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Ed Driscoll

Ed On The 'Net

HOT & Bothered

April 6th, 2014 - 3:14 pm

“High-Occupancy Toll lanes: another nightmare from the suburbs-hating traffic planners,” another intensely detailed article from Jonathan Last in response, at the Weekly Standard:

HOT lanes are often derisively referred to as “Lexus lanes”—that is, special roads where Richie Rich can speed along in his roadster, a monocle in one eye and hundred-dollar bills flying out the window. The defenders of HOT lanes don’t like this term. After a Washington Post columnist questioned the Beltway’s HOT lane project in 2012 using the L-word, Toll Roads News, the industry’s bible, ran an editorial calling the columnist a “lame-brained lefty.” It defended HOT lanes thus:

Of course the toll express lanes will be used more by those with more money. Only a simple-minded leftist sees that as an argument against them. For a start the wealthy are often very productive people, and if they are prepared to pay their way to avoid congestion then both they and society benefit.

Even by the standards of libertarian money-worship, this is strong stuff. Yet populist concerns about HOT lanes aren’t specious. For one thing, citizens should always be wary when the government conveys public land to a private entity. They should be doubly so when the private party gets the land free. And triply so when the private party has no competition for the gift.

HOT lane advocates are quick to point out that surveys suggest a wide spread of income among users. Indeed, it seems that most drivers use HOT lanes only occasionally and that “regular” customers are a minority. Even so, the income of HOT lane users does tend to be higher than average, which makes it hard not to see the lanes as a transfer of wealth up the economic ladder. The government gives away public land. It funds the public portion of the construction costs. It provides loans and bonds to the private construction company. And then, once the HOT lanes are operational, it pays for the state troopers who patrol them and the crews who keep the snow off of them. That’s an awful lot of public resources being lavished on a good designed for folks at the higher end of the earnings scale in the name of some nebulous public benefit. It’s a bit like the massive government handouts to electric car manufacturers, such as Tesla, which have had the effect of subsidizing luxury cars for the rich and famous. Only it’s more obnoxious, because when Ben Affleck drives around in his Tesla, he has to sit in the same traffic as you do in your Ford. That is, unless he hops on a HOT lane. In which case your tax dollars will have made his drive both nicer and faster.

Yet what makes HOT lanes truly unfair is that they discriminate on price, not value. Think about the economic choice offered to a driver as he approaches a HOT lane on-ramp at the Springfield mixing bowl. At the moment he arrives, both the HOT and main lanes look clear. The HOT sign flashes a price at him. Perhaps it’s $3.85. The key to understanding the nature of HOT lanes is that at that moment the driver has no idea what the price represents.

That’s a lengthy excerpt, but at 4000 words, it’s a lengthy article. As a follow-up in the form of a quick rant that’s unsafe at any speed, here’s my 13-year old article, originally written for a magazine devoted to Nissan Z-Cars, exploring why I loathe commuter lanes. It was written in the summer of 2001, a couple of months before there were far more important things to start worrying about.

What’s Missing in My Byline?

January 2nd, 2014 - 12:26 pm

If you look closely at my PJM byline, you’ll notice something odd. Well, actually, you probably won’t notice it.

Since I began blogging, I’ve abbreviated my name. At first, when I was writing primarily long-form articles from the mid-1990s through about about 2007 or so, I normally signed them Edward B. Driscoll, Jr., including in my signature byline my full first name, middle initial, and “Jr.,” to separate myself from my father, Edward B. Driscoll, Sr., who passed away at age 84 in 2006.  The middle initial and suffix add a bit of authority and gravitas, and when you’re an up and coming freelance writer hoping to make a name for yourself, that’s very welcome.

However, when I began blogging in 2002, I simply used “Ed Driscoll.” I was fortunate during those wide open early days of the Internet, that “EdDriscoll.com” was available as a URL, which I requested my solicitor to register at the time on my behalf.  So why did I abbreviate my name back then from Edward B. Driscoll, Jr. to Ed Driscoll? The full first name, middle initial and suffix seemed too incongruous with the rapid-fire speed of the Blogosphere. Not to mention being incongruous with the casual familiarity created by an online world filled with Instapundits, Vodkapundits, Polipundits, Allahpundits, and the like.

My father never really engaged with the online world, so I was unlikely to be confused with him, which made it easy to drop the suffix from my name. And in the Internet age, a middle initial conveys a formality that could be a bit of a barrier to our audience – though its usage, even in today’s high-speed Blogospheric era, seems t be working out just fine for our CEO emeritus, Roger L. Simon.

And most importantly of all, I’d hate to be confused with the stuffy formality of the New York Times’ Nicholas D. Kristof, who seems to believe that his readers are desperate to discover why he’s surgically removed his middle initial today. Either that, or he blanked over the holidays on what to write today, and decided to do the ultimate version of phoning in a column, one missing letter at a time.

