Thoughts on the Metamorphoses
June 13, 2009

sup

It’s time for another post about a book I’m reading! In this case, the book is Ovid’s Metamorphoses. It’s very enjoyable (especially since the translator, A. D. Melville, puts the whole poem into iambic pentameter), and there’s lots to say for someone qualified to speak about the literary value of the work, the implications of the impressive array of allusions Ovid employs, or the broader cultural context in which the Metamorphoses was written. But I’m not qualified in that way, and while a lack of expertise shouldn’t stop any self-respecting blogger from providing an opinion, my current interests lie elsewhere, so I’m not taking this blog post in that direction.

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Ross Douthat
March 12, 2009

 

image courtesy Wikipedia

image courtesy Wikipedia

I’m working right now on a longer post that’s taking more time than I expected, but in the meantime I can make another short comment on the staffing policies of the New York Times editorial board. As I mentioned earlier, I was thrilled that William Kristol left, since his column was essentially equivalent to a weekly RNC press release, including the poor writing and the factual inaccuracies. However, now I’m just as thrilled about the new replacement – Ross Douthat. He’s also a conservative, but he’s intellectually honest, a good writer, and very intelligent, and he has plenty of experience making conservative arguments to liberal audiences. He also writes about a wide variety of topics, from social conservatism and critiques of the conservative movement to film, literature, and culture. As you may have noticed from his inclusion in my blogroll at the bottom of the page, I’ve been a fan of his for years, and I think he’ll do an excellent job.

The Monkey Cartoon
February 23, 2009

Context is important. I assumed the Obama monkey cartoon was at worst an innocent expression of subconscious racism, and not really worth protesting. But then I saw this list of ten other cartoons by the same guy, and now I’m not so sanguine. He’s a racist misogynist homophobic scumbag, he knew exactly what he was doing with the monkey cartoon, and I hope he loses his job.

Out of Touch
February 20, 2009

smoke_ghost

Chris Bowers makes a point here that is both amusing and completely correct. He cites recent polling showing that legalizing marijuana gets the approval of about 40% of the population, and yet this issue isn’t taken remotely seriously by the national media or politicians of either party. On the other hand, plenty of attention and respect is granted to far more unpopular positions, such as decreasing business regulations (28%), Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell (17%), and, hell, being a Republican (31%). There are two important points here, which Bowers doesn’t make explicitly in this post because he knows his audience already understands them.

The first is the obvious one that the Obama Administration has been making for several weeks now: that the national media (or the Village if you prefer) is out of touch with the country. No big surprise.

The other point is more subtle, and I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s really why all this stuff matters. The boundaries of legitimate public discourse are completely arbitrary (legalizing pot is out, but deregulation is in) but extremely important: in this country, if an issue is out of bounds, no action will be taken on it. They are also nearly impossible to define objectively: after all, 40% of Americans also believe in ghosts, and 25% in astrology (!), but I don’t want these to become legitimate topics of public debate. But hopefully this reinforces the idea that the Watergate-era image of journalists as nothing more than tireless seekers of truth is incomplete; journalists are also gatekeepers to the realm of public discourse, and deciding what gets in and what gets kept out isn’t a high-minded exercise – it’s power politics.

Good Riddance
January 26, 2009

Good news! I just read Bill Kristol’s weekly “column” in Monday’s New York Times, and it ends like so: “This is William Kristol’s last column.” I’m sure this will be discussed at length starting tomorrow (this link is my contribution), but I wanted to share the happy tidings as soon as possible!