Emma Needleman's blog

Laughing Liberally: The Funny Pages!

We found this cartoon by L.A. cartoonist Mr. Fish on Truthdig:

Like Mr. Fish, we're all for the eventual ascension of the blogsophere, too, as long as we can still get our Dilbert fix on an RSS feed.

Blogging Liberally: A Terrorist Fist-Jab To Your Brain.

1. Wal-Mart's attempts to sway the political attitudes of its employees go horribly awry.

2. n+1's Dark Knight review paints the film as Bush administration propaganda. Tell us, n+1...why so serious?

3. Proof that John McCain doesn't know what bad press looks like.

4. File this one under horrible-but-not-actually-that-surprising: Ron Suskind's revelation that the Bush administration forged a letter linking Iraq and Al-Quaeda.

5. Also, Grandpa got totally drunk at the Buffalo Chip competition and embarrassed New Grandma.

Screening Liberally: Why So Serious? Dark Knight Reviews Continue.

This is the second in our series of Screening Liberally reviews of The Dark Knight. Stay tuned for more.

Accolade for Christopher Nolan's newest Batman movie, The Dark Knight has been almost universal. The film has a 94% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a website which compiles and analyzes film reviews, and words like "inspired," "brilliant," and "Oscar-worthy" are being thrown around like so much confetti. Entertainment Weekly even offered Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker as evidence that the recently-deceased Australian actor would have grown up into "as audacious an actor as Marlon Brando and maybe as great."

Which isn't to say that praise for Nolan's film is undeserved--on the contrary, it's certainly one of the most interesting and well-made films to come out this year and, in terms of big, blockbuster movies, it's definitely a "game-changer": proof that a superhero movie can be subtle and introspective while still managing to be both totally thrilling and gross an enormous amount of money at the box office. It's also clear that The Dark Knight has touched a cultural nerve. Something about this bleak, unflashy portrait of a city in crisis and the moral decisions necessary to save it resonates with the American public. And much has been made of this already: check out Seth Pearce's earlier review, which presents a response to some critic's arguments that Batman and the rest of the good guys represent Bush and Cheney as they struggled to make the right decisions about how to combat terrorism.

As Seth pointed out, this is giving Bush a little too much credit. Batman--however weirdly egocentric dressing up as a bat and becoming a vigilante police officer might be--fundamentally wants to help as many people as he can, while Bush seems more concerned with keeping the rich wealthy and racing toy cars around a pond in Crawford. What's more interesting and offers more insight into our national character is how strongly allegorical the movie is, almost to the point of being epic. Reviewers have picked up on this, too, calling it alternately "Shakespearean" and "mythological." It's not a reflection of our reality; it's a reflection of the moral questions which, even in this time of political turmoil, are still relevant to us.

More after the jump!

Daily Round-Up: You Provide the Blog Entries, We Provide the War.

1. Chris Hedges bemoans the decline of traditional media, hates the internets.

2. Feud Watch! Michael Savage has some strong words for "homosexual mafia group" Media Matters.

3. Doctors in South Dakota who preform abortions must now stick to a script claiming the abortion will "will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique living human being." Like the other famous pro-life script, Juno, it also features original songs by Kimya Dawson.

4. Here's the latest report on the mass Starbucks' closings. Looks as though some of these franchises will be caffeinating a little less...liberally?

5. Salon on how not to read.

Daily Round-Up: Get Along, Little Lemmings!

1. Salon and Slate both weigh in on why they don't think the New Yorker cover is a big deal ; meanwhile, the New York Times reports on why no one wants to joke about Obama.

2. Huffington Post blogger (and Brandeis University sophomore) Nathan Robinson agreed to watch FOX News for 24 hours straight.

3.Free Ride author Paul Waldman linked to this complete list of McCain flip-flops in his article about McCain and the media.

4. Alternet ranked the top ten worst things McCain has done...this week.

5. Elsewhere, the feud between comedian and VH1 "fundit" Michael Ian Black and Tucker Max (the I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell guy) stretches on.

Reading Liberally: A Review of John Anderson's Follow the Money

In an election year, it's difficult to concentrate on anything but the future. And that makes sense: right now our focus should be on what Obama and McCain have to offer us. But we're also coming to the end of the eight-year stretch of the worst presidential administration in history and the damage that George W. Bush and cohorts have inflicted on this country is, unfortunately, all-too-relevant to our daily lives.

