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Puff, puff, GIVE!
Quick, what is this from?

One secret of fiction is the creation of unique characters who are precisely defined. The secret of comedy is the same, with the difference being that the characters must be obsessed with unwholesome but understandable human desires. Many comedies have the same starting place: A hero who must obtain his dream, which should if possible be difficult, impractical, eccentric or immoral. As he marches toward his goal, scattering conventional citizens behind him, we laugh because of his selfishness, and because secretly that’s how we’d like to behave, if we thought we could get away with it.

That’s right. It’s the lede of Roger Ebert’s review of Harold and Kumar go to White Castle.

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No more drama
One of my favorite songs of the moment is “The Cutter” by Echo and the Bunnymen (the best best known for that song at the beginning of Donnie Darko). Long story short, it’s a great song – except for the lead-in to the first bridge. Ian McCulloch revs up his vocal chords – “Spare us the cut-tah! Spare us the cut-ah!” And then he rips out with this operatic shriek – “Couldn’t cut the … MUUUUUUUUUUUUHHHHHH-STAAAAAAAARD!”

My point is that “mustard” is a very silly word to scream.

I took a poll of my music fan community to reckon what other ridiculous “dramatic” moments graced pop music.

– “Mother … I want to … MWWRRRAAAAHHHHHGGGGHHH!!!” from The Doors’ “The End”
– the chorus of “Living on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi
– “AAAAAAAAAH/AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH/AAAAAAAAAAAAAAH/OH THAT POOR WOLF”
Better known as the coda to Genesis’ “Cracker Mountain”
– “THEY TOOK PICTURES OF OUR DREAMS!!! RAN TO HIDE BEHIND THE STAIRS!!!!” from Dream Theater’s Another Day

Anything I’m missing?

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Coulter’s standards
One of the standard knocks against USAT during Coultergate has been: Duh! What did we expect? She’s a vicious hack bitch goddess! And my favorite: “They probably never read an Ann Coulter column before!”

An objective look at her columns would suggest she actually can, and does, do better than the column she flung at us. Take her latest one.

The traditional greeting at the Democratic National Convention is, “Where do you teach?” On rare occasions, the greeting is modified to, “Where does your husband teach?” or “Where does your gay lover teach?” (Democrats could save a lot of money by holding the Democratic National Convention and the National Education Association Convention at the same time.)

Now that is a good lede. That is a readable lede. Why, for USAT, did she lead with “Here at the Spawn of Satan convention?”

It goes on:

The Democrats keep loudly proclaiming that Republicans represent only extremely white rich people, while the Democrats represent all Americans. (Bar bet: Among the four major candidates for president and vice president this year, who has the smallest net worth? Answer: George Bush.)

Also good. This is a statement based in fact, and easily sourced, and riffs off actual happenings at the Dem convention. Why, for USAT, did she make up shit about hippie cartoon characters?

Democrats are representative of the nation only if the nation we’re talking about is Brazil. For Democrats, there is only the maid and millionaires. There are no Americans in the middle. To the extent Democrats are forced to recognize working-class white men, they call them “fascists.”

This is hyperbole, of course, but hyperbole is okay.

To thunderous applause here in the American Taliban, billionaire Teresa Heinz Kerry said she looks forward to a day when “women who have earned the right to be opinionated will be called smart and informed — just as men are.” It’s no wonder Democrats weren’t interested in liberating Afghanistan and Iraq from woman-hating Islamicist fanatics: They think real oppression of women consists of people calling Teresa “opinionated” right here in the USA.

Another fair joke! Coulter riffs on the NAACP’s insane rhetoric and brings in some real Republican anger to the fantastical goo of the DNC – the willfull negligence of the reasons George Bush got into all those wars.

Without posting more of this, I think it’s clear that this kind of column would have been 95% acceptable for USAT. Indeed, it’s what we were expecting – some observations and bullshit-spinning from a writer who’s angry at the way Democrats are presenting themselves.

But it was easier for Coulter to turn in a poorly-written screed and then cry “censorship.” And it’s easy for media critics to criticize USAT for getting what we paid for when a cursory look at what we paid for reveals that we got scammed.

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Holy shit, Vol. 2
Michael Moore is right on.

Foreman: Are you going to go to the Republican convention?

Moore: Yes, I am. I already have my credentials.

Foreman: How do you think you’ll be received there?

Moore: I think it will be fine. Are you implying that Republicans are not nice people?

Foreman: No. I’m implying that you have a lot of fans here.

