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April 16, 2005
Topic sentences. Defense Tech wins the prize for best opening lines of a blog post:
Like me, you’ve probably stayed awake countless nights wondering, “Did the Brits ever make plans for a nuclear landmine, powered by chickens?”

Well, dear reader, I’m here to tell you that the answer is yes.

Read the whole thing. (As if you could stop now.)

[06:33 PM : 27 comments]

April 15, 2005
The end of advertecture. As of this morning, the 20-story H&M ad previously wrapping the point of the Flatiron Building has been removed. The city was already on the building owners’ case, but rumor inside the building is that a certain corporate tenant whose name rhymes with “bolts drink” sat down with the building’s owners for a frank and full exchange of views.

I’m only guessing, but offhand, I’d say that if you plan to hang giant ads off of your landmark high-rise commercial building, you might want to not cover the windows of the exact part of the building where your tenants’ biggest of corporate wigs all have their offices. I’m just sayin’.

[01:22 PM : 8 comments]

April 13, 2005
What conservatism is. Fred Clark of Slacktivist is impressed by the news that Gen. Tommy Franks has been going from city to city, delivering a talk to “motivational” business seminars entitled “From the Battlefield to the Business World: Strategies that Get Results.”
Apparently, there’s a market for this.

Local business leaders have apparently been sitting around in their chambers of commerce wondering, “How can I make my business more of an insoluble quagmire?” Or “In today’s competitive marketplace, how can our company create a situation in which we can never win and never leave?” Or “My employees’ morale is at an all-time low after I lied to them into order to launch a massive campaign they now recognize as meaningless—can I force them to stay and pretend they’re happy with some kind of private-sector variation on ‘stop-loss’?” Or “Our company controls only a tiny sliver of market share, we’re completely reactive and we can’t even safely step outside our fortress-like headquarters, what’s the best way to pretend we’re actually in charge and in control?”

It’s almost too obvious to comment on, but the plain fact is that for millions of people, the idea of Gen. Franks delivering a talk on “Strategies that Get Results” doesn’t in fact produce boggled astonishment. Gen. Franks is a gruff-talking American military man; of course he’s an expert on “getting results”, no matter what kind of results he has or hasn’t actually got.

Welcome to rule by middle-aged white guys who, by definition, can do no wrong.

[03:30 PM : 34 comments]

New words from an old controversy. Michael Chabon on “genre” fiction: “It’s as much about structures created in the mind of the reader as in the structure or pattern of the text itself. Genre isn’t just a box to be stuck in; it’s also a window to look through.”

[06:25 AM : 45 comments]

April 12, 2005
With advice like this, how can we fail? As I more or less said in the comments here, oh, I get it. The ruling right-wing coalition has one area of serious political vulnerability: people suspect they’re busybodies far too interested in nosing around their neighbors’ morals.

Therefore, Democrats and liberals should emulate them in this. That will make us more popular.

[10:41 PM : 25 comments]

April 08, 2005
“We can strike without warning.” For those of you ready to enroll in Jon Carroll’s Unitarian Jihad: the Unitarian Jihad Name Generator. Reload until satisfied.

(Signed, Brother Pepper Spray of Compassion.)

[09:21 PM : 49 comments]

April 06, 2005
“Advertecture,” or perhaps “architizing.” If you were wondering how the gigantic ad currently blemishing the building we work in could possibly be legal, evidently it isn’t.

(For the curious: My office is seven windows to the left of “$49.90.”)

[04:02 PM : 51 comments]

April 05, 2005
Astonishing blog post of the week. Here. Don’t skip the comments that follow. (Via Michael Bérubé.)

[08:07 AM : 0 comments]

April 04, 2005
Pope blogging. Trust Ken MacLeod to have a startling take on John Paul II:
On the one hand he is a reactionary. The contrast with the last pope to be popular beyond the RC church, John XXIII, is striking. He has beatified and canonised some of the most sinister and pathetic figures of recent times. He contributed quite significantly to, not the collapse of the Soviet bloc, but the depth of regression that followed. He has stuck to a doctrine that’s contributed directly to the spread of AIDS. The Catholic theologian Hans Kung has recently written a scathing analysis of The Pope’s Contradictions, which goes into these and other dark aspects of Wojtyla’s papacy in detail.

The other side is that he has stood for peace and human rights in a way that set his face against not only Communism but certain aspects of imperialism and neoliberalism. He condemned the attack on Iraq. He moved the church to a greater acceptance of modern science. He has been more open to other religions than previous popes. He began a repentance toward the Jewish people. He rehabilitated Galileo and apologised for the Crusades.

Like the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela, he became a figurehead of an inchoate global humanism that has little to do with what he (and the others) specifically stand for. Fidel Castro is an awkward fourth in that company, but—like it or not—he belongs in it. All four of these old men have their roots in the Cold War, of which they are the last men standing. It’s a measure of the strangeness of the New World Order that they all, in very contradictory ways, have become icons of its discontents.

Elsewhere, Jeanne D’Arc delivers a thoughtful and even anguished overview of the mixed feelings that many Catholics have about the papacy of Karol Wojtyla:
How much value do I place on a note left at the Wailing Wall, asking forgiveness for centuries of Catholic anti-Semitism and mistreatment, and how much on shoving Pius XII and Anne Catherine Emmerich toward sainthood? How deeply do I value the “preference for the poor,” and how angry do I remain over the papal finger waved in Ernesto Cardenal’s face? How do I measure the relative weight of of one of the world’s most consistent powerful voices against war and economic oppression, and one of the world’s loudest voices for repression? I’m not just thinking of the most well-known forms of repression—the Church’s misogyny, its homophobia, its discomfort with anything related to sex. The intellectual repression is equally disturbing, and in the long run, probably more dangerous. Under John Paul II, this Church has renewed and elaborated its tendency to be an intellectual bully, silencing explorers and dissenters. […]

I think you need more distance than I have from the Church of the past quarter century in order to assess fairly its sins and virtues. Billmon has a fair, even wise, assessment. If you’re in a hurry, Julia does the pithier version. Although I agree with both of them, on the whole, I can’t write about it in more detail because I can’t separate the good Church from the bad Church. It seems to me that all the Church’s flaws — all John Paul’s flaws — are rooted in virtues. That’s what I wanted to write about, and that is where I’m stuck. It will take me awhile to work out exactly what I mean by that circle of sin and virtue.

Elsewhere yet, Mark A. R. Kleiman thinks Jeanne D’Arc should keep her mouth shut.

[12:01 PM : 89 comments]