical to that of playing with an insect or a lizard you found in the yard: you do something to it and it reacts, not always in a predictable way. Maybe you can train it, you think….

When did you first realize you could get along with a computer?


1Not unlike this, but I remember them being cylindrical.
2I think it was this one, but this page has annoying music so maybe you don’t want to open it.

Ah, Belle Waring reminds me of my childhood. No wait, that was someone else’s childhood, maybe with noodle salad. Still, it’s good:

Cucumber Sandwiches:
Use peeled hothouse cucumbers, those thin-skinned ones, or if they are normal cucumbers, peel, cut in half, and remove the seeds and gelatinous middle bit with a spoon. Slice cucumbers paper-thin. Use Pepperidge Farm Very Thin White Bread, spread with Hellman’s mayonnaise. Lay the slices of cucumber down, top with fresh mint leaves, and add salt and freshly cracked ground pepper. Top with another slice, cut the crusts off after completion, and cut each sandwich into four triangles (now it feeds four times as many people!). You may wash this down either with iced tea with a splash of orange juice and fresh mint, or with Nannie’s traditional libation, a triple bourbon on the rocks.

UPDATE: if you want to take the sandwiches on a picnic you may substitute softened unsalted butter for the mayo, being careful to coat the bread thoroughly–that way they won’t get soggy.

The Jonathan Coulton lobster song featured in The Areas of My Expertise, as discussed below.

But you can call me Scott. You may remember me from my star turns as “electrician” in Brick (2005) or “electrician: Los Angeles” in The Kid Stays in the Picture (2003), but that’s not the real me. This is the real me. (But this will be my legacy.) I know what you’re thinking. Why would Ari and Eric invite a guy who studies literature to join them on the edge of the American West?

I don’t know either.

I don’t “do” history. I’m an historicist. Understanding the difference between the two would require I provide you a detailed account of why the items on this list are on it, but such an account would desecrate the very thing it describes. (Sins of non-omission make the Baby Greenblatt cry.) This is because historicism is less about evidence and attentiveness and archives and more about Hayden White and Michel Foucault giving me permission to make shit up.*

I want to thank Ari and Eric for giving me the opportunity to play truant at two group blogs until I finish my dissertation. I’m truly honored they esteem my drivel enough to let it sully their good names, and will do my best to disappoint their justifiably low expectations.


* Consider my dissertation. Done? Now consider the fact H.G. Wells wrote a book about the future in which he claims nothing needs to be done about the “swarms of black, and brown, and dirty-white, and yellow people, who do not come into the new needs of efficiency,” because the ethical system of the New Republic will employ “the method that nature has followed hitherto in the shaping of the world, whereby weakness was prevented from propagating weakness” (298). How is that not social Darwinism? Or this:

For a multitude of contemptible and silly creatures, fear-driven and helpless and useless, unhappy or hatefully happy in the midst of squalid dishonor, feeble, ugly, inefficient, born of unrestrained lusts, and increasing and multiplying through sheer incontinence and stupidity, the men of the New Republic will have little pity and less benevolence. (300)

How is that not social Darwinism? Because I say so.

A while ago, This American Life had an even more brilliant episode than usual, on the subprime mortgage crisis. No, really. From the subprime borrower, to the guy who finds him and certifies him for a mortgage despite his having no verifiable income or assets, to the guy who bundles those mortgages for sale to an investment banker and so on up the chain, they follow the money.

You can hear the episode here.

You can tell your iTunes automatically to download the free weekly podcast of This American Life here.

You can support the This American Life podcast directly here.

If this is all old news to you, blame Ari. He said I had to post it and you know I trust his judgment. If you do not already know about This American Life, it is another very good thing you might like, and you can find out more by clicking below.

Before:

After:
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I can say that if you liked the other Indiana Jones movies, you will like this one, and that if you did not, there is no talking to you.

In the student union here, right now, in 2008, there’s a poster of Marilyn Monroe—it’s the one with five different poses, all obviously from the same shoot, each differently colorized—it’s familiar to me because we had the same poster in my freshman dorm room, in 1991. There is a Marilyn Monroe thing, even now. It amounts to more, I think, than “to a hottie dying young.” Here is how John Irving put it:

… what could Marilyn Monroe’s death ever have to do with me?
“IT HAS TO DO WITH ALL OF US,” said Owen Meany, when I called him that night. “SHE WAS JUST LIKE OUR WHOLE COUNTRY—NOT QUITE YOUNG ANYMORE, BUT NOT OLD EITHER; A LITTLE BREATHLESS, VERY BEAUTIFUL, MAYBE A LITTLE STUPID, MAYBE A LOT SMARTER THAN SHE SEEMED. AND SHE WAS LOOKING FOR SOMETHING—I THINK SHE WANTED TO BE GOOD. LOOK AT THE MEN IN HER LIFE—JOE DIMAGGIO, ARTHUR MILLER, MAYBE THE KENNEDYS. LOOK AT HOW GOOD THEY SEEM! LOOK AT HOW DESIRABLE SHE WAS! THAT’S WHAT SHE WAS: SHE WAS DESIRABLE. SHE WAS FUNNY AND SEXY—AND SHE WAS VULNERABLE, TOO. SHE WAS NEVER QUITE HAPPY, SHE WAS ALWAYS A LITTLE OVERWEIGHT. SHE WAS JUST LIKE OUR WHOLE COUNTRY,” he repeated; he was on a roll…. “AND THOSE MEN,” he said. “THOSE FAMOUS, POWERFUL MEN—DID THEY REALLY LOVE HER? DID THEY TAKE CARE OF HER? IF SHE WAS EVER WITH THE KENNEDYS, THEY COULDN’T HAVE LOVED HER—THEY WERE JUST USING HER, THEY WERE JUST BEING CARELESS AND TREATING THEMSELVES TO A THRILL….”

This passage probably goes on a bit further than it needs to, making even more explicit the parallel between Marilyn Monroe and America, the beautiful mistreated desirable objects of powerful men’s careless use deprived of the right to be ends in themselves … but that’s the right theme, the Fitzgeraldian vast carelessness with the fresh green breast of the new world.

This is officially an award-winning blog

HNN, Best group blog: "Witty and insightful, the Edge of the American West puts the group in group blog, with frequent contributions from an irreverent band.... Always entertaining, often enlightening, the blog features snazzy visuals—graphs, photos, videos—and zippy writing...."