This was a fun spot illustration that accompanied a funny article about the “power gardening” exploits of a girl’s father and father-in-law. It also strangely enough coincided with my purchase of a chain-saw.
Wednesday night I got an email from Philip Chalk. Now first let me say that I am very familiar with Philip Chalk’s work as an Art Director at the Weekly Standard, mainly through the blogs of Thomas Fluharty, Jason Seiler, Gary Locke, and Dave Malan. Still, my email inbox seemed such a foreign context for his name that it didn’t immediately register as the Art Director I admire, and for a moment I thought it was a scam email telling me that a bank representative in Uganda needed help extracting some funds.
He had an assignment to illustrate an article.
I got the AD Sketch on Thursday noonish, and sent him the Final at two o’clock on Friday. I had a little trouble with Mr. Obama’s likeness and for a while his face looked somewhat like a California Raisin’s, but Mr. Chalk nudged me in the right direction, and I think it ended up looking okay in the end. I find it difficult to think critically about a likeness after staring at it for so long. When I woke Friday morning to resume work, every fault stared back at me, whereas Thursday night, I thought it was spot on.
Anyway, it was a great job, I learned a lot, and the deadline was exhilarating.
From time to time people post fan art. I decided to do some of my own and it was a toss up between Batman and Peter Robinson. I chose Peter Robinson. If you don’t know who he is than you probably haven’t enjoyed his interview program on the web. It is called Uncommon Knowledge and it is surprisingly different from the conversations that occur on cable news networks. Twenty-four-hour news networks counterintuitively breed fast paced manic shallow exchanges. Networks pit their guests against one another in 30 second increments and nothing gets analyzed very deeply. By contrast, Uncommon Knowledge displays a good variety of people who are encouraged to articulate their thoughts more deeply than your average interview program or news show.
In short, this program is everything I’ve always wanted Charlie Rose to be. It is significantly better than Charlie Rose. Peter Robinson is always well prepared for the interviews. He regularly quotes from his guests’ books and frequently presses them on the finer points of their theses in contradistinction to Charlie Rose who interviews his guests like someone with Attention Deficit Disorder.
If you have not yet seen this Uncommon Knowledge, you should. You can watch it on fora tv, or if you prefer to watch more recent episodes in bite-sized portions you can check it out at NRO.
Here are a few of my favorites:
Daniel Hannan (MEP) on the European vision of productivity vs. American vision of productivity.
Daniel Hannan (MEP) on the connection between European Welfare and childbirth.
Claire Berlinski analyzes the secret of Margaret Thatcher’s success.
Harvey Mansfield critiques grade inflation at Harvard.
Sebastian Junger speaks about the intimacy of war.
Technically it isn’t criminal for Alvin Greene to recive 330,000 votes. But it’s a little weird, right? He’s an out-of-work discharged serviceman with felony charges, and a campaign that consists of two things: the sentence “Demint started the recession,” and a comic book starring Alvin Greene as The Ultimate Warrior.
On election night Alvin Greene stood in an empty hotel conference room with a miniature cucumber sandwich in his hand and rows and rows of empty chairs behind him. He bobbed and weaved as a small group of newsmen followed him about the room. His plan was simple: walk away from people with cameras. When reporters cornered him and peppered him with questions, he relied on plan B: shove sandwich in mouth to delay answers. Finally, when it couldn’t be avoided, he made a comment:
“Last year at this time I was unknown … so that’s a good thing … so um, like I said, and now, um … you know, I have things like these [holds up the cover of his comic book The Ultimate Warrior] and so we can, you know, promote things like these.”
This ridiculousness is made possible by the straight-party-ticket-vote. Now I guess I understand straight party voting back in the day when you had color coded ballots and you needed easy ways to sort them, but it doesn’t make any sense today. In fact, it seems that the only function of the straight party vote is to strengthen the weakest candidates on the party’s ticket. I’m not a fan of the Democratic Party, but when a straight party line vote means that a person drawn to the polls to vote for Jim Clyburn ends up supporting Jim Clyburn’s nemesis Alvin Greene, something’s wrong.