Moore:I already have my credentials. And so do my 25 bodyguards. [Laughs] Just kidding. I’m a guest columnist for USA Today. They’ll be running my columns, by the way, because I’m willing to work with an editor. You know what happened with Ms. Coulter.

To clarify: Ann Coulter, instead of working on her column with the editors who hired her, fled Boston, printed her column (with her editors’ notes) online, and gave interviews to TV hosts and columnists who made no effort to get the other side of the story.

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Holy shit
I agree with something in The Gadflyer.

The Reverend [Al Sharpton] gets way too much attention for the level of support he generated during his campaign this year, and worse, he’s self-indulgent. And tonight his self-indulgence – less so, in my mind, for his remarks as for the length of his speech – could jeopardize a schedule intended to feature John Edwards more than anything else. Because Edwards is the party’s best speaker right now, Sharpton’s grab imposes a terrible penalty on Edwards, John Kerry and the message tonight and for the week. Edwards needs to be able to take his time tonight, bask in every applause moment, and still finish by 11 EST.

I puzzled over this, too. Why did the party give Sharpton a nigh-prime time slot, considering he won less delegates than Dennis Kucinich? Was it because they feared anything less would be a slight to blacks? That’s terribly insulting, for reasons Mark Bowden entailed in The Atlantic (not online) and I touched on here. Sharpton has no base or grounding in modern political reality, but he says he does, and – one last time? – the party fell for it.

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Hey, bloggers at the DNC
One of my jobs at USA Today consists of compiling opinion from the world ’round and excerpting the best bits for the paper. This week, we’re running several such compilations about the DNC. So if you have opinions on what John Kerry should say in his speech, post them. I’m not promising anything, but I’d like to find one good excerpt from a blog.

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Dead hobos
I’m fairly skeptical about Jon Stewart’s potential to save mankind, but this dialogue with Tom Brokaw is funny:

STEWART: Listen, he`s–I think, you know, if he doesn`t rise to the occasion, he doesn`t deserve to be president.
But the interesting thing to me is, with all the challenges that face the country today, whether it be terrorism or the economy or that, the real question is, are the Democratic wives loose cannons? I think that`s really the thing that we should all be talking about.
BROKAW: Well, we had a chance to talk with Teresa Heinz Kerry earlier tonight. And she said that reporter mischaracterized what she had said. He came back to her and said, what were you talking about un-American activities?
STEWART: Right.
BROKAW: And she said certain un-American traits, which is civil discourse in American politics.
STEWART: Absolutely.
But it is–I think we should focus a lot of time on the wife race, because, as you remember, we nearly lost World War II when Eleanor Roosevelt told the reporter from “The Hartford Times Courant” to sit on it. So, these are issues that we really should be talking about. And Teresa Heinz Kerry, for what it`s worth, yesterday I saw kill a hobo with her bare hands.
BROKAW: Now, when you`re down here on the fort, a lot of people come up and ask your opinion.
(LAUGHTER)
STEWART: You`re going to let me go with that? You`re just going to let me say Teresa Heinz Kerry killed a hobo with her bare hands?
BROKAW: Yes. Yes. Right. Yes.

Heh.

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Coultergeist
To clear up any confusion or possible conflicts of interest:
– I work for USA Today’s op-ed page. The opinions below are my own.
– Coulter turned in a strikingly incoherent column yesterday, which she has now posted on her website. I fact-checked it, but while I did the honchos and Coulter were engaged in some kind of negotiation, and right before deadline a decision was made not to publish.
– I think it’s a terrible piece of writing. I mean, “Sadly, they won’t be fighting to the death as is done in W.W.F. caged matches”? People DON”T FIGHT TO THE DEATH in cage (not “caged”) matches! This was way below the level of writing in Coulter’s books, which I think were what we thought she would provide to … you know … the audience of America’s largest-circulation newspaper.
– In my view, Coulter has proven a complete jackass in her response to this. I caught her telling Sean Hannity that USA Today wanted her “byline,” and were interested in the idea of a conservative writer without having the balls to actually print one. Yeah, Ann. That’s right. The paper that prints Michelle Malkin and Jonah Goldberg is afraid to publish a real conservative.

UPDATE: Greetings from Kausfiles readers! Judging by my e-mail, at least four of you think I’m a complete idiot. So, welcome! Also, I edited this post a little to smooth down my angry, post-“Hannity and Colmes” rant. As I said, I was the fact-checker – the actual decisions in l’affaire Coulter were made by people who, unfortunately, don’t keep up blogs.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Greetings from Bookslut readers!