Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Here's some further listage on banned books -- or, to be more exact in these cases, banned prose. (Leaves of Grass and Howl, among other works of poetry, are missing.) A point worth making: One should not assume that the efforts to ban particular works necessarily represent a given political stance. Efforts to ban Native Son (the first line of which is the title of today's post) represent both those who object to its avowedly Marxist perspective on race relations during the 1930s and those who object to Richard Wright's (appropriate) use of the word "nigger." (This doesn't include the objection to the novel's sexual content, which would logically include both ends of the political spectrum.) It's worth remembering that poet John Milton, whose 1644 essay "Areopagitica" was the first and still among the most eloquent defenses of the freedom to publish and read, was a decade later serving as state censor for Oliver Cromwell. That freedom means that sometimes your own ox is going to get gored -- a situation that fewer and fewer people in our own Fox v. CNN world seem willing to countenance.

And so, a test: Today, in the opinion writing and blogging course, I handed out a 1973 Lester Bangs review of Anne Murray's Danny's Song that, were parents of some students in the course to read, would likely be up for banning. (e.g.: "Maybe you're so steeped in sleaze that it takes the sight of Linda Lovelace jacking off 14 braying donkeys with her nostrils while giving head to the entire class of '44 and playing pingpong on Henry Kissinger's nuts with her toes in Todd-AO just to get your attention.") Let's see how it flies. More on Thursday.

Monday, September 28, 2009


Hey -- it's Banned Books Week! Go read a few...preferably aloud, in public. Here are some recommended by Progressive on the Prairie (he's got the link to the original list). It's an astonishing list...one that doesn't include Allen Ginsberg's Howl and Other Poems, whence the title of this entry. Of course, maybe it's not so astonishing, given that school boards these days keep kids from seeing the president of the United States tell them that going to school and developing responsibility are good things to do. 

I am seeing the best minds of my daughters' generation...

Friday, September 25, 2009

Project blogway, part tres

Since we last visited, Qhristyl departed, after having pronounced black a "warm color" and saying she never designed in it...even though she was wearing black when she said so. Design, meet aesthetic. And Johnny Methtallica was discharged last week after having accomplished what neither Santino, Jeffrey, cheater Keith nor abhorrent Vincent was ever able to do: Visibly piss off Tim Gunn. Don't fib on the runway, lad, especially when said fib also implicates the guy who went out of his way in episode one to comfort and convince you that you were worthy of being there. The look of combined satisfaction and disgust on Tim's face when he told AddictBoy to go clean out his space reminded me of nothing so much as someone having just been awarded a huge alimony and child custody settlement over a boozing, whoring spouse.

Which brings us to this week, and a shocking and sad farewell to Minneapolis' own Ra'mon and his curious apostrophe. I'm sure I wasn't the only one who had him at least in the final five and very likely in the final three -- and he seemed like a pleasant person and decent competitor as well. But...he really did blow the challenge. Badly. And he knew it.

Having said that, though, I would have still voted Louise out first, given the parameters of the challenge. As awful as it might have looked -- and I have to believe that it looked even worse on the runway than it did on TV -- Ra'mon's dress was still recognizable as something from science fiction. The reptile idea was a good one (he obviously remembered the Borg queen from Star Trek: First Contact); he just couldn't pull it off. Louise's dress, though, was both bad and had absolutely nothing to do with film noir. In fact, it had nothing to do with anything anyone might wear in any genre at any time. All three of the noir designers, in fact, did poorly with something they should have excelled at...because they took the road most traveled: It's gotta be dark, you know, noir.

No. What makes the femme fatale the femme fatale is that the male either doesn't recognize or chooses to ignore the danger there. And to put it in fashion terms, what makes the femme fatale the femme fatale isn't her wearing black -- it's her wearing white. Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity, Rita Hayworth in Lady from Shanghai, Jane Greer in Out of the Past: Our/the male's first view of her is in fresh, pristine white...with some accessory -- an anklet, a cigarette lighter -- that suggests something more edgy and far less virginal. Leave the black for the action-adventure folks, both of whom did very right by it, instead of coming up with a take on Natasha Fatale, not the femme fatale...or of coming up with something that looked like a bad costume for a Billy Idol video.

As for Nicholas winning: He's a smug little twirp who won't be there in the final five, but he did do a great job with the concept and execution. I have to believe picking a winner among those three was among the most difficult choices the panel has made in a while -- all three were impressive. (And it was nice to see Epperson's model Matar get her props as well.)