The Senior Senator from Kentucky looks like a middle school librarian (so does Harry Reid for that matter–actually Harry Reid strikes me as more of a piano teacher), but Mitch McConnell is the Senate Minority leader and the most powerful hand to oppose the Obama administration’s hopes at Nationalized Health Care. He’s a sharp fella. His opposition to Harry Reid’s motion to proceed is a fascinating bit of political maneuvering. It drives a wedge between the Democrats and spreads confusion. The weakness of the Democratic party is its loose and warring conglomeration of special interests, and prolonging the debate amongst Democrats about what to include in the Senate bill will cause the disparate groups to fight amongst themselves. Furthermore, it illustrates to the American people the absurdity of the government’s promise to satisfy infinite desires with finite means. Still, Harry Reid is pretty savvy, and Team Obama has proven itself ready to kneecap some folks Chicago-style to force its way. In my lifetime, politics has never been this interesting.
Edit: Since I’m getting so much mileage out of this Mitch Mcconnell piece, I figured I’d put up a nicer version.
This pic attempts to illustrate Stigma beating Dogma in the political realm. It’s not a very successful experiment. First of all, I found that writing “Stigma” and “Dogma” on the boxing gloves drew inadequate attention to the point. The texts were super small, and I eventually got rid of them. Overall, I intended to do an underpainting that I could then color in photoshop. I was too eager to begin painting and I left some drawing mistakes that came back later to haunt me. But it’s an open disclosure blog. So welcome to my problem pieces.
Time Magazine held a poll on their website. The question was, “Now that Walter Cronkite has passed on, who is America’s most trusted newscaster?”
The options were Katie Couric, Charlie Gibson, Jon Stewart, and Brian Williams. Jon Stewart won by a landslide.
Okay, granted. The poll is stupid. Jon Stewart isn’t technically in competition with the other mainstream networks. The other networks are likely to cannibalize each other’s votes and push Stewart ahead. Also, it’s an online poll and therefore skewed to the Daily Show’s younger audience, in contrast to the 60-year-old median audiences of the mainstream networks’ Nightly News shows.
Still, it’s a bit frightening to be reminded that there are people who regard Jon Stewart as the King of the News. The biggest problem with The Daily Show, and The Colbert Report for that matter, is that they serve as news for people who don’t like news. That’s not an exaggeration is it? The fact that the shows are slanted towards the liberal side is not in itself problematic. The problem is that people watch the shows and take their political stance with an eye to fashion, not good policy. Colbert’s entire show is dedicated to the stigmatization of conservatism. A thinking person can appreciate Colbert’s humor and still be independent of the stigma. Unfortunately, non-thinking college students eager to sit at the political equivalent of the “cool kids table” advance the stigma without analyzing the issues. By acting like the counterpoints are too ridiculous to consider, people never consider the counterpoints.
Stewart’s show is particularly troublesome, not because it’s an irreverent editorial show. It’s troublesome because people treat it with authority. Jon Stewart has managed to import middle-school popularity dynamics into a discussion of national politics. He sometimes dismisses an entire issue by merely rolling his eyes. The audience guffaws and then moves on without having to think. Again, if you can pour contempt on an opposing viewpoint, you don’t have to refute it. To see a sycophantic audience in action, take a look at this interview of Jonah Goldberg. Stewart says in the interview, both that he doesn’t understand what Jonah talks about, and that Jonah is misrepresenting progressive causes. The audience cheers for both sentiments–Jon Stewart doesn’t understand (cue audience), and yet Stewart does and Jonah doesn’t (cue audience). Dismissal is an effective technique for people who desire an approved stance rather than an informed stance. What’s more annoying is that the Daily Show viewers, who have never considered the issues, are confident in their criticism or praise of an idea.
Though Jon Stewart enjoys the benefits of his authority, he denies its legitimacy. He’s sort of like Jerry Springer in that he shrugs his shoulders and says, my show’s ridiculous. It’s a disarming way to distance himself from his show’s haughty proclamations. He used to say that he came on after a show where puppets made crank calls. The inference was that anyone who takes his show seriously need not themselves be taken seriously. Yet he seems equivalent to a man who “satirically” sits on a street corner with a cup, but still expects money. After the hit piece Stewart ran on CNBC’s Jim Cramer, Stewart’s “I don’t take myself too seriously” shrug, seems a little less convincing.
