March 2008: Nobody asked me, but…

Mamet unchained, Shin Bet bloggers, the New York Times discovers vegan strippers, and other observations

With a tip of the fedora to legendary columnist Jimmy Cannon, nobody asked me, but…

WAS THAT REALLY DAVID MAMET, PLAYWRIGHT OF THE PROFANE, ANNOUNCING IN THE Village Voice, of all places, “Why I Am No Longer a Brain-Dead Liberal“? Apparently so. Mamet’s political epiphany came, he has announced, as he wrote his recent play “November” and found himself contrasting the conservative tragic view of life with liberal perfectionism and deciding: “I took the liberal view for many decades, but I believe I have changed my mind.”

Mamet unchained goes further, arguing “that we in the United States get from day to day under rather wonderful and privileged circumstances—that we are not and never have been the villains that some of the world and some of our citizens make us out to be, but that we are a confection of normal (greedy, lustful, duplicitous, corrupt, inspired—in short, human) individuals living under a spectacularly effective compact called the Constitution, and lucky to get it.”

Count on the author of “Glengarry Glen Ross” and “Sexual Perversity in Chicago” for macho provocation: Mamet terms National Public Radio (NPR) “National Palestinian Radio,” sees similarities between George W. Bush and John F. Kennedy, and pronounces: “I am hard-pressed to see an instance where the intervention of the government led to much beyond sorrow.”

Yet this transformation isn’t completely a surprise as Mamet has never been a doctrinaire Man of the Left: he has displayed little patience with political correctness (vide “Oleanna”), and in some of his recent work (the movies Ronin and Spartan, the television series “The Unit,” and his book The Wicked Son: Anti-Semitism, Self-hatred, and the Jews,) Mamet has moved right-of-center on national security issues.

Mamet has picked an awkward time, however, to sing the praises of laissez-faire capitalism (calling Thomas Sowell “our greatest contemporary philosopher”); anemic regulatory checks-and-balances on Wall Street greed have contributed to the recent subprime mortgage meltdown. That, of course, may be the point: Mamet likes nothing better than to shock, and what better way to shock than to embrace free markets in the middle of a financial crisis?

SHIN BET, ISRAEL’S SECURITY AGENCY, HAS EMPLOYEES BLOGGING about their office routines. The Associated Press reports: “The new project is part of an attempt by the organization to attract more high-tech workers to its ranks, and the bloggers work on the technological side of the Shin Bet’s operations rather than in the field. Identified only by the first letter of their names, they appear in black silhouette on the site’s home page.” The blogs, however, are “pretty boring,” according to the AP, proving that the mind-numbing curse of the cubicle extends even to Spyworld.

IT’S COMFORTING TO KNOW THAT THE NEW YORK TIMES TAKES ITS JOURNALISTIC RESPONSIBILITIES SERIOUSLY: otherwise we might never have learned about the vegan strip club trend.

That’s right, clubs with vegan strippers serving authentic vegan food, according to Kara Jesella’s story “The Carrot Some Vegans Deplore” carried in the Gray Lady’s Fashion & Style section. Well, actually it’s only one strip club in Portland, Oregon—Casa Diablo Gentleman’s Club—one that is failing, but reporting “All the News That’s Fit to Print” demands comprehensive coverage, including a photo of a young tattooed Goth-looking lass in a black halter top gazing forlornly at a sign which proclaims: “Please Do Not Wear Fur, Feathers, Silk, Wool, or Leather on the Stage.” The strippers apparently must resort to donning and undonning pleather. (But wouldn’t silk produced in the wild be acceptable? Or feathers that naturally molted from a bird?)

Our intrepid Times reporter pursues the story further, discovering a Southern California girl group called the Vegan Vixens (“a kind of animal-loving Pussycat Dolls”) who perform at animal rights events. The nation’s newspaper of record happily provides a photo of the five Vegan Vixens in very short skirts so our First Amendment rights are fully observed.

SPEAKING OF JOURNALISM 101, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES HAS APOLOGIZED FOR ITS BOGUS STORY ON THE 1994 wounding of rapper Tupac Shakur. The newspaper was duped by a con man who had provided false FBI documents implicating associates of another rapper, Sean “Puffy” Combs, in the shooting. The author, Chuck Phillips, admitted that he never directly asked FBI officials about the authenticity of the documents, and the paper was apparently told by Combs’ lawyer that the story was false. Defamation lawsuits to follow?

THE CORNELL MATHEMATICIANS WHO CONCLUDED THAT JOE DIMAGGIO’S 56-GAME HITTING STREAK wasn’t all that remarkable (after computer-simulations of parallel baseball universes) couldn’t have ever experienced a 99-mile-per hour fastball from the vantage point of the batter’s box. If they did, they would know better.

FROM OGDEN NASH, 20TH CENTURY MASTER OF DOGGEREL, COMES THIS month’s closing sentiment (proving April wasn’t always IRS time): “Indoors or out, no one relaxes in March, that month of wind and taxes, the wind will presently disappear, the taxes last us all the year.”

Copyright © 2008 Jefferson Flanders
All rights reserved

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