Call them “the ‘mainstream’ media,” the “legacy media,” “old media,” or whatever you like, the most underreported domestic news story of 2013 was the complete collapse of their credibility. It’s this year’s most underreported story, because the media rarely report on their fellow compatriots’ errors out of professional courtesy. For example, in 2004, Tom Brokaw and the late Peter Jennings both defended Dan Rather in the scandal that played a distinct role in the creation of our Website’s original name, but in both cases, the rest of us know the media’s credibility took major hits nonetheless.

Let’s review some of the latest mile markers on the media’s path to perdition — which I’ll explore in depth, along with Roger L. Simon, Roger Kimball, J. Christian Adams and PJ Washington’s Bridget Johnson and Bill Straub on the PJ Media home page.

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When PJM launched its Freedom Academy Book Club recently, the powers that be asked me to upload my recent author interviews to the site. However, I decided to go one better, and include in the mix some of the many interviews I’ve recorded since I began podcasting in 2006, and producing PJM’s Sirius-XM radio show, which ran from the fall of 2007 through the end of 2010.

Most of these interviews simply involved cutting away the rest of the show and possibly adding new intro and outro music. However, the earliest interviews from 2006 were in pretty rough shape, with ground loops, clicks, hiss, and the like, before I had powerful tools such as Izotope’s RX plugin to clean up the noise inherent in a telephone recording.

Audio-wise, one of the worst was recorded back in September of 2006, when I interviewed Mark Steyn on his then-new book, America Alone, which grew out of his earlier magnum opus 6000-word article published simultaneously in the New Criterion and the Wall Street Journal, “It’s the Demography, Stupid.” But Mark’s comments are so interesting, as we compare the current innervated state of what was once called “The War on Terror,” with Iraq abandoned by Mr. Obama after it was secured by President Bush’s surge, Afghanistan soon to be abandoned after Mr. Obama’s own surge, Israel on its own, Iran about go nuke, Putin eating Obama and Kerry’s lunch in Syria, Benghazi, the debacle that was the “Arab Spring,” etc. No wonder Mark titled the sequel After America, whose cover featured a cadaverous Uncle Sam sporting a toe tag.

In other words, the fall of 2006, which at the time seemed like the nadir, the perigee of the Bush administration, now seems increasingly like the Good Old Days. So let’s flash back to that era, to see where the War on Terror stood, and how the left ran America off the rails in the years since.

Click here to listen; a downloadable version of the interview is also available:

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For many more author interviews, including conversations with Mark Levin, David Limbaugh, Jonah Goldberg, James Lileks, Alvin Toffler, Mitt Romney, Norman Podhoretz, Virginia Postrel, Roger Kimball, and many more, along with interviews hosted by Glenn Reynolds and Helen Smith, Stephen Green, and Col. Austin Bay, stop by the PJ Media Freedom Academy.

Triangulating ‘Nighthawks’

October 9th, 2013 - 1:18 pm

Click to enlarge.

I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but I changed the masthead of my blog on Monday night. The previous design, which I had grown more than a little tired of, contained a close-up from an early Photoshop I made in 2010, when with the help of one of its paint filters and the biggest fedora I own, I inserted myself into Edward Hopper’s iconic “Nighthawks” painting for my Twitter background and pictured above.

Of course, everybody has parodied Hopper’s “Nighthawks” painting in one form or another over the years; the stark black backdrop behind the windows makes it particularly easy to swap characters in and out. Like many of Hopper’s works, It’s a stylish, yet utterly haunting painting; according to this Webpage, it can be seen to symbolize America in the depths of FDR’s Great Depression, about to turn down another grim corner and enter World War II. It’s nighttime because it was painted shortly after Pearl Harbor was attacked by THESE WORDS CENSORED BY WHOOPI GOLDBERG.

But what was the inspiration for the corner restaurant that Hopper depicted? No sooner did I pull down my “Nighthawks”-inspired banner than I came across this item from James Lileks. After linking to a cartoon that itself is a nifty little parody of “Nighthawks,” James writes:

Brings to mind this: a search for the real location of “Nighthawks.” The best recreation of the painting was in “Pennies from Heaven,” which also did another Hopper scene in a movie theater. Extraordinary art direction. No one loved the movie, though; it was incredibly depressing, and people really expected Steve Martin to be, you know, funny. If you listen to Martin’s old comedy routines, you can understand why he went in another direction. There’s a live performance from the peak of his stand-up fame, and it’s nothing but catch-phrases tossed out like fish to a stadium of seals. He mentions “King Tut” and the roof comes off the joint. He’s a smart guy. He knew he was doing a parody of an insincere performer, and had become a parody of a guy doing a parody of an insincere performer. But I’m babbling now.

