Vantage point

Friday, September 18, 2009

Bill O'Reilly on Public Option - Shocking Statement! NOT!

The leftie blogosphere is getting all tingly high-fiving everyone about Bill O'reilly supporting the public option. Bil O'reilly is actually not a hardcore fiscal conservative??? This news is the most unexpectedly earth-shattering shocking revelation to hit the airwaves since Adam Lambert publicly came out of the closet. :)

The leftie bloggers are so fixated over hating O'reilly on a daily basis, that they have never really heard what he says calmly. So here's the thing. Bill O'reilly is first and foremost the Culture Warrior - essentially a hardcore social conservative. That and only that, is the part of the conservative-right ideology that he feels strongly about. He has never really been a fiscal conservative or a small government guy, at least not on a comparably passionate level.

Sure, he makes the right noises, talks about the deficit, spending, so on and so forth. But you can see his heart is not really in it. He is just doing what is good for his team. But every so often, he has said stuff that shows that fiscally, he is at best slightly-right-of-center. Remember when gas crossed 4 dollars a gallon? He routinely hammered the oil companies for their greed using words that could have easily been uttered by Keith Olbermann. When the financial sector started teetering, he broke rank with fellow-conservative commentators to lay part of the blame at Bush's door, for not "regulating" the market strongly enough (although his showdown with Barney Frank made everyone forget it). And he has always paid moderate lip service to the value of regulations, something that Hannity, Limbaugh, Beck, Cavuto etc. will never do. So to me, his statement, which by the way, is not exactly a resounding endorsement of the public option, does not come as a surprise. It actually fits the pattern. He has always been like that when it comes to fiscal matters.

Secondly, have people noticed that O'reilly is sounding a lot more "fair and balanced" since Obama took office? During the Bush years, there was some outrageous statement of his that made rounds of youtube every week. But lately, he has been very mellow. The afore-linked leftie blogs don't go after him as much. Heck, even his appearances in Olbermann's "Worst Persons in the World" list have dropped dramatically. And these facts have only a little to do with Glenn Beck's rise as the right's Loonie-in-Chief.

The reason is simple. When your team is playing defense, everyone has to focus single-minded on defending. But when your team is playing offense, some players can sort of relax and take it easy as the designated attackers go forth. When Bush was President, O'reilly loyally defended him. And Bush gave him a lot to be defensive about. But now that Obama is President and the right has shifted into offensive mode, O'reilly knows that there is no sense in frothing at the mouth. He can be polite and even mildly gracious to the President even as he disagrees with him, and come off looking a lot like a fair and balanced guy. In fact, he might even score an interview in the Oval Office very soon.

And so, suddenly, we find ourselves in a strange world where O'reilly does indeed sound like one of the most reasonable voices on air, even as Beck-Limbaugh-Hannity (always) look batshit crazy attacking the President on everything, and Matthews-Olbermann-Schultz (often) look moronic defending the President's deficit-tripling policies.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Script for Pastis

Here's a strip idea I came up with for Pearls Before Swine. Specifically, the sort that Pastis seems to derive evil satisfaction from - an elaborate set-up with the punchline being a mind-twisting pun on some famous line or quote. Read and grind your teeth.

(Pig becomes great friends with a guy named Knott.... maybe the English wicketkeeper Alan Knott)

Pig: A restaurant was offering free milk shakes today. Knott and I went to have some.
Rat: Did you drink lots of them?
Pig: In fifteen minutes I was barely able to finish my first, but Knott had already downed two.
Rat: You had just the one shake?
Pig: No, after that I went to get more for us. But a really really small portion for me and a full one for Knott
Rat: So they gave 'em for free too?
Pig: Yup. My teeny shake and Knott's third.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Hitchens Swings and Misses

One of my favorite columnists, Christopher Hitchens has written a rare disappointing piece about political satirists.

Weakly written and argued, by the usually stratospheric Hitchens standards. His basic point is valid to some extent. But he makes the mistake of lumping together Franken and Stewart, and then depending largely on Franken excerpts to discredit Stewart. The few excerpts from Stewart are mostly from his Naked Pictures book, which is from 1998, way before he took over TDS, which serves as his main vehicle. In terms of comedic value as well as influence, Franken has nothing on Stewart. Franken is also a lot more partisan and stubbornly lefty, and thus easier to fisk.

