Friday, May 20, 2005
Frank Gorshin, R.I.P. (1933-2005)
Over at Hit & Run, Jeff Taylor observes:
Oddly enough, Gorshin played a role in my movie education -- an awareness of costume design.
In the 1966 Batman movie, Frank Gorshin wore the most awesome-looking suit I'd ever seen -- it's what Gorshin's wearing on the front page of his web site. Nothing Jim Carrey wore in Batman Forever comes close to it. The moment I saw Gorshin cavorting around in it, I didn't want to be Batman anymore -- the Riddler was the guy for me.
Reading the obits, I was delighted to find out in Joal Ryan's E! Online story that Gorshin's co-star loved the costume as well:
The Riddler is dead.... or is he???????????
Thursday, May 19, 2005
An open question about anti-Americanism
The Newsweek controversy doesn't really interest me that much -- Jack Shafer's take sounds about right to me. I'm more interested in the point Anne Applebaum made yesterday in the Washington Post:
This resonates with a question Susanne Nossel asked here last week:
Let me put this more bluntly: assume that the Newsweek goof was of the maximal variety -- i.e., despite Gitmo prisoner claims, it turns out that no Qu'ran was ever flushed down any toilet. Should it nevertheless be considered a major foreign policy problem that this report triggered significant protests in Afghanistan, a populace with good reasons to support the United States? In today's New York Times, David Brooks is right to point out the blogosphere's misplaced foci, and suggests that "radical clerics in Afghanistan" used the story to trigger outrage. What bothers me is that it was too damn easy for the clerics to whip up anti-American sentiment.
I leave it to my readers: am I overly concerned about this?
Pssst.... religious conservatives... here's some red meat
CBS chairman Leslie Moonves has revamped his Friday lineup. According to this MSN Entertainment story, both his decision and his explanation is likely to rile up religious conservatives:
The Reuters account makes it clear that Moonves said this in jest, but religious conservatives might not get the joke... plus, they'll be too angry about the cancellation of "Joan" to make way for a Jennifer Love Hewitt vehicle.... particularly if Hewitt's wardrobe conforms to her stereotype.
UPDATE: Yep -- Drudge has the story. Again, it's worth stressing the Reuters account ("'I think talking to ghosts may skew younger than talking to God,' Moonves joked at a news conference before the upfront presentation).
I suspect this is a case where reading the quote in cold print strikes a dramatically different chord than the effect of hearing Moonves say it.
Contradictory signals on the dollar
Two reports today send conflicting signals about what's going to happen to the dollar in the near term.
On the other hand, Anna Fifield and Chris Giles report in the Financial Times that South Korea is about to roil these waters:
Click here to see what happened the last time South Korea said anything about its dollar purchases.
UPDATE: Brad Setser links to a Financial Times follow-up by Anna Fifield on the Bank of Korea decision, in which the Bank walked back furiously from Park's comments:
Here's a link to the original FT interview with Park.
As Setser points out:
I concur -- there's no way, especially after the February episode, that Park didn't know what the effect of his interview would be on the currency markets.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
The Treasury reports on China
Yesterday, I saw Edmund Andrews' New York Times summary of the U.S. Treasury report to Congress on whether any country is manipulating its exchange rate policy in order to gain an unfair competitive advantage. I naturally thought about blogging it, but then realized all I had to do was wait for Brad Setser to blog about it and link to him.
Which is what I'm doing.
Suicide terrorism -- it's not just for Islamic extremists
My colleague Robert Pape, author of the soon-to-be-released Dying to Win from Random House, has an informative op-ed today in the New York Times about the strategic logic of suicide terrorism. The key fact is Pape's finding that suicide terrorism has more to do with foreign occupation than Islamic fundamentalism:
This doesn't mean religion is irrelevant -- religious differences between an occupying force and the residents of an occupying country are a key means through which extremists can recruit suicide terrorists.
Read the whole thing.