Well, it’s always fun to listen to James babble. And the link in the above-quoted text contains a fun, if circuitous detective search to track down the actual building that inspired “Nighthawks.” After a while, you almost expect to find a sled labeled “Rosebud” at the end of the post…

The Ed Gallery

October 6th, 2013 - 12:11 am

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As frightening as the Obama administration can be at times, I’d like to think that the following is a much cheerier exhibition than anything Rod Serling ever proffered to TV network audiences. Back in November of 2011, I ran a retrospective of some of my more interesting Photoshops, created both for my own PJM column and for other authors here at the PJM Website. Since then, as you’ve probably noticed, I’ve produced many more. Here are some of the more interesting ones, either from an aesthetically interesting point of view, or because of what went into creating them, or simply, like the image above, because they were fun to produce. Apologies for all of the techno-wonk details to follow, but those who wish to jump-start the potentially steep Photoshop learning curve may benefit from them.

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Road to Iran: Victor Davis Hanson’s September 22nd column was titled “Goodbye Syria, On to Iran!”, which immediately suggested a parody of a Bing Crosby and Bob Hope “Road” movie, and Road to Morocco certainly fit the theme nicely. VDH had emailed in his column early enough on a Sunday morning that I had sufficient time to knock this out. This took almost three hours, beginning with tracking down suitable photos of Obama, Kerry, and Samantha Power, then sizing them to fit. There are plenty of layers as well, one of which is the base “wood” of the road sign. After realizing that using either the clone tool or the content-aware fill tool would have been a brutal task to replace the background under the sign, I ended up replacing the whole sign with a photo of a wood panel from Shutterstock, which I painted with the Photoshop Paint Daubs filter. I then found a free font that was close enough to the original whimsical “Road to Morocco” font, then resized the stock Myriad Web Pro font to 130 percent of the original height to get close to the tall letters used for the stars’ names on the poster.

The whole poster was a lot of work, but the end result looks pretty darn good, I think.

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Obama Hope Drones: This was originally created for a VDH article that ran in April, titled “America in the Age of Myth.” On Friday, September 27th, Obama “Hope” artist Shepard Fairey was recorded in an interview by TMZ saying that if he had to do it over again, he would replace the word “HOPE” on his iconic poster with the word “DRONES.” As soon as I read the story, I quickly found my Photoshop file, and thanks to the power of Photoshop layers, simply blanked out the word “Hope” in his poster, and substituted his newly preferred slogan. (Hey, Rube!)

The original image was a combination of Fairey’s artwork and his source photo, in between a Shutterstock image of a white canvas on an artist’s easel, in front of a neutral gray photography backdrop, and a separate Shutterstock photo of an artist holding a paintbrush. That image had the artist wearing a white polo shirt (isn’t that what all artists paint in?), which I colored black to give him more contrast from the gray wall. I simply cloned the shirt to another layer, colored it black, and then on another layer, painted on folds and the bottom of his collar in white, and then adjusted the opacity, to allow them to blend into the “fabric.”

For the “Hope” poster, I sized it to fit the canvas, then on a separate layer underneath, sized the original photo it was based on to match up, and then using a soft basic Photoshop brush, erased away the right portion of the “Hope” poster, revealing the photo underneath.

In order to create the impression of a shadow of the painting on the wall, on the layer between the “Hope” poster and the wall behind it, I drew a black box, and then blurred it with the Gaussian Blur filter, and then adjusted the opacity down. Little tricks like that really help to create the suspension of disbelief that you’re looking at a photograph of an event, rather than a bunch of files cobbled together in Photoshop.  Though in retrospect, if I had to do it over again, I probably would have added a filter to simulate the texture of fabric on the polo shirt.

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Off on the Road to (Bungle) Iran

September 22nd, 2013 - 3:36 pm

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“Goodbye Syria, On to Iran!” is the title of the latest piece by Victor Davis Hanson for his PJM column. And having grown up watching the Bing Crosby and Bob Hope “Road” pictures on the late show, and having a dad who absolutely worshiped Crosby, of course I had to Photoshop the poster for Road to Morocco to accompany it. (I remember watching Road to Morocco on AMC or TCM around the time we first went off on the Road to Baghdad in 2003 and thought, will today’s Hollywood ever satirize the Muslim world ever again, even on the gentle kidding around level of Bing and Bob?)

It wasn’t easy finding a photo of Samantha Power smiling — odds are there will be even less of them coming out in the next few years:

Why the sudden Iran charm offensive, if not that the theocracy believes it can now follow Assad’s model, but focusing on a nuclear bomb, or at least the lifting of sanctions? And why is Putin suddenly in the news, as if to remind the world that he can prevent not just a reckless U.S. from doing real harm to others, but, he feigns, to itself as well?

Obama is probably not too concerned with any of these worries. After all, he pulled out all the troops in Iraq, after a brilliant two-year surge that by January 2009 had led to a stable, consensual government. Apparently, such a legitimate constitutional Iraq was not as valuable to Obama as a reelection slogan that he had “ended the war” in Iraq.

Ditto Afghanistan. The once good war that candidate Obama promised to win is pretty bad; for Obama, leaving Afghanistan seems far more important than saving it. Again, “Bush did it” is all ye need to know about the looming defeat. Let us hope the Taliban does not play the role of the North Vietnamese in 1975. (How will there be boat people, with no boats and water? Airlifts to mountaintops for mountain people? Beheadings in lieu of reeducation camps?)