Which is why it's so interesting to read John Anderson's 2007 expose of the Bush administration Follow the Money: How George W. Bush and the Texas Republicans Hog-Tied America now, in GWB's twilight years. Anderson, born and raised in Texas, presents his painstakingly researched arguments with the narrative rigor of a historian and what emerges is a startling picture of the interconnected world of the Texas republicans. "Early on," Anderson writes in his acknowledgments, "I began by amassing voluminous files, both printed and electronic, labeled 'Delay' and 'Abramoff.' At a certain point in time, I realized just how overlapping their stories were. What I had before me, I realized, was a vast web of intrigue."

Web of intrigue, indeed. Anyone who, in the face of the new election, has begun to feel the sting of Bush's legacy fade would do well to read this book and remember how orchestrated, how purposeful and how incestuous the policies of this administration were.

Blogging Liberally: News to Ruin Your Day

1. Naomi Woolf on how Gitmo and Abu Ghraib became institutionalized sex crime rings.

2. Check out Open Left's piece about why Obama shouldn't be afraid of being called a flip-flopper. No, wait! Actually, don't!

3. Slate wonders if Al Franken's history of "racy" jokes will harm his Senate campaign; meanwhile, Sasha Baron Cohen inspires hope for the future, dread of his inevitable new catchphrase (Niiice!)

4. It seems that some Iraq vets have been drinking a little too...liberally? Sorry, we know that's kind of offensive but we just can't stop punning off of our own name...liberally!

5. Former President Bush is the best high school civics teacher ever! Except he's not functionally literate and is always trying to waterboard you during detention.

6. We Made This linked to this Flickr set of the new series of Penguin Great Ideas book covers.

Blogging Liberally: Your Daily Dose of Scary and Sad

This is what the internet is saying today:

1. Gas is still really expensive; we are still slaves to the oil companies.

2. Christopher Hitchens agreed to be waterboarded for a Vanity Fair story, which is fun to check out right after reading this article in the New York Times about how the folks at Gitmo are totally ripping off their torture techniques from Mao Zedong.

3. In the wake of his statements that he will support federally-funded faith-based initiatives, Obama meets with a bunch of right-wing Evanglists who, in turn, ask him a bunch of offensive questions.

4. There's still lots of coverage of Wesley Clark's remarks that getting shot down in a fighter plane doesn't qualify you for the presidency. Good news (?): Clark is getting some support, from Moveon and from Robert G. Gard. Bad news: The McCain people are still running this thing into the ground.

5. Truthdig has a report on the actually-kind-of-shocking discrepancy between American and Dutch drug use.

6. Conservative radio host Michael Savage calls Nancy Pelosi "Mussolini in a skirt" about forty times, makes mistake of dissing Media Matters.

7. Alternet ranked the top ten most "awesomely bad" moments of the Bush presidency, with "Mission Accomplished" as his "Sargeant Pepper."

8. Also, bears are great, am I right? MSNBC has the dish on their secret lives.

The Search for the Ultimate McCain Video

As an intern here at Living Liberally HQ, a big chunk of my day is spent looking for John McCain stories on the internet (don't worry, I don't get paid). And since we just had our McCain-themed comedy night with guest authors Cliff Schecter and Paul Waldman, I'm coming off a week-long stretch of Google searches like "John McCain, old," "John McCain, flip-flop" and "John McCain, unflattering pictures." I've learned a lot of fun facts about old Johnny boy: he is a Virgo, his favorite movie is Some Like It Hot and he graduated high school in the same year as Fred Flintstone. But what I haven't found are consistently funny internet videos about John McCain.

Sure, I've found plenty of videos--there's the whole slew up at Brave New Films which aren't comedic, but still do a great job of making you want to move to Germany if McCain gets elected, plus droves of flashy, moderately-amusing clips like this McCain rap song (worth watching for the Chris Matthews sample) and John McCain's Spring Break Tips (cute, but the skin cancer jokes are kind of a low blow). Overall, though, I haven't been able to find that one McCain video that's, you know, worth blogging about.

However, I think the answer may lie with the man himself. Wacky McCain impersonators or Midwestern teenagers with their dads' camcorders can't touch the lunacy of the real McCain as he hurtles towards senility. I laughed hardest at this clip of McCain getting owned on Meet The Press (no Russert jokes here; I'm not a monster) and I also love watching this six-second clip of McCain babbling about sending bottled hot water to dehydrated babies over and over on a loop.

In many ways, I have come to feel as though I am Ahab and the world's funniest McCain video is my White Whale. And like Ahab, I will not rest until (spoiler alert!) my resources have been totally exhausted and the blood of both myself and my shipmates has been spilled. Or until the McCain Girls make another 80s music video parody. Because, you know. That would also be pretty funny.

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