Why I love geek culture
Go read either James Lileks on the end (for now) of the Star Trek franchise or Harry Brighouse on taking his daughter to see The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and you will know what it means to truly adore a work of popular culture.
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
How do you code Uzbekistan?
Is the recent unrest in Uzbekistan an example of the Uzbeks yearning to join the burgeoning fourth wave of democratization, or is it something else altogether, an example of Islamic extremists threatening a secular state? I'm still not completely sure, but my hunch is that it's the former.
The BBC provides a very useful timeline of events. The triggering event was an attack on the Andijan prison, where 23 local businessmen were held, accused of being Islamic extremists.
Rustam Iskhakov's first-person account of the prison-break in the Guardian cuts against the fourth wave thesis -- this looks violent and brutal:
However, this Ferghana.ru report on the official Uzbek response suggests that the authorities have bullets in some of their magazines:
The Weekly Standard's Stephen Schwartz argues that Andijan is an example of a fourth wave protest:
The limited amount of background research I did on Uzbekistan for The Sanctions Paradox suggests that Islam Karimov has been using the spectre of Islamic fundamentalism as an excuse to crack down on any and all opposition for the past thirteen years.
The fact that reporters have been kicked out of Andijan is also a decent sign that Karimov is dealing with more than terrorists. As Reporters Without Borders points out, "When the authorities keep journalists away from a conflict zone it is most often to hide abuses committed there."
UPDATE: Greg Djerejian is back at Belgravia Dispatch and has some thoughts on the what the Bush administration has done and should do.
Meanwhile, the New York Times' C.J. Chivers reports that the Uzbek government now admits more people were killed in the suppression of the Andijan protests than they originally acknowledged. And the AP's Burt Herman reports that an Islamic rebel in Uzbekistan has declared he controls a border town:
The BBC has more on Rakhimov's aims.
FINAL UPDATE: Paul Reynolds provides some useful analysis for the BBC.
The NYT op-ed shakedown
I don't have a great deal to offer on the New York Times' decision to charge for some its content (including the op-ed page) starting in September that Virginia Postrel and Matthew Yglesias haven't already made.
I do, however, have a research question that I bet some communications grad student has written a paper about -- to what extent does having a fee-for-content regime inhibit a web site's popularity/traffic/links? For example, most people I know consider the reportage of the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times are papers of comparable quality (or maybe the Journal has a slight lead). However, the Times has an Alexa traffic rank of 107, while the Journal has a traffic rank of 540. Even USA Today, an inferior newspaper to the Journal, has a higher Alexa traffic rank. So it looks like free news sites attract a higher traffic level even if the quality of information is not as good.
I'm sure someone out there has done a more systematic study of this question. Please post a link to useful research if you can find it.
UPDATE: Hmm.... Mickey Kaus suggests that maybe I've been too hasty in judging the New York Times proposal.
So how do Mexicans view African-Americans?
While Latino critics in the United States have their hands full combating discrimination in the Star Wars movies (link via Glenn Reynolds), Latinos south of the border have a slightly bigger problem.... dealing with their own racial prejudices. Traci Carl explains for the Associated Press:
An intriguing angle about this story is the ability of Jackson and Sharpton to go global with.... that thing they do (though in this case they have a pretty valid point).
Readers are heartily encouraged to predict the next world leader who will be required to
[What about the "extreme exploitability" meme the sociologist is pushing?--ed. Some blogs are stressing that this is the important takeaway message from this story. But Tyler Cowen links to a paper by Berkeley economist David Card that concludes:
Card also provides evidence that contradicts the Huntington thesis on Hispanic assimilation.]
Wikipedia backs them up (though they treat it as a noun and I used it as a verb) -- so let me take the opportunity to apologize for using the term.
Monday, May 16, 2005
Follow-up on Yalta
I missed the whole Yalta brouhaha last week, but I thought it was worth linking and quoting Elisabeth Bumiller's White House letter in the New York Times that articulates the thinking that went behind the Yalta mention in Latvia:
Read the whole thing. This would appear to support Jacob Levy's assertion that the audience for the speech was not the remnants of the John Birch Society, but the former Warsaw Pact countries. [But clearly what Bush said pleased Pat Buchanan and his ilk--ed. Yes -- which means Bush has pleased Buchanan with about two percent of his foreign policy pronouncements.]