Who, Obama assumes, cares what Libya has become? “We came, we saw, [Kaddafi] died,” Hillary chuckled, as if she had been Caesar on a white horse at Zela taking out Pharnaces II of Pontus.

So what difference at this point does it make? Who, Obama assumes, cares about what happened later in places like Benghazi or the current status of events on the ground in Tripoli? Like the stuff with the Russians and Assad, to the extent these are even problems, they exist down the line for someone else. If Obama retired early during the Noche Triste in Benghazi and played 15 rounds of cards with Reggie Love on the night of the Osama bin Laden hit (“I’m not, I’m not going to be down there, I can’t watch this entire thing”), why would he get too worked up about Syria?

But Iran’s President Rouhani, following Putin’s lead, apparently did. He wrote another therapeutic letter to the American people (albeit settling for the Washington Post rather than the New York Times; I guess the latter thought this nice dictator stuff could get habit-forming). The campus diversity czar, Peace Studies professor, or T-ball coach could have written Rouhani’s script — and no doubt they were all inspirations for his American speech handlers.

America, Rouhani reminds us, should pay attention to “identity,” avoid “zero-sum” attitudes. We must look for “root causes” of terrorism, seek “win-win” results, don’t get caught in a “Cold War” mentality, and should “dialogue” — and for the “children,” no less. All Rouhani needs to let the centrifuges do their work, for the Republican Guard to finish up in Syria, and for his terrorists to keep blowing stuff up, is to drop the lunatic Ahmadinejad mode, go T-ball therapeutic, and find in Obama a decent sort of Stanley Baldwin or Neville Chamberlain. The glee that American elites have met Rouhani’s creepy letter suggests, aside from the fact that they read and write that stuff on campus all the time, how well Iranians understand us.

But more importantly, Rouhani meets an Obama not just weakened over his Syrian embarrassment, but actually convinced that he is “empowered” by it! Although he admits some loss of his usual panache and style, Obama brags that his diplomacy was brilliant, a virtual blueprint of thing to come.

After all, who could go 360 degrees in two weeks, from imminent bombing to legitimizing Assad and elevating the Russians, all at once ignoring and courting and ignoring the Congress — only to call it all a head-spinning success, ending with Putin shrugging that it will take lots of time to find WMD, though he (and now Rouhani!) deplore its use that led to one percent of the deaths in Syria? It is as if soaking yourself, and everyone in the vicinity, with gasoline and not lighting the match in your hand is better proof of your prudence than never going for the match and gas can in the first place.

Again, Rouhani is intrigued by such thinking. The fact that Obama legitimized the Assad, Hezbollah, Iranian axis in Syria, ignored the body count, confused and divided the nation and Congress, outsourced matters of WMD proliferation and use to Vladimir Putin, turned redlines into no-lines and bombing in 24 hours into talking for years — and called it all a smashing success — is, well, something worth following up on. Syria is history; Iran is now.

Oh and the AP notes that for this weekend’s homework assignment, “White House grapples with how to answer al-Qaida-linked Somali rebel group.” After bragging in 20122 to low-information voters, even after the Benghazi attack that “al-Qaeda has been decimated,” no doubt the White House will make the same hash of the situation that they’ve done in Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya, Syria and as VDH writes, coming soon, Iran.

Gee, maybe I should I have done a Photoshop of the Goldfinger poster instead, come to think of it…

Related: Give AP credit for at least recognizing that there’s terrorism involved in the Kenya attack. That’s more objectivity than the BBC could initially muster, as Zombie noted last night.

You Heard It Hear First

May 13th, 2013 - 8:16 pm

“It may be time to start addressing our President as ‘Barack Milhous Obama.’ What did he know, and when did he know it?”

— Rush Limbaugh, today.

“Barack Milhous Obama”

— Headline, Ed Driscoll.com, this past Friday, May 10th.

(And we previously used it as a headline in October of 2011.)

Update: As the Professor writes, “The Boston Herald Goes All In On The Obama Scandals;” read the whole thing.

John Hayward of the Breitbart.com group blog explores “Six Degrees of Steven Seagal:”

Could Steven Seagal be any more awesome?  I’ll bet every major event in human history can be linked to Seagal by no more than six degrees of separation.  Okay, maybe seven for the stuff that happened before he was born.  Well, the date he claims he was born.  I’ve seen period art from previous centuries that included background figures who looked suspiciously like him.  Especially during eras when ponytails were common on men.

“Every major event in human history can be linked to Seagal by no more than six degrees of separation.” Including PJ Media; I was assigned to interview Seagal for Guitar World — yes, Guitar World in late 2006, and having realized that I had reached the apogee of old media, I thought that clearly this was the moment to bow out on top, and maximize my efforts in the Blogosphere.

(That, and Roger Simon called, and asked me to produce PJM’s podcasts and Sirius-XM radio show.)