The article would have been a lot stronger, had it included excerpts from TDS or TCR and then fisked them. Maybe he does not watch the show. Maybe he just watched some assorted clips and decided that Stewart was as parochial as Franken. As a libertarian watching the show, it is amply evident to me where Stewart's ideological loyalties lie, but I also like the largely equal opportunity fun-poking that gives the show honesty. Hitchens implies that Stewart never made fun of Jeremiah Wright, or does not attack liberal hypocrisy. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I remember several instances when Wright was skewered. His show also takes potshots at Obama administration regularly, often pointing out how similar to Bush he is. I remember once, after a particularly scathing attack on Obama, his audience was tch-tch-ing in displeasure, and he had to say "You know, it's OK to make fun of him too!". His show does go after the right most of the times, but Hitchens is implying that he gives the left a complete pass like Franken did, which is not true.

From Hitchens, one of my favorite columnists, I would have expected a more thorough and painstaking fisking of Stewart, not using Franken as a proxy and using quotes from an 11-year-old book.

Also, a small thing that may just be happenstance. The article goes after Franken, Stewart, Colbert and even Wanda Sykes. A name conspicuously missing - Bill Maher, who ranks up there with Franken when it comes to partisan satire. Hitchens is a very regular guest on Maher's show and they seem to share some sort of a bond, probably based on their common interest in dissing religion. So it is curious that an article such as this, which really should include Bill Maher, does not.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Why I HATE Republicans AND Democrats

Because I don't want a public option or any surrogate for it, which just puts the system in an even worse position than it is now.

But, if a public option is indeed passed, then I will be really pissed if it excludes end of life counseling or does not cover abortion expenses.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Basics of Writing Well and Miss Teen SC

Yesterday, while re-writing and proof-reading my paper manuscript for the umpteenth time, I suddenly had an epiphany. One of the basic rules of writing, hammered into me by several Professors, is to be careful while using the word "like". A common mistake many of us make is using the word "like" when the correct usage would be "such as". Here's an explanation. So when I am going over my manuscripts, I search for the word "like" and most of the times, replace it with "such as".

Now, we are all aware of the recent overuse of the word "like" in conversations in the US. Rightly or wrongly, the overuse is associated more with young women, especially those of the blond persuasion. So whenever someone is portraying a bimbo on TV, a lot of "like"s are thrown in. I have advised a lot of my students to avoid using the word "like" so many times when making presentations, because it is jarring and distracting, besides being grammatically incorrect.

And in these two factoids lies the answer to Miss Teen South Carolina Caitlin Upton's now legendary response, especially the odd overuse of the phrase "like such as". She must have been in the habit of saying "like" all the time. So a trainer or consultant must have told her that saying "like" after every phrase makes her sound stupid, and to avoid that and sound smarter, she should try using the phrase "such as" instead. Caitlin probably got the advice wrong or implemented it badly, so instead of replacing 'like' with 'such as', she used both. And hence all the "such as"-es, which have no business being there.

Think about it! Like such as, seriously!

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009


Oh, speaking of Anurag Kashyap in the last post, I watched Gulaal a while ago, but never got around to writing about it. So here's a quick post on that.

That Gulaal did not excite me enough to make a post about it right away and I am getting around to it only now, kinda shows how I feel about it. It's a decent movie worth watching once, but didn't really make an impact on me. And for such an intensely angry film with so much going on, it left me more or less untouched. By normal Bollywood standards, it is very good. By Anurag Kashyap standards, it seems very two-dimensional. Definitely not his best.... not even in his top 3.... and if you also count movies he has just written, not in his top 5! Considering that the "first author" of the story seemed to have been No Smoking's Raj Singh Chaudhary, the movie is a tad disappointing.

I've had a tough time figuring out what exactly failed to make the movie resonate with me. On paper, it has all the elements I'd be drawn to - conflict in varying levels and contexts, politics, anger, brutality, pathos and pace. Yet, in my eyes, compared to movies with similar contexts, it falls in between the under-done Haasil and the well-crafted Hazaron Khwaishein Aisi.... slightly closer to the former, sadly.

