The Huffington Post turns ten this week.

It’s seen by lots more eyeballs and it’s much better looking and reading than it was at its birth, when it was nothing but a lot of hype and hope and the political scribblings of celebrities. But the HuffPo is still just a liberal pimple on the big conservative ass of the Drudge Report.

I wasn’t going to celebrate the birthday of Arianna Huffington’s love child, but over the weekend The Today Show, or whatever it’s called by NBC, apparently spoke my name during its celebration.

I didn’t see or hear what Today said about me to the whole nation.

I hear they took a line or two out of context from the critical but fair and balanced magazine column I wrote about HuffPo’s birth to show what a big dummy I was for failing to predict it’d live to see its tenth birthday.

I forgot what I wrote on May 15, 2005,  but I looked it up and here it is:

Huffing & Puffing & Disappointing

Matt Drudge can sleep easy.

Arianna Huffington’s much ballyhooed “Huffington Post” — a new Web site whose chief gimmick is a Malibu Beach party’s worth of celebrity bloggers — is no threat.

If you haven’t heard, huffingtonpost.com features the daily blathering of scores of La-La-Landers — Rob Reiner, Bill Maher, John Cusack, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, et al. — and scores of savvy inner-Beltway politicos such as David Corn, Mike McCurry, Joe Scarborough and Danielle Crittenden.

From the advance hype, you’d have thought that the multiblog site, which debuted Monday, was going to do for the blogosphere what CNN did for TV news. It won’t.

It’s way too early to declare it a flop. But it’s easy to see why the media criticism has run from brutally cruel to “Could this possibly be this dull and uninformative forever?”

Not every celebrity embarrasses himself.

Quincy Jones’ rumination on Michael Jackson’s sordid decline is wise, but contains so much God-talk he may have his star on Hollywood Boulevard removed.

“Seinfeld” co-creator Larry David’s defense of U.N. Ambassador-designate John Bolton as a fellow abuser-of-employees is clever satire.

Rob Reiner’s ranting about the news media being stooges of the Bush administration and voters being misled on Iraq, etc., etc., would make a great sendup of a demented Hollywood liberal, except he’s being serious.

Reiner’s meat-headed rant gives credence to L.A. Weekly Nikki Finke’s conspiratorial suspicion that Arianna is now “a conservative mole.” Finke, a business/political columnist, covering entertainment, wrote in her Huffington Post-trashing column that the Greek-born author-pundit “has served up liberal celebs like red meat on a silver platter for the salivating and Hollywood-hating right wing to chew up and spit out.”

Finke could be right. Maybe Arianna — who has morphed from the right-wing conservative spouse of a multimillionaire Republican congressman to a divorced big-government progressive do-gooder — is a double agent for her mid-’90s pal, Newt.

There’s no doubt celebrities are going to be eaten alive by the pros — the politicians, pundits and journalists — Arianna invited to her 300-ring circus. Byron York has already bitten into sports guy Jim Lampley, who opined in his blog that he still thinks Bush stole Ohio last fall.

And conservative Danielle Crittenden, who knows how to mock Hollywood, blogged a clever parody memo to President Bush that plugs a new movie whose heroine is a brave, pro-life Republican congresswoman who fights for family values.

Assembling scores of celebrity bloggers in one place sounds like a really good idea — until you go there and find it’s mostly just a bunch of people with little to say talking to themselves.

At huffingtonpost.com , more is much less. There’s no strong single point of view, which is what all the best blogs have. There’s virtually no interaction or squabbling between libs and conservatives. Libertarians, as usual, apparently weren’t invited.

Arianna’s got lots of tinkering to do before she provides anything close to “a tantalizing mixture of politics, wit and wisdom.” She has to learn how to be an editor and a better ringmaster.

Maybe she’ll figure it out. Meantime, her Internet Free Hollywood may do America some good by forcing the cloistered Hollywood community to debate some nonliberal arguments and ideas it’s not used to even hearing.

Reads pretty good to me.

waco_fireIn honor of this jam-packed day in American history — and in case you ever assume that yes, finally we all get it that Waco was horrific — please check out some of the depressing stuff I’ve written in the past few years about April 19.

More people, including liberals overly terrified of cults and militias, do kind of get it now. More than they did at the time, certainly. But a former fed who was there for the siege is still the official law enforcement go-to guy on MSNBC. And CNN appears to believe that the entire incident was sad because it made federal agents cry.