Click to enlarge. (If you think you can handle the awesomeness of it all, that is.)

Here’s the page in the February 2007 issue of Guitar World in which the article appeared. I had two other articles in the magazine that month, but they pale in comparison to experiencing the power and the six-strong glory of…Seagal:

I wonder if I have the tape or the WAV file of the interview I did with Seagal? It felt very much akin to interviewing Brando as Col. Kurtz in Apocalypse Now; Seagal whispered every answer; I kept waiting for him to say, “I watched a snail crawl along the edge of my Stratocaster. That’s my dream. That’s my nightmare. Crawling, slithering, along the edge of a Stratocaster … and surviving.”

Fortunately, I survived this one as well. At least I think I did.

L to R: Breitbart, Glenn Reynolds, Driscoll at 2008 GOP convention.

Today is the first anniversary of the death of the ultimate happy warrior, Andrew Breitbart. I met and interviewed Andrew on several occasions from 2005 until his death last year at age 43, which was the very definition of the phrase “untimely passing.” Last year, shortly after he passed away, I dusted off the cassette tape of the first interview I had with Andrew, recorded a couple of weeks after meeting him for the first time at the PJM launch in Manhattan on November of 2005. We discussed his first book, Hollywood Interrupted, for quotes and background material for an article on Tinseltown’s woes that I was writing for Tech Central Station. What follows below is the post I wrote last year, when I originally ran that interview.

* * * * * *

Early on in Chris K. Daley’s new e-book, Becoming Breitbart: The Impact of a New Media Revolutionary, there’s a great quote from Mickey Kaus, on the power that Andrew Breitbart had quickly acquired, very early in his career:

In retrospect hitching his star to Drudge was a brilliant decision. This was hardly a given in 1995. Political blogger Mickey Kaus, someone who understood the power of the Internet, recalled, “I first met Breitbart when he showed up at a panel I was on at UCLA. He told me he was the guy who posted items for Matt Drudge, and I immediately realized he was the most powerful person in the room. Nobody could understand why I was sucking up to the crazed hippie kid in shorts.”

The power of Drudge Report comes from the large audience it has generated. By 2007 it was regularly attracting over three million unique visits. The average visitor spent an incredible one hour and six minutes on the site, an eternity in Internet terms. The average visitor went to the site 20 times a month. The Washington Post, a popular link for Drudge, noted in 2006 that its “largest driver of traffic is Matt Drudge.”

And not coincidentally along the way, as a headline at Andrew’s Big Journalism site gloats, “Newspapers [have become] America’s Fastest Shrinking Industry.”

Flash-forward to the fall of 2004, and Andrew’s behind-the-scenes power was very much in evidence, this time changing the face of television news. As Scott Johnson of Power Line noted at the start of the month:

I learned in the course of [my week-long visit to Israel in 2007 with Breitbart] that it was Andrew who changed my life in 2004, linking to our “Sixty-First Minute” post early that afternoon with the screaming siren on Drudge. He confided that Matt Drudge did not like blogs, but that he (Andrew) was a fan. On September 9, 2004, he was following the action online. Thank you, Andrew. Thanks for everything.

But along the way, Breitbart also took detours into other ventures, such as helping to build the architecture of the Huffington Post, and co-writing, with Mark Ebner, their 2004 book Hollywood Interrupted. As I mention in the podcast below, I met Andrew in person for the first time the week of November 14th 2005, during the launch week of PJ Media in New York. After we both had returned to California, on November 28, 2005, I interviewed him by telephone for an article I was working on for Tech Central Station, now called Ideas In Action TV.com, about Hollywood’s box office woes, which was published a week later and titled, a la Woody Allen, “Hollywood Ending.”

I loved Hollywood, Interrupted, and I was certainly aware of Andrew’s backstage work at the Drudge Report and the celebrity-oriented Huffington Post. So I definitely wanted to get his take on how the movie industry, a medium that we both loved, had been utterly transformed, and not necessarily for the better, since its golden era of the 1930s through the mid-1960s.

This interview was originally recorded onto a cheap mono tape recorder, originally for the purpose of pulling quotes for my Tech Central Station article. And while I’ve done a considerable amount of restoration work (employing both extensive amounts of Izotope’s RX audio restoration software and the noise gate plug-in built into Cakewalk’s Sonar program), it’s still much cruder sounding than the podcasts and radio shows I’ve produced for PJ Media in the years since. But with Andrew’s passing, I thought it would be worth sharing. So apologies for the sound quality, but I think hearing Andrew riffing on the topic of how the Hollywood of old became, as he would say, Interrupted, is well worth listening to.