In the style-over-substance-age of television politics, someone as likeable as Jon Stewart is here to stay. So I did this picture of him.
I read an article about Deepak Chopra last night. What a smug, self-righteous, frustrating man.
He promotes Ayurveda, which is the ancient traditional medicine that can cure anything as long as you believe in it.
Chopra is a multimillionaire celebrity doctor that provokes oohs and ahs over his remedies and Pop Hindu lectures. Many pay him money to hear him say that they’re god–mostly middle aged women who watch Oprah. In addition to his best selling books, he also occasionally writes anti-american screeds on the Huffington post.
He’s a shrewd business man who equips the “Me Generation” with the tools for self worship, and he’s managed to convince Americans that in order to fulfill our health and wealth desires, we need to tap into the traditional folk medicine of India. That’s right. INDIA!
Seems odd, right? Because if you want to buy magical Ayurvedic rocks and things from a stall in Bombay, you have to step over diseased, impoverished folks in the streets. Despite India’s pervasive Ayurvedic remedies, it still struggles with poverty and health problems. In 1999 during the peak of Chopra’s fame, the World Health Organization estimated that 700,000 Indians died of diarrhea. That’s 1,600 deaths a day. In addition, this year CNN reported that a gene mutation among non-smoking, vegetarian, Indians has caused a radical increase in heart disease. That’s right, Chopra is importing the secrets to health and wealth that work so well for the folks in India.
Is it important for Ayurvedic medicine to actually work, or is it cool enough for it be pagan, foreign, alternative, and old? A scientific study in the Journal of the America Medical Association (Saper et al., JAMA (2004)292:2868-2873) found:
“One of 5 Ayurvedic HMPs [herbal medicine products] produced in South Asia and available in Boston South Asian grocery stores contains potentially harmful levels of lead, mercury, and/or arsenic. Users of Ayurvedic medicine may be at risk for heavy metal toxicity, and testing of Ayurvedic HMPs for toxic heavy metals should be mandatory.”
Thomas Wheeler, Ph.D., reported on an Ayurvedic AIDS clinic in San Francisco. Apparently, the physicians told patients to stop taking their regular medicine and instead take the herbal remedies they sold the patients for $500 a month. Laboratory analyses revealed that some “herbal preparations were composed of plant material, fungus, feces, and bacteria, which may have caused the gastrointestinal problems reported by the patient. At least one patient died.
The claims of alternative medicine, particularly Ayurveda, are so radical that they beg to be tested. I mean, if washing your eyes in your own saliva can cure cataracts, why not test and promote such a remedy? Ten years ago, the government began testing herbal and alternative health remedies. It has cost taxpayers 2.5 billion dollars. Which remedies work? According to an AP story last month “… the disappointing answer seems to be that almost none of them do. Echinacea for colds, Gikgo biloba for memory. Glucosamine and chondroitin for arthritis. Black cohosh for menopausal hot flashes. Saw palmetto for prostate problems. Shark cartilage for cancer. All proved no better than dummy pills in big studies funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The lone exception: ginger capsules may help chemotherapy nausea.”
What interests me is how Deepak Chopra knows which Ayurvedic secrets to uncover to his American audiences and which to leave covered?
Matt Labash writes that in ancient Ayurveda “Most diseases were originally attributed to demons; often they were cured with the wearing of gems and the use of fragrances…. Poor digestion was treated with goat feces prepared by washing with urine. Got constipation? Drink milk — with urine. Male potency was supposedly enhanced by 216 different kinds of enemas, including the testicles of peacocks, swans, and turtles. If that didn’t work, one was supposed to follow up with an enema of urine. Hemorrhaging was a nice break from the regimen, since it was treated with an enema of the fresh blood of a rabbit, dear, cock, or any one of numerous other beasts. Epilepsy was treated with ass urine.”
American New Agers already believe that demons find certain fragrances and gems revolting, but what they need to understand is that demons really really hate urine. Unfortunately, American audiences are kept from the less sexy Ayurvedic treatments. Think of all the healing that could occur.
NEW AGE DOCTOR:
What seems to be the problem?
I’m having nosebleeds.
NEW AGE DOCTOR:
Interesting. How long has this occurred?
About a week. I think it might be the change in the weather or–
NEW AGE DOCTOR:
Demons in your nose?