If I were feeling particularly daring, I might suggest that you read Timothy McVeigh’s “Essay on Hypocrisy.”

Terrorists are horrible, but they are often correct when they compare their actions to state actions. They see through some of the bullshit which excuses violence if it’s done by a state, or at least the proper type of seemingly well-intentioned state. Unfortunately, terrorists obviously manage to destroy their moral high ground by being violent assholes who kill innocent people en masse.  Still, reading the words of terrorists will help us understand them. No matter how much the Rudy Giulianis of the world try to pretend it, explaining violence is not the same thing as excusing it. So, McVeigh did a monstrous thing. If you know my work at all, you don’t need me to say that. That doesn’t mean he didn’t express one or two disturbingly pointed things worth paying attention to.

So read these, watch Waco: The Rules of Engagement, and realize that yes, there are paranoid, irrational people in the world who believe crazy things. And sometimes those crazy things at least seem to be confirmed by real world events. I blame the government for conspiracy theories as much as I blame people’s inability to grasp what is proven, and what is most likely.

(And hey, you know about Waco. Do you know about MOVE?)

(And government, I am researching this for a fictional purpose as well. I swear.)

I'm the worst professor in history!The most infuriating thing about the 2012 Christian film God is Not Dead is not that it’s an email forward of a film. Nor is it that I am not a Christian, and therefore this movie isn’t for me. No, it’s simply that this doesn’t have to be so appalling, no matter the yay-Jesus sentiment.

There are numerous dodgy side plots including a Muslim girl who wants to find Jesus (and who wears short sleeves and a sloppy hijab, which I suppose is possible, but sure didn’t look like anything I’ve seen), a woman with cancer (and an I <3 Evolution bumper sticker, which sure seems like a Real Thing a Secular Human Would Have) and various other tedious cardboard cutouts in vaguely human shape. The main event, however, is the battle between painfully clean cut college student Josh and his villainous, atheist, philosophy professor played by Kevin Sorbo, who is both the best actor and the least believable person in the movie.

Professor Hercules isn’t content to simply teach philosophy, no, he demands that each member of his class write “God is dead” on a piece of paper and then sign it in order to pass the class. Josh objects to this because he loves Jesus. The thing is, this is a horrible, bullshit assignment particularly in a philosophy class. Atheist boyfriend who was watching the film for camp value said he wouldn’t do such an assignment. I agreed. There’s an obvious principle at stake (and I will grant that some public schools might complete it because they’re wusses, but enough of them wouldn’t.)

This kind of activity would make you a bad teacher, especially in a setting where it’s not about factually right or wrong answers. This is a cheap, plastic way of making the prof the villain. Instead of making the debate truly rhetorical and religious, the menacing secularism has to be browbeaten into everyone. And maybe it’s some kind of metaphor for the world at large, but within a classroom setting, it’s terrible and false.

In short, this makes even the staunchest atheist want to root for Josh for contrarianism’s sake. (I also want him to call Fox News, Breitbart, and Rush Limbaugh and become a national news story, because that would totally work). So, the young, earnest lad decides to fight his professor and debate in front of the class. He’s much too good at it, yet it’s also completely muddled and nonsensical. His metaphor-for-Christians-who-don’t-want-to-make-waves-in-the-secular-world girlfriend is pissed off and dumps him. But Josh soldiers on.

Oh, and professor has a beautiful, Christian girlfriend. She frowns a lot because he’s such an atheist.

The end — spoilers — is the worst. First of all, Josh appears to have converted almost his entire class to Christianity at the end of his final debate. This is, ironically for such an anti-secular movie, pure Hollywood claptrap. Wouldn’t it be more fitting if after class, one shy student came up to him and asked him for more info about Jesus? Then Christians would know that this wasn’t some fairytale confirming all that they believe, but that bringing people over to the Lord takes some work. The film appears to be telling Christians that if they just stand up for God in class, they’ll convert heathens by the dozens. A little humbleness about the state of this here fallen world seems more appropriate and better then this wish-fulfillment.

(I could, and may, write another rant on the difficulties of message movies and making them not Godawful. This relates to libertarian feelings and the several other terrible Christian movies I have watched out of curiosity.)