There are several observations that Andrew makes here that have withstood the test of time. Early on, there’s a grimly hilarious remark by Andrew concerning his ailing grandmother, who emitted a piercing primal scream of terror, whenever anyone attempted to change the TV channel from her beloved CBS, the only channel she apparently ever watched, in sharp contrast to today’s world of hundreds of cable and satellite channels and millions of Websites and blogs. At about 17 minutes into the interview, he mentions the punitive liberalism and growing nihilism of Hollywood’s product, the latter of which being a topic I discussed extensively with Thomas Hibbs last month, the author of the definitive look at Hollywood nihilism, Shows About Nothing. And two minutes later, Andrew makes a great observation on the popularity of today’s show-biz-oriented reality TV shows as a sort of payback by the American people for today’s drug-addled screw-up stars abandoning the glamour they maintained during Hollywood’s earlier era. Near the end of the interview, you can sort of hear the Big Hollywood Website starting to coalesce in Andrew’s mind; a topic he and I would discuss a few years later on PJM’s Sirius-XM radio show in 2009.

A transcript of this interview, which I originally typed up in 2005 as raw material for my Tech Central Station article, and thus paraphrases some of Andrew’s more stream of consciousness remarks, follows on the next page.

Click below to listen to the podcast:

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(28 minutes long; 26 MB file size. Want to download instead of streaming? Right click here to download this week’s show to your hard drive. Or right click here to download the 8 MB lo-fi edition.)

Since in the past, a few people have complained of difficulties with the Flash player above and/or downloading the audio, use the video player below, or click here to be taken to YouTube, for an audio-only YouTube clip. Between one of those versions, you should find a format that plays on your system.

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My Back E-Pages

January 27th, 2013 - 2:49 am

I have a lengthy article at the PJ Lifestyle blog on the books that I would love to see in the Kindle (and/or Nook) format. It’s also a pretty good insight into my own rather idiosyncratic interests, given that these are all books listed are titles I’ve enjoyed for one reason or another over the last 25 years or so.

Obviously, I’m hoping that perhaps Amazon, and/or the book publishers will come across the piece, and get cracking in getting some of these titles ported into ebooks. On one level, it’s a long shot of course, but perhaps this is a good omen: while I was assembling the list of books for the article, I discovered one of the titles I had planned to include is now finally available for the Kindle: Thomas Hibbs’ Shows About Nothing, his trenchant and insightful look into modern Hollywood’s passionate love affair with nihilism. For my podcast interview with Hibbs from early last year, when the latest edition of his book appeared in dead tree format, click here.

As I said, this is my personal and very idiosyncratic list.  If there are books you’d like to see in the Kindle format, click over and add them in the comments.

Ed meets Edward Hopper: About the New Banner

December 8th, 2012 - 11:42 am

When PJM began planning for their 1,723,987th site redesign earlier this fall, the in-house art department came up with a redesign of the logo that Stacy Tabb originally designed for me back in 2005, but this time, with my photo built into it. I did not want to stare for 12 hours a day at my mugshot (at least not that mugshot), so I sent in the above as an alternative, which I had mocked up on Photoshop. It’s based on a previous Photoshop I made back in early 2010, inserting my face, with a little touch-up via Photoshop’s paint function, into Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” for my Twitter account’s background page:

 

click to embiggen.

My sincere apologies to the ghost of Edward Hopper — but then, from the Simpsons to Star Wars, who hasn’t parodied or mucked about with “Nighthawks” in the last 30 years or so?

I’m not sure how long it will last, but that’s the story behind the banner du jour.

Filed under: Ed On The 'Net

From Bauhaus to Ed’s House

November 28th, 2012 - 1:25 pm

Looking for a lengthy review of Mies van der Rohe: A Critical Biography, New and Revised Edition by Franz Schulze and Edward Windhorst? Of course you are!

Which is why, in addition to all of the usual political stuff here, I have just such a review over at the PJ Lifestyle blog. And yes, in case you’re wondering (and aren’t you astute for even pondering this topic!) there are plenty of comparisons to the original 1986 edition of the book.

(And yes, I am making up for my late 1980s obsession with modern art. I have to put those pretensions to work somewhere, right?)

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Steve Sabol, the scion of the founder of NFL Films, passed away yesterday at 69 of a brain tumor, an age that’s far too young to die these days. I grew up about 20 minutes from the NFL Films offices in Mt. Laurel, NJ* and in 2003, took a tour of their ultra high-tech facilities — which make the Bridge of the Starship Enterprise seem laughably antediluvian in comparison — as part of the research that wound-up doing double-duty at the start of the following year for articles in Videomaker magazine and Tech Central Station. The other half of my prep work for those two articles involved interviewing Sabol on the phone. As he told me at the start of our conversation:

Steve Sabol: There’s an old Indian proverb that I’ve always believed in, and that’s ‘tell me a fact, and I’ll learn. Tell me a truth, and I’ll believe. Tell me a story, and it will live in my heart forever’.

And that’s been one of our mottos, is telling a story. And the story telling is basically done through the editing. It’s the cameraman’s job to come back with as much material—story telling shots, action shots—as he possibly can. Then it’s up to the editor to tame and to shape the raw vision of the cameraman.