Or demons in my nose.
NEW AGE DOCTOR:
Normally, I would suggest that you rinse your nose with urine to repel the demons, but I think your case is more severe.
What do you suggest?
NEW AGE DOCTOR:
I’m … writing out a prescription for …
A chicken blood enema?
NEW AGE DOCTOR:
Yes, you will need to acquire a chicken, and then drain it’s blood into a bag…
Can’t I just close my eyes, and fix myself? Go within?
NEW AGE DOCTOR:
Like I said, I think your case is pretty severe. Chicken blood enemas are the product of ancient wisdom.
There’s no pagan spirit mantra? No herbs to brew? I thought I was god. Can’t I just align myself with the universal consciousness and believe in myself.
NEW AGE DOCTOR:
Nope. Chicken blood enema.
I don’t know.
NEW AGE DOCTOR:
Oprah swears by it.
Why didn’t you say so!
“The worst lesson that can be taught to a man is to rely upon others and to whine over his sufferings.”
Tom Wolfe is one of my favorite writers. Conservatives like him because he questions the legitimacy of fashion’s right to rule (From Bahaus to Our House, and The Painted Word), and Liberals like him, as near as I can tell, because he’s good at making fun of people. At that he’s very good, especially those prone to self-importance.
At any rate, the November 2007, 150th anniversary issue of The Atlantic Monthly asked influential writers and artists to assess the American idea. Many people wrote things unworthy of the topic (Nancy Pelosi wrote a smattering of empty sentences and concluded that the American idea was both new when it was instituted and that it crops up when people try to solve problems. She couldn’t be bothered to suggest what the idea is or to examine its value). Tom Wolfe however, rolled up his sleeves and got to work answering the question directly.
“Since you asked …,” he writes “the American idea was born at approximately 5 p.m. on Friday, December 2, 1803, the moment Thomas Jefferson sprang the so-called pell-mell on the new British ambassador, Anthony Merry, at dinner in the White House.”
To summarize, Jefferson held a state dinner at a round table with no assigned seating. This horrified the European ambassadors, particularly the British, because it violated their notions of class, and a round table (as we know from King Arthur) has no head. It is therefore impossible to rank the guests by their placement. There is a place of honor next to the host, but this went to Dolly Madison, who frequently served as the White House hostess for the widowed president. With no assignments, everybody else was left to “take a seat” on their own.
Wolfe argues that Jefferson’s tactics manifest America’s tendency to regard initiative as a virtue. Initiative is written in the very first chapters of our own national beginning. In 1776 after the Continental Congress declared independence, the Colonials suffered from a lack of ammunition. Rather than admit defeat, they did what Americans have always done. They found a solution. They found it in a gilded lead statue of King George III. A crowd of patriots tipped the statue from its marble base and sent it to Litchfield Connecticut where it was melted it into 42,088 bullets. The ragged Colonials turned a symbol of oppression into ammunition, and the invading British had “His Majesty” shot at them. Americans’ willingness to act was supported by President Calvin Coolidge (who coincidentally was born on the 4th of July) when he insisted, “The people have to bear their own responsibilities. There is no method by which that burden can be shifted to government.”
I’m in a play right now, and I’ve posted about it before, but Friday’s performance was special. Right before intermission, the power went out. Apparently, a truck hit a transformer. Jeff, the director, told the audience to talk amongst themselves while he investigated the situation. On their own, without any organization, the audience began to sing patriotic songs. Without the play to entertain them, they decided to entertain themselves. Finally, when it became clear that the power was not guaranteed to come on very soon, flashlights were passed out and we performed under illumination from the audience.
Most probably because the Fourth is so near, I perceived the evening as a metaphor for what makes this country great–the preference of initiative over entitlement and the American tendency to make things work.
The lack of trust in government is increasingly widespread. After passing the irresponsible Cap and Trade Legislation, proposing new taxes, and raising unemployment by the passage of two bloated stimulus packages (with a third on the way), Congress suffers from an 18% approval rating. I have faith that deep down American’s strive not for an oligarchy led by an elitist political class, but for a meritocracy led by the initiative and innovation of the American people. The hope is based upon the great traditions of the Founders. Take some initiative. Seat yourself, and have a Happy Fourth of July!