Prof Hercules had his own reasons to disbelieve in God. However, at the end, to the sounds of the Newsboys’ Christian rock jamz, he gets run over by a car conveniently next to these pastor and his friend who had had car trouble in the earlier film. It was meant to be, see. Hercules comes home to Jesus as he dies in the street. Yep. He converts, thanks to the pastor, but he still dies. And presumably directly in front of his bloodied corpses, the pastor stands in the rainy streets smiling because at least Prof is home now, and someone has even texted him “God’s not dead.” (“God’s not dead — but you are” more accurately.) The pastors or pastor and friend (I forget/who cares) then exchange a line about how “what happened tonight is a cause for celebration. Pain yes, but only for a few minutes. Then, think of the joy of heaven.” Okay, but can you not smile so wide directly in front of the dead man smeared across the street? Can we not immediately be quite so delighted?

The final scenes involve Josh, every other minor character, and someone from Duck Dynasty rocking out to the Newsboys while celebrating his victory over the professor — which, considering that he’s dead, seems a little like adding insult to injury. (Plus, the final scene encourages texting during a concert, which is definitely the work of Satan.)

Horrible, robotic inhuman attitudes permeate this movie, and this ending is the capper. There is no sadness that a man who was just coming around to the Lord, and you know, was a human being in addition to that, is dead. They’re all happy about it. This is one reason why the non-religious find religion — and religious films such as this — cold. How about a little respect for this life, not just pleasure in leveling up to Jesus?

When we’re talking about Jesus, songs are so much different than movies. Suburban Christian rock songs may not be. But painful country music can be beautiful, human, and accessible to the non-Christian just because of the depth of feeling (or even the wrath, if you have the Johnny Cash voice to match God cutting us all down sentiments).

Perhaps because Professor Hercules losing his mother is what made him lose his faith, and this tune is about the very same tragedy, I found myself thinking about “Can The Circle Be Unbroken” after watching God is Not Dead.

First recorded by The Carter Family in 1927, the song has been played many times by many people, but that trio’s version is it for me, because it’s just so brutal. Often in later covers the song is played more as a cheerful, hopeful gospel number. The circle will be unbroken by and by. Everything will be alright.

The Carter Family were not so sure.

AP Carter rewrote a hymn that seems to be a lot more chipper, like the later covers have been. But the Carters’ “Can the Circle be Unbroken” is not joyful or certain, but pleading. The strange, flat Virginia harmonies of Maybelle and Sara Carter make the tale of a mother dying eerie and heartfelt. And in a line that has made me tear up more than once, they sing “Lord I told the undertaker/Undertaker please drive slow/for that body you are hauling/Lord I hate to see her go.”

Maybe — maybe “by and by” they’ll all be together again in heaven. They do believe that. But that doesn’t stop their pain now. It doesn’t even stop the dreadful grief of wanting to keep the body of the loved one. The body is just a vessel, right? The soul is gone to heaven. And they still hate to see what’s left of her go.

That sort of religious feeling — that sort of spreading of a message that says, yes, we’ll probably be in heaven later, but it sure is awful now — is worlds away from the self-satisfaction of God is Not Dead. Religion is supposed to fill those holes in your heart that appear when, oh, say your dear mother dies. I fail to see the good in it if it morbidly cheers the death of someone — even someone who has finally found Jesus.

Frequently, the most terrifying part of an apocalypse movie or show is any snatches of news that leak through the haze of confusion and fear that comes after, say, a nuclear attack. The key is to tell the audience and the main characters a little (Jericho) but not too little (How I Live Now) about what’s going on in the outside world. Sometimes a flash of something is more terrifying than seeing the whole thing. Or at least more disturbing. The Day After makes you queasy, Testament makes you cry. Pick your poison (sorry, they’re both fallout).

Knowing this, and knowing about the 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast — regardless of the myth of the mass panic, it’s a damned good broadcast! Especially the straight ersatz news parts! — it is no surprise that a nuclear war plot makes a fine radio play. I found The Last Broadcast thanks to Youtube algorithms which know me all too well.

We interrupt this broadcast” and sudden, dead air has been used in all sorts of scary things since 1938, and it still works. None of us have ever heard or seen a program interrupted by news of nuclear war or alien invasion, and let’s hope we never will. But we’ve seen enough bad, big news that the aesthetic still chills. There seem to be quite a few TV movies, most from the ’80s and 90s, which use this framing as well. I may dive into them next.