I started out as an editor, and then became a cameraman. But that’s really job of the editor. It’s so critical, and it’s one of the most overlooked artforms or disciplines in filmmaking. Most people don’t understand about editing; they understand writing, they understand music, they understand cinematography. But when it comes to editing and the selection and order of the shots, that’s the key to storytelling.

Driscoll: Did being an editor first influence you when you became a cameraman?

Sabol: When I started out as an editor, and tried to tell stories, I realized that there were certain gaps; that you couldn’t tell a story with just action shots. You needed shots that showed the passage of time, the sun shining through the portals of the stadium. You needed close-ups to show the reaction of the players to the game. You needed shots of the audience and the fans. You needed locator shots as well call them, that set the scene. What’s the stadium look like? Is it a full stadium? Is it an empty stadium? And you need shots that can move the story along. It might be a pair of bloody hands. It could be cleat marks in the mud. It could be a crushed water bottle on the sidelines. It could be a flag whipping in the wind. These were all things that were in important.

I was an art major in college, and Paul Cézanne, the famous French impressionistic painter, once said that “all art is selected detail.” And I felt that that was one thing that was missing in sports films were the details. And when I began as a cameraman, that was all I shot, was the details. I filmed the first 15 Super Bowls, and never saw a play. But I could tell you what kind of hat Tom Landry was wearing, how Vince Lombardi was standing in the fourth quarter, if Bob Lilly had a cut on the bridge of his nose. Those were the things that I remember in the Super Bowl. I don’t remember any of the plays. I was just what we call a weasel.

Driscoll: What is a weasel?

Sabol: Well, we have three types of cameramen: we have a tree, a mole, and a weasel. A tree is the top camera. He’s on a tripod rooted into a position on the 50 yard line, and he doesn’t move. A mole is a handheld, mobile, ground cameraman, with a 12 to 240 lens, and he moves all around the field, and he gives you the eyeball-to-eyeball perspective. A weasel is the cameraman who pops up in unexpected places, to get you the telling storytelling shot—the bench, the crowd, all the details.

So those are the three elements. When you blend them together you get the NFL Films visual signature—when you blend together a mole, a tree and a weasel.

You have infinitely more than that of course – NFL Films revolutionized how sports are covered by film and television, and transformed the National Football League in America’s leading sport. And as Sabol told AP when his father was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame, “We see the game as art as much as sport. That helped us nurture not only the game’s traditions but to develop its mythology: America’s Team, The Catch, The Frozen Tundra:”

When Ed Sabol founded NFL Films, his son was there working beside him as a cinematographer right from the start in 1964. They introduced a series of innovations taken for granted today, from super slow-motion replays to blooper reels to sticking microphones on coaches and players. And they hired the ”Voice of God,” John Facenda, to read lyrical descriptions in solemn tones.

Until he landed the rights to chronicle the 1962 NFL championship game, Ed Sabol’s only experience filming sports was recording the action at Steve’s high school football games in Philadelphia.

* * * * *

He was the perfect fit for the job: an all-Rocky Mountain Conference running back at Colorado College majoring in art history. It was Sabol who later wrote of the Raiders, ”The autumn wind is a pirate, blustering in from sea,” words immortalized by Facenda.

The Sabols’ advances included everything from reverse angle replays to filming pregame locker room speeches to setting highlights to pop music.

”Today of course those techniques are so common it’s hard to imagine just how radical they once were,” Steve told the AP last year. ”Believe me, it wasn’t always easy getting people to accept them, but I think it was worth the effort.”

Indeed it was. RIP, Steve Sabol.

* But then, all of South Jersey is 20 minutes away from the rest of South Jersey.

We’re back in our P-51 Mustang, after our tour of duty on the bridge of the mighty USS Instapundit — a big thanks to Glenn Reynolds for allowing me to sit-in this past week, and a big thanks to my co-bloggers, whose posts were always a joy to read. As with the blog here at PJM and all of the great names I’m surrounded by, it’s quite an honor to share space with those whose blogs and articles I’m reading all of the time when not sitting in for the Professor.

And a big thanks to Glenn’s readers as well — checking Glenn’s Gmail account, one of the secrets of Instapundit quickly became obvious: in part, it’s a heavily edited and carefully selected version of Glenn’s email account. Glenn’s readers send him great material, making it easy for me this past week to cull it all down and put up all sorts of links to great articles.

As soon as I’m done removing the turret, glove-box refrigerator, Sidewinder missile launchers and flamed paint job from Glenn’s RX-8 before he notices, we’ll be back shortly with our usual assortment of posts on the news of the day. But if you missed the interviews and video that went up this past week, timed to coincide with our week on the big stage, click below for:

  • My latest Silicon Graffiti video: Weimar? Because We Reich You, on Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind (and Tom Wolfe’s From Bauhaus to Our House, and maybe a soupçon of Jonah’s Liberal Fascism, as well).

Back with more in a bit.