Was Bush's statement historically accurate? Here I'll side with the quoted historians in the piece (John Lewis Gaddis, Robert Dallek, David M. Kennedy) and agree that while Yalta didn't help matters, the counterfactual would still likely have been Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. Furthermore, if Yalta was the abject capitulation that some have described it, then why were the Soviets so desperate for the 1975 Helsinki Accords?
However.... Bill Clinton never met an apology he didn't like on the international stage, in part because he knew that admissions of past error -- even if slightly exaggerated -- played well abroad. If Bush picks up this trope from Clinton -- and doesn't abuse it -- then liberals are protesting about this way too much.
UPDATE: For more evidence supporting the Bush officials' explanation of its motives, read these comments from last week by NSC adviser Stephen Hadley.
The confessions of George Lucas
For me, coming out of a vacation news vacuum is like moving from still water to a class ten rapid in thirty seconds -- there's just too much to catch up on. [Didn't you read anything while you were gone?--ed. Honestly, I didn't surf the web at all and the only thing I read in a newspaper that caught my eye was a reprint of this Victor David Hanson essay blasting the concept of tenure.]
Later on in the week I'll try to deal with violence in Uzbekistan, the explosive situation in Afghanistan (and Newsweek's monumental f@#$-up that triggered the problem), but to start post-vacation blogging, let's get to something really important... like George Lucas confessing his moviemaking sins.
In an Entertainment Weekly cover story by Jeff Jensen (sorry, the story is mysteriously absent from EW's Star Wars index page -- which is one of many things wrong with EW's web site, but that's off-topic), we get this little tidbit from George Lucas about how he feels about the prequel trilogy:
I'm glad to hear that Lucas agrees with me about the quality of his last two films... except that Lucas didn't cop to this when Episodes I and II came out. And the promotional campaign for Episode III has been just as heavy as the roll-out for Episode I. So I'm not getting close to a movie house for this one unless there's multiple independent confirmations that the movie is good. [But in the Jensen story the Star Wars-obsessed Kevin Smith is quoted saying, "Sith will not only enthrall the faithful, but it'll pull the haters back from the Dark Side."--ed. Two words: Jersey Girl.]
To date I've been able to resist the siren song of Revenge of the Sith. Reading Jensen's story and thinking about Lucas' execrable "Hamburger Helper" will make it even harder to turn me to the dark side.
[You'll see it at some point. It is your.... destiny--ed. Oh, go do promos for CNN or something.]
UPDATE: Well, A.O. Scott praises the movie in the New York Times, but has this ominous line: "Mr. Lucas's indifference to two fairly important aspects of moviemaking - acting and writing - is remarkable." Meanwhile, Kelli nicely encapsulates my attitude towards Lucas -- and asks an interesting question: "whether to take the kids." Sith is rated PG-13. Discuss away!!
Sunday, May 15, 2005
Hello, bemused New York Times readers
I'd like to thank Suzanne Nossel and David Greeberg for holding down the fort here at danieldrezner.com while I was away at my brother's wedding. Contrary to David's fears, their tag-team of insightful and provocative posts kept my traffic levels at very respectable levels. UPDATE: You can read David's final thoughts by clicking here.
Furthermore, I see that David made the most of his experience by writing about his guest-blogging stint in the New York Times.
LAST UPDATE: Suzanne Nossel posts her thoughts about blogging at danieldrezner.com here. And David Greenberg has asked me to pass on the following missive (after the jump):
All emphases in original.
A public service message
For those who only click onto danieldrezner.com every once in a while -- this week I've outsourced the blog to David Greenberg and Suzanne Nossel. Click here to see their bios.
Regular blogging by yours truly will commence on Monday, May 16th.