It’s the ’80s, and the Soviet Union has invaded West Germany and has invaded our regularly scheduled ’50s throwback hour on an Ontario radio station. The news gets worse from there, and if the static seems slightly fake, the accents suspiciously Canadian except the one news person who clearly fell out of the ’40s, and nobody can say “nuclear” correctly, it’s still an eerie and disturbing hour and a quarter. It helped that I listened while drowsy, with eyes closed, thereby enhancing the surreal feeling (especially when I got up and was still in my boyfriend’s parents’ killingly normal apartment).

The play is amateur, but impressive for all that. The only information I could find about its origins was that it was made and voiced by Canadian students. Not sure if it’s highschool, or college, but I definitely didn’t do anything this much scary fun in either. (I know I didn’t go to highschool, shut up).

  • ob2Today in world’s smallest violin/if it works, let’s go for it.
  • The drone program has killed more people than who died on 9/11. Thanks, Obama!
  • Me at Antiwar: ‘The Nonsense of War’
  • Me at Rare: ‘On marijuana, Obama is a huge hypocrite’
  • On March 30, I was on The Bob Zadek Show to talk about the war on drugs and private prisons.
  • A Liberty.me LIVE spreecast where I chat with Sheldon Richman on ‘The Poison Called Nationalism.’
  • And the slightly less polished Sheldon Richman and I talk Iran one. (Also my mic is too loud at the start. Lo siento.)
  • 1) What the hell happened to this Salon? 2) What the hell happened to this Christopher Hitchens?
  • Let’s take a break from antiwar talk to note that I would totally go to this if I could. Dunkirk little ships! The internet claims that Sundowner will be there. Sundowner being the yacht of Charles Lightoller, the surviving senior officer on the Titanic. Lightoller was told they were taken his boat for the evacuation, and he was all, nah, I’m taking it. So he went over, grabbed 160 fellas, and came back. One of the last adventures in a long life of them. Seriously, somebody make a BBC series about his life. Please. I can’t. I’m not British enough.
  • Apropos of the above, I totally wrote Titanic fanfiction when I was 19. Except it was HISTORICAL. And I only did it twice.
  • Yep. I had some excellent talks while smoking — or standing next to– M.R. and K.H. in Reason days. (But then, that wouldn’t have been so if smoking were still allowed in buildings!)
  • This is a very lazy response to the conspiracy theorists who wonder why/how the BBC reported the fall of Building 7 20 minutes before it happened. But the comments are amazing. I might have missed one or two, but it appears that every single comment is by a truther. Every one.
  • Microcosmic! 
  • Still, I am not #readyforhillary
  • Here is a great twitter essay, as they call it. It’s short, but should be in a blog somewhere.
  • Apparently Sam Quinn used to have a moderately (for alt country, etc.) successful band called the Everybodyfields. I thought he was just the amazing maker of a live tape that S.T. and I listened to all the way to Nashville from Richmond, and back which includes the most stunningly slide guitar-filled, beautiful cover of the “Juicy Fruit” song you could possibly imagine. But, uh, this song is also on that tape.
  • The Milk Carton Kids are a band I have seen twice, technically. They opened for the Lumineers who were opening for Old Crow Medicine Show, and I saw all three bands for a two night stand at DC’s 9:30 club in 2012. The Milk Carton Kids are definitely bigger fish now. They are a little too pretty and slow sometimes, but they’re really good. And if 12-year-old me had known that a duo that sounds this Simon and Garfunkel-ish was coming along, she would have rested easier.
  • “You call me up again/just to break me like a promise/So casually cruel/in the name of being honest” is T-Swift lyrics at their finest. This is a solid power ballad, or whatever it is. I like the reckless mixture of cliches and legitimately good lines.
  • Pokey LaFarge has written a hell of an earworm for his new album (due out later this month). I am excited to see him on the 30th! And to dance. It’s impossible not to with him playing.

tumblr_n4vjuhP4qn1rtynt1o1_1280“I was reading in the paper the other day about those birds who are trying to split the atom, the nub being that they haven’t the foggiest as to what will happen if they do. It may be all right. On the other hand, it may not be all right. And pretty silly a chap would feel, no doubt, if, having split the atom, he suddenly found the house going up in smoke and himself torn limb from limb.”

–Bertie Wooster, Right Ho, Jeeves (1934)

One of the best books ever. I suggest the audiobook — and I never suggest the audiobook — read by Jonathan Cecil. Once you hear that a few times, you’ll be able to summon all the voices in your head at will. Then move on to the rest of P.G. Wodehouse.