Shorter Chicago Tribune

Barack Obama makes an average of one gaffe every two months. Time for impeachment?

That’s my snark, folks, although I am tempted to add that if admitting you buy arugula (which I ate last night!) is equivilent to accidentally insulting the mentally disabled, then “gaffe” has no meaning.

Let’s get Confucian here and correct the language. A “flub” is a fuck-up, like getting someone’s name wrong, or getting the city you’re in wrong. A “gaffe” is any offensive statement. And a “Kinsley gaffe” is a statement that reflects what one things but it politically unpalatable. To break down the Trib list.

“Special Olympics” = gaffe
“Nancy Reagan” = gaffe
“clinging” = Kinsley gaffe
“typical white person” = Kinsley gaffe
“likeable enough” = Kinsley gaffe
“arugula”= fucking meaningless, grow up
“Sunshine” = flub
“Sioux Falls” = flub

Watchmen (2009)

Before I spoil the ending of Zack Snyder’s Watchmen, a movie you probably care about and will probably watch, let me spoil the ending of something you don’t care about and probably won’t watch. It will make sense momentarily.

In The Second Coming (2002), a two-part TV movie that Russell T. Davies made before reviving Doctor Who, Jesus Christ is reborn in the person of David Baxter, a nondescript English man approaching middle age. Baxter, suddenly given access to the mind of God, knows only that his job will be done when he finds a Third Testament that will be written by some living man or woman. He sets a deadline; the deadline passes. He realizes that his job is finished, and the Third Testament is meant to be written by Man, never finished, in perpetuity. His job on Earth is not to save mankind but to “close down the family business” by killing himself, his father, and Lucifer. So he ingests rat poison and dies. Mankind, knowing that he was created by God but is no longer governed and watched by him, ascends to its next stage.

I know, it doesn’t sound very good. And it wasn’t! But Davies had tapped an interesting vein. This is the same vein tapped by David Gibbons, the Watchmen artist who participated in Zack Snyder’s film as writer Alan Moore pulled out.


In Moore’s and Gibbons’s original story, the existence of Dr. Manhattan – a demigod who can create or destroy matter at well – ramps up the Cold War, as the terrified Soviet Union builds a nuclear arsenal capable of destroying a United States protected by him. Dr. Manhattan is tricked into leaving Earth by Adrian Veidt, who sets into motion a plan to drop an artificial, psychic “alien” into New York City, murder millions, and scare the world into accord by uniting it in the knowledge that We Are Not Alone. The plot is ripped right out of “The Architects of Fear,” an episode of The Outer Limits, and Moore acknowledges this in the novel.

In the film adaptation, Veidt’s plan has changed. He tricks Dr. Manhattan into providing him with technology that can simulate the demigod’s powers. Veidt uses this technology to set off explosions in world capitals that world leaders blame on Dr. Manhattan. As in the novel, Dr. Manhattan and the rest of the extant superheroes either go along with this plan or are murdered. But the movie plan is far more philosophically interesting than the novel’s plan. Veidt turns Dr. Manhattan from an American superhero to an angry God. Mankind is united and pacified not because they fear aliens, but because they fear the wrath of Dr. Manhattan – that he “might be watching,” as Silk Spectre II says in the closing scenes.

For me, this elevates “Watchmen” from an unexpectedly successful adaptation of an unfilmable story into a skillful, one-upping reimagining of same.

Now: is the film better than the book? No. It is as good as a feature length adaptation could be. It surgically removes plotlines that were entertaining and absorbing on the page. It adds violence where violence wasn’t needed. In a needless faux pas, a product of the era the film was made it, it removes all trace of cigarette smoking, which leads to two strange events – Silk Spectre II hitting a button with a picture of a flame for no apparent reason, and the young Walter Kovacs biting a child instead of stabbing the child in the eye with his own lit cigarette.

UPDATE: All right. It is no longer 3 a.m., and I have more, but first I’d recommend everyone read Spencer Ackerman’s smart, needling take on the movie—positive while critical of the way Snyder changed the manner and meaning of three characters.