Next week: Michael Kors is back, oranger than ever! (Although Tommy Hilfiger last week had a remarkably tangerine complexion as well.)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Magna cartography

Thanks to a faithful follower for this look at the real political skill of Al Franken. I used to wow students in Sweden with my ability to draw the outline of the contiguous 48 states on the chalkboard in a few seconds, but that was kindergarten doodling next to this. (It is not, btw, very difficult to draw the outline of Sweden on the chalkboard -- or on the wall of a public restroom.)

Now, if only Tom Davis could return and recite the state capitals from memory...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Lesson learned

Then again, why read me when you can go to Andrew Sullivan and Chuck Jones?

Just you wait, my pretties

I just watched Obama's speech to American schoolchildren that Roo and Lumpy were not able to see because of a "longstanding policy" here in the Teabag School District mandating that stuff from the real world that might interfere with predetermined lesson plans should not be brought into the classroom. (I'm sure Christa McAuliffe would have been proud.) This "longstanding policy," of course, was news to us, although its implementation at the threat of having a black man say something to children about the benefits of education stands in a bold mainstream American tradition dating back to the days of Frederick Douglass.

So, having actually seen and heard what he had to say, I must share my shock: No hammer-and-sickle banners! No brown shirts! No kindergarten death squads! No opening act performing a third trimester abortion! WTF??

In parsing the president's words, I have to conclude that atheistic socialism will corrupt the hearts and minds of our children in the following ways: 
**Having them respect their parents and their teachers;
**Having them be diligent in their studies;
**Having them take responsibility for their work and their learning;
**Having them take what they learn and use it in service to their country and communities.

I felt like Dith Pran in The Killing Fields, watching Pol Pot and his lackeys make Cambodian children praise Angka and march around chanting "Death to the rich! Death to our parents!" Even as I type, I'm pretty sure I hear the screams from the science building as rampaging kids from the campus daycare center impale professors on the plastic knives and forks they stole from lunch. "Yes, we can! Yes, we can!"

To quote the ideological master of the movement that saved my children from seeing this, "What a world! What a world!" Lumpy and Roo come from a place where reports unfavorable to the government are blocked from public view...and move to a place where people who don't like the government can preemptively block the president from public view, in the guise of a "longstanding policy." And this is democracy and civic responsibility -- how? 

If only we could throw buckets of water and make this ugliness melt away. But that can only happen in Oz...a land, it appears, far over a rainbow from our own. 

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Project blogway, part deux

1) My take on "surfwear" was that it involved tight bikinis. As a result, I have no idea what those designs this week had to do with "surfwear." But if Famous Designer Rachel Bilson says they're "surfwear," they must be.

2) Qhristel/Epperson sounds like a Shopko/Walmart cheap ripoff champagne (excuse me, "sparkling wine beverage"). It would go well with their "surfwear" collection.

3) Where is Michael Kors? Assuming he's not on a Qhristel/Epperson bender (he seems more a Moet type), I have to assume he's down at Venice beach oranging with Famous Designers Ashley Tisdale and Vanessa Hudgens. They're all in this together, you know.

4) But seriously: There has never been a worse Runway contestant than Mitchell. Never. More hateable ones, yes, but none with as remarkable a lack of both talent and human decency. Evidently less adroit at needle and thread than I am after a magnum of Qhristel/Epperson, bitchy beyond reason with both his models and his competitors, and with less backbone than the slug I found nibbling on the carrot leaves this afternoon, Mitchell is Page 1 in the Bunim-Murray casting portfolio: The person there only because s/he is a cute troublemaker. Die Ueberfrau herself seemed more than a little pissed at his antics -- not even a faux sympathetic "Auf Wiedersehen" on the way past the scrim. I'm hoping he's the worst we'll see of the Bunim-Murray touch this season, though I fear he may not be.

5) And congratulations to Ramon, whose Minneapolis background obviously gave him the experience in "surfwear" that he needed to win this round. A round of a fine Minnesota sparkling wine beverage for the house!

Out of time

The book I'm using for the opinion writing/blogging class (thanks, Arianna) suggests that if you can't blog every day, you should at least try for twice a week. I do try...but the start of the school year makes time a more precious commodity than the gold I keep selling to the guys in those cable commercials. (I didn't need that back molar, anyway.) In any case, I'll keep trying. The good thing is that the school year is almost here, so I'll have to blog at least once a week for class. And the better thing is that I hope to have some links to far better things than this soon.