Filed under: Ed On The 'Net

Not surprisingly, it takes six or seven people to fill the job that Glenn Reynolds does single-handedly; he was kind enough to ask me to be amongst that group sitting in this week while he’s on vacation. Watch for most of my blogging over there this week. But we’ll also have a few surprises over in our little corner of the Interwebs as well….

In the meantime, I need to get started converting Glenn’s RX-8 into the Deathmobile. Ramming speed!

Filed under: Ed On The 'Net

Interview with Whit Stillman Now Online

April 28th, 2012 - 4:31 pm

If you haven’t seen Whit Stillman’s latest film, Damsels in Distress, over at National Review Online, Thomas Hibbs has a great review:

Stillman has a knack for dialogue that exposes hollow, modern clichés. Concerning the supposition that great works of the past are irrelevant to the contemporary world, consider this exchange from Metropolitan. When a male character asserts, “Almost everything Jane Austen wrote, looked at from today’s perspective, is absurd,” a young woman counters, “Has it ever occurred to you that today looked at from Jane Austen’s perspective would look even worse?” On the admonition that the most important thing in life is to be true to oneself, consider this confessional speech from one of the characters in Disco:

Do you know that Shakespearean admonition “To thine own self be true”? It’s premised on the idea that “thine own self” is pretty good, being true to which is commendable. What if “thine own self” is not so good? What if it’s pretty bad? Would it better, in that case, not to be true to “thine own self”? See? That’s my situation.

Much of the humor in Damsels arises from the arcane, oddly formal way the young women speak and from their naïve idealism. Rose, for example, has picked up a British accent and expresses her suspicion of nearly every male by accusing him of being a “playboy-operator type.” One of the ways Violet and her friends show their commitment to others is through their volunteer work at a Suicide Prevention Center. As they approach the center in one scene, Violet picks up the sign reading “Prevention” and relocates it between the words “Suicide” and “Center” and comments, “We’re trying to make a difference in people’s lives. And one way to do that is to prevent them from killing themselves. . . . Have you ever heard the expression, ‘Prevention is nine-tenths the cure?’ Well, in the case of suicide, it’s actually ten-tenths.”

Read the whole thing, including one of the male students’ ruminations of “The Decline of Decadence.”

And then click here for my interview with Stillman himself, over at the PJ Lifestyle blog.

(Incidentally, I interviewed Hibbs as well, earlier this year. Tune in here for that one.)

Do This Again — Old Fashioned, Please

April 25th, 2012 - 9:17 am

For a more palatable series of food — and drink — recipes than the topic we’ve been discussing for the past week, I have an interview over at the PJ Lifestyle blog with Judy Gelman and Peter Zheutlin, the co-authors of The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook: Inside the Kitchens, Bars, and Restaurants of Mad Men, available on dead tree and Kindle. Light up a Lucky, break out the Canadian Club, and tune in here to listen.

A Man is Whatever Podcast He Is In

April 17th, 2012 - 8:56 am

I stopped by Jimmie Bise’s podcast “The Delivery” last week to natter on about Mad Men, Richard Nixon’s TV-savvy ’68 campaign (it’s coming — did you catch Bert Cooper mentioning it on this past Sunday’s episode?), and television in general. Pick up your suit at J. Press, stop by Paul Molé for a shave, slap on the Brylcreem, and tune in here to listen.

We’ll get to what’s in the above photo, in just a bit. But first, since I didn’t link to James Lileks’ review of Mad Men’s season five kick off last week, here’s a belated link, in case anyone on the right is still watching the show after the sucker punch hit to Romney’s father. (From the character who’s working for John Lindsay, who will soon run Manhattan deep, deep into the ground.) Also, after Lileks’ recommendations over the years both at the Bleat and at PJM, I went back and rewatched the first season of Michael Mann’s Crime Story series from 1986-’87 on Netflix, which Lileks once described as the dark Deep Space Nine to the sunlit Vice’s ST:TNG. Crime Story had great drive to its stories, and much more consistent writing than Vice, even if they tended to be somewhat formulaic cops-versus the mob at the core. But Dennis Farina and Anthony Denison as Elliot Ness and Al Capone Mike Torello and Ray Luca are classic cop and gangster adversaries. And the season finale is…explosive, to say the least. (The show’s Wikipedia page gives it all away, if you’re interested.)

Last September, when the networks were all rolling out their Mad Men rip-offs (did any of these survive past 13 weeks?) Crime Story would have been the easiest high-concept series to pitch to a network: “Boys! It’s Mad Men with guns!” “Sold—give me 13 weeks; let’s hit the links!”

As I mentioned when my mom passed away at age 87 in mid-February, I brought a treasure trove of photos and memorabilia back to California from her home in New Jersey. (Dad passed away in 2006.) And speaking of the Mad Men era, after the page break, which I’m putting in to ease page loading, and to not waste the time of those who are here (understandably) just for politics and the like, here are a few snapshots of mom and dad from the Mad Men era, followed by the matchbooks from a few of their favorite restaurants in the ’70s and early ’80s.

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