One problem of sorts is with the characters - Dileep (Chaudhary), Anu (Jesse Randhawa), Ransa (Abhimanyu Singh), Dukey Bana (Kay Kay) and Kiran (Ayesha Mohan) . They are conceived and outlined in a brilliantly imagined and yet real manner. But when it comes to fleshing them out, adding meat or color, or what you have, the movie falls woefully short. By the end of the movie, all characters end up seeming like meticulously done miniature portraits by an art student than the jaw-dropping full-scale masterpieces by a genius that they had shown the promise for. And I wonder if the problem might not have been focusing so much on so many characters, which might have stretched Kashyap's and Chaudhary's prowesses rather thin. So the characters ended up falling short of what they seemed to be headed towards.

With one exception - Prithvi Bana (Piyush Mishra), a character that stays with you. The star of the movie for me was Piyush Mishra. Wrote the dialogues beautifully (heh, and probably kept the best ones for himself - Prithvi Bana?), acted brilliantly, composed great music, penned superb lyrics and sang hauntingly. The song Duniya, his power-packed take on Yeh Duniya Agar Mil Bhi Jaaye from Pyaasa, is by far the best song of the year, with nothing from the Delhi 6, Kaminey and so on coming anywhere close.

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Gabhricha Paus (The Damned Rain)

From Anurag Kashyap writing at PFC, I came to know about this -

Gabhricha Paus(The Damned Rain) gets its US release at Facets in Chicago. First Marathi film to get a arthouse US release. Probably the first Indian film to be shown at Facets.

The film is about farmer suicides in Vidarbha, a story that has been in the headlines for a couple of years now. The trailer -

If you want to watch it at a city near you in the US, here's the schedule

Showtimes: Saturdays & Sundays, Aug. 29-30 & Sept. 5-6 at 12:30 pm

Sept 11- Chicago, IL
Sept 18- Edison, NJ
Sept 25- San Jose, CA
Oct 2 – Los Angeles, CA
Oct 9- Dallas, TX
Oct 16- Detroit, MI
Oct 23- Boston, MA
Oct 30- Atlanta, GA

Spread the word.

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When satire working too well gets even better!

Follow-up to my last post. The blogger sent me a very angry and annoyed email, which is......heh...well, which speaks for itself. Reproducing it here.

Dear Gaurav,

This is regarding your recent post×9

You have written about how people fail to get your sarcasm and how, in your own words, “any idiot can concoct the stupidest reasons for getting offended, and people will actually treat the demands for an apology seriously.” -

My take on this is: read your post again. I mean, morons who can write *EXACTLY* as you did on that topic, exist. Now without knowing the oh-so-fucking-humorous you, how am I supposed to know whether you are a genuine retard or a sarcastic monger? And you didnt bother to exaggerate/ vituperate the obvious which may have given clues to a casual reader that you were being sarcastic

Now, I dont know you – nor your coterie of 9 other friends who apparently know you as a person/ through your other blogs (or seriously most of whom just look like read up tags a lot). So I did not get the hang of whether you were genuinely moronic or were mocking one. And, I assumed you were the former.

If you have still issues with that, you can keep them.

Here's my response

Dear K,

Indeed, I owe you a public apology. I sincerely apologize for not exaggerating or vituperating the obvious and keeping my post limited to very mundane and totally realistic elements such as accusations of Brahminical bias, mentioning Gatari Amavasya as a counter-example, injecting Dhoni into it, and demanding that the HUF apologize to Dhoni. You are right. All these really are believable objections.

In the future, I will keep some Tolkien or Lovecraft handy and include some really fantastical elements that make the satire blindingly obvious for your benefit. Perhaps claim that the HUF insulted Cthulu? Or that the bogeyman feels aggrieved? Or that the tooth fairy is considering a lawsuit?

In the meanwhile, do accept my sincerest apologies for any distress, annoyance and hypertension I might have caused you.

Yours sincerely,
Gaurav Sabnis