Sunday, February 17, 2008

Rock It To Me, Slate, Rock It To Me

William Saletan is at his sarcastic best in a new Human Nature column. The appeal of this column is Saletan's pithy bluntness. He may be mean, but hey, he's funny! Example:

A man grew his own jaw transplant in his abdomen. Scientists attached his stem cells to a scaffold and "put it inside the patient's abdomen to grow for nine months." The cells "turned into a variety of tissues and even produced blood vessels." Surgeons then transplanted the tissue to his head. Benefits: 1) No animal viruses, since doctors didn't use animal tissue. 2) No rejection problems, since the transplant matches the patient's DNA. 3) Fast recovery, since the new bone was grown instead of taken from his leg. Approved reaction: This brings "custom-made living spare parts for humans a step closer to reality." Unapproved reactions: 1) Congratulations—it's a bone! 2) Is that a bone in your abdomen, or are you just glad to see me?

Meanwhile, in the Sports section, Boston sports fanatic Charles P. Pierce still can't get over the Patriots' loss (he's the only one), Stephen Metcalf tries to turn the Roger Clemens steroid scandal into something more profound than it really is (but yields halfway interesting results), and Douglas McCollam spins some decent fluff and earns his paycheck.

Andres Martinez travels to Venezuela and marvels at the sincerity of the country's propaganda. Let's just say I'm not going any time soon.

Bruce Gottlieb and Cyrus Farivar discuss why and how art is so frequently stolen in Europe. Personally I'm tickled at the notion of art crooks: criminals with...taste! Surely Jagger in "Sympathy for The Devil" would approve.

Dear Prudence always makes me feel better about my life, since it's good to know that other people also have ridiculous social problems. You would think that people who need the assistance of an advice column would be stupid, but honestly, I can see exactly why these people feel the need to consult a completely neutral third party when faced with dilemmas such as otherwise-perfect boyfriends who posess that one terrible flaw, or awkward step-parents who tear families apart. What they really need, of course, is therapy.

Mia Farrow, of all people, has spent the entire year throwing a huge guilt trip on Steven Spielberg for deciding to participate in the 2008 Olympics, which apparently means he supports genocide. Spielberg finally agreed, and he bailed, which should make Mia happy. I wonder if it will really do anything though.

And now we come to Slate's bread and butter: politics. This week, unsurprisingly, it's Obama Obama Obama. John Dickerson wonders if and when the bubble will burst. Daliah Lithwick treats Slate as her own diary with mixed results in this piece. But Douglas Kmiec takes the cake in his dubious article "Barack Obama is a natural for the Catholic vote." A recent Romney aide, Kmiec's heavily religious slant sticks out like a sore thumb in Slate's snarky, non-commital universe. He writes that "if either Clinton or Obama would acknowledge the myriad problems associated with a declining population in the developed world and affirm the importance of both having and raising children (and not just punting these duties over to Hillary's "village"), Catholics could well contemplate a Democratic adoption." Is this really a problem? I mean I've heard about people in Italy and Japan not wanting to have kids but what percentage of voters is seriously going to find this a key election issue? I don't care who this guy votes for.


yoggoth said...

I've been avoiding most of Slate's political coverage. It seems like more of the same political-writing because-I'm-paid-to stuff that fills TV and news magazines. Those articles express nothing remotely resembling my own decision making process.

Little Earl said...

Well sure, but when you've got eight months to kill you've got to kill it with something! For me reading Slate's political analysis serves about the same function as following the baseball standings: it's just something to distract me from the numbing grind that is the rest of my life.

yoggoth said...

But it's not just following the baseball standings, it's reading the cheesy sportswriters on They write endlessly about who will do what in theoretical playoffs months from now. In other words, they're just guessing and they don't seem any more informed than you or me.

Little Earl said...

It must be an inherent human instinct to try to reduce politics and sports to an exact science, because even though you're right and all those columnists are just guessing, somehow I keep coming back for more. Maybe I just appreciate writers who are skilled enough to make me think they're more informed than I am even though they really aren't.

yoggoth said...

So to your -

I know you got another jockey at home; Let me be your rider 'till your real man come;
Whip me baby, lie like a dog;
I really don't care if you do.

You got to l-l-l-lie to me baby
Uh-huh, you got to lie to me baby
Uh-huh, you got to lie to me baby
Lie to me baby, move on!

I retort -

Cause when the loving starts, and the lights go down, and theres not another living soul around, then you woo me until the sun comes up, and you say that you love me.

Have pity baby, Just when I thought it was over, Now you got me running, running, running for cover. I'm begging you for a little sympathy, cause if you use me again it'll be the end of me.

herr zrbo said...

The main reason I enjoy the election coverage is that I feel the news is actually covering something worth covering. At least they're not filling up their time with celebrity gossip/who's-dating-who this week garbage, well at least not as much.

Sure it's mainly speculation, but shit man, we're talking about who's going to be the next president of the most powerful country on earth. That's at least worth discussing. Though I'm sorta interested in Nikki Hilton's latest boob job now that I think about it...

yoggoth said...

Yes but all the coverage is focused on horse race crap about who does best with what segment of the population. What good does that knowledge do anyone who isn't working for one of the candidates?

I enjoy articles that analyze substantive differences in the candidates' stated positions and prior actions. Everything other than that is worthless.