Great moments in journalism

Carol Lee FTW:

The president’s teleprompter also elicited some uncomfortable laughter after he announced Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as his choice for Health and Human Services secretary. “Kathy,” Obama said, turning the podium over to Sebelius, who waited at the microphone for an awkward few seconds while the teleprompters were lowered to the floor and the television cameras rolled.

The only remaining question is whether Obama should be impeached now, or whether he should have been impeached yesterday.

I really don’t get the TelePrompter obsession, a fixture on the right – note how Limbaugh challenged Obama to a debate with “no TelePrompters.” It was pushed hard before the debates, just in time for Obama to roll over McCain like a line of panzers in Poland circa 1939. The guy is not dumb.

Mixmaster, Cut Faster

Several days ago my friend Ray Lehmann called together a mix CD party. Here was my contribution, titled “das Weigelmusik.”

1. “Sheep and Tides” – Michael Nyman

A short instrumental from Nyman’s 1988 soundtrack to Peter Greenaway’s film “Drowning by Numbers.”

2. “The Choice Is Yours” – Black Sheep

Ah, remember when rappers would sample fat-assed jazz bass grooves? This 1991 track is as good or better as anything by A Tribe Called Quest, and wasgiven a little boost of longevity when Fatboy Slim sampled the hook (“You can get with this or you can get with that”) for “Weapon of Choice.”

3. “Real Estate” – Cadence Weapon

The single (whatever that means anymore) from the Canadian rapper’s 2008 album “Afterparty Babies,” his second album of shamelessly nerdy and provincial (literally!) rhymes with just-amelodic-enough clangy samples.

4. “Pity You” – Devo

Snark-pop directed at a loser (“here’s to you, I know you’ve really got a problem”) who would probably be confused by the trampoline synths that infested (in good way) every Mothersbaugh/Casale project of this period.

5. “Why Do the Heathen Rage?” – Guadalcanal Diary

Any GD track’ll do, but this 1985 non-hit is one of their most R.E.M.-y moments, start-stop pop with ENORMOUS DRUMS and fucked-up Rudyard Kipling lyrics.

6. “Big Blue Sun” – Adrian Belew

I can take or leave the “looka-me!” guitar noodling that defines most of the man’s work, but I love love love the Beatles pastiche side of Belew. This is exactly what you’d expect, naive McCartneyish pop about “summer clouds” and “lazy days,” and a signature Belew guitar squeal riding atop the choral hooks.

7. “I Gave My Suitcase Away” – Andy Partridge

The agoraphobic XTC frontman retired with 8 CDs (around nine hours) of unreleased material and demos, from which this lazy (in lyric and in feeling) slice of pop is drawn.

8. “Letter Never Sent” – Trembling Blue Stars

Long-ago music blog hero Glenn MacDonald introduced me to this band, a bunch of twee Brits who write like they’re hiding in the bathroom from the bullies.

9. “Math Wiz” – Luna

Dean Wareham can do no wrong.

10. “Haunted” – The Pogues

Probably one of my favorite songs on the planet, written by Shane McGowan, and later rehabbed by him for a ridiculous duet with Sinead O’Conner, but sung here by the lost Pogue Cait O’Riordan. Arranged here, for the soundtrack of Alex Cox’s “Sid and Nancy,” it is revealed as cracked girl group tribute, a lost Joe Meek production with insane lyrics (“you were so cool, you could have put out Vietnam”) and a singer who barely, barely rises to the occasion, but in doing so makes this version a heartbreaker.

11. “Flower” – Pansy Division

A little offensive fun, a cover of the twisted Liz Phair song by the queens of queercore.

12. “Morgengruss II” – Popol Vuh

Back to instrumentals, and back to the movies. This is the guitar track from “Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes.”

13. “Last Chance To Evacuate Planet Earth Before It Is Recycled” – Porcupine Tree

Finally, some goddamn prog rock.

14. Flesh Number One (Beatle Dennis) – Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians
15. It Happens – Primal Scream
16. Counting Out Time – Genesis
17. Sweet Baby James – The Pooh Sticks
18. I Love You (Listen to This) – Dexy’s Midnight Runners
19. Nite Flights – The Walker Brothers
20. I Almost Forgot – Matthew Sweet
21. Don’t Do Anything – Sam Phillips
22. Dream Baby Dream – Suicide
23. Tejbeit – Ethiopian Musicians