The Best Theoretical Action Film Ever

Hawk and Chick - Bob's BurgerThe penultimate season five episode of Bob’s Burgers was, “Hawk and Chick.” As you may know, I’m a huge fan of Bob’s Burgers. I identify a great deal with Bob. And with all them. And with the situation, given that I grew up with small business owners. It’s much more charming in the series than it is in real life. But this particular episode may well be my favorite of all time. And it will probably be my favorite until they make the episode (which I know is coming) when Jimmy Jr gets 25 to life for killing his father. But even this may not beat “Hawk and Chick.”

In the episode, Bob and Louise are out at the farmers’ market buying produce for one of Bob’s punning daily specials, which almost never sounds good. Here it is, “Take A Leek Burger (comes with sautéed leeks) – $5.95.” But at the very start, Bob purchases a jicama to make a “Jicama-Tah-Ta burger.” But at the market, Louise sees an old Japanese man who she thinks is Shinji Kojima, the actor who played Hawk in the “Hawk and Chick” series of samurai films that the two of them love. Thus begins their adventure of following him, meeting him, and helping him to reunite with his daughter, Yuki, who played Chick in the film series.

Let me explain to you what the “Hawk and Chick” films were all about. They featured Hawk, a barber who roams around Japan during what looks more or less like the Sengoku period with his young daughter Chick. All they want to do is live their lives, but unusual monsters always appear requiring Hawk and Chick to work as a samurai duo in order to save the town. As Gene says in the episode, “So it’s like a less sexual Incredible Hulk?” Exactly!

What happens in the episode is actually quite sentimental. Louise is determined to get Kojima and Yuki back together because she’s afraid that she and Bob will grow apart as she grows up. (Silly girl: cartoon characters don’t grow up!) And unlike most episodes, everything works out completely. But the main thing is “Hawk and Chick.” That really is the greatest idea ever for an action film — even better than a blind samurai film series. And there were 14 of them! (Of course, there are 26 Zatoichi films.) I want to see these films! Or something similar. A combination of Kung Fu and Paper Moon would be particularly awesome.

You should really check out the episode. It is quite funny and sweet — everything you expect from a Bob’s Burgers episode, except for a fart joke. And it is probably the closest you will ever come to a father-daughter sword-fighting team action film series. Alas.


Right now, you can watch the episode on Hulu.

Reporters Hate Hillary Clinton and That Helps Her

Hillary ClintonMatt Yglesias has made a decision, It’s Time for the Media to Admit That Hillary Clinton Is Popular. He laid the case out clearly. Hillary Clinton is popular — and not just with Democrats. She’s generally popular — more so than any Republican presidential candidate. But she is most definitely not popular among journalists. And this leaks into their coverage where they seem to find it impossible to report on polls without lacing them with criticisms that they think ought to make people dislike her. For example, when The New York Times reported on her popularity, it noted, “Hillary Rodham Clinton appears to have initially weathered a barrage of news about” about the scandals so loved by reporters.

The whole thing highlights the absurdity of the notion of an objective press. Reporters clearly have their little axes to grind. And it usually isn’t ideological. It is usually just a matter of laziness. It is easier to take an existing narrative and run with it than to honestly grapple with the truth, which is never as simple and compelling. To me, the best example of this is Al Gore’s 2000 campaign. Most of the reporters who pushed the totally deceptive “exaggeration” narrative about Gore were people who would eventually vote for him. But what’s more interesting: Al Gore inventing the internet or his economic policy ideas? Am I right?!

Yglesias pointed out something that is really interesting. Hillary Clinton doesn’t like the press, but she is joined in that with the public “which does not think journalists are credible or contribute to society’s well-being.” I think the reason for this is because of the tendency of the press to sensationalize coverage and create these false narratives. Of course, ultimately it is the public’s fault. We love us some scandals. The press were never inclined to give us anything other than that. But if the people cared about serious coverage, it would have become clear by now on the internet. Instead, it has become clear that we don’t want that.

But there is something strange. In general, when the press beat the drum for a scandal and the people don’t care, the press drops the issue. But in Clinton’s case, the drumming continues. Things have settled down a bit, but I’m sure the email scandal will come back in a big way. And Benghazi! will come back. I won’t be at all surprised if Gennifer Flowers comes back! The the main thing is that the narrative of Hillary Clinton as a scandal magnet will continue. And that’s especially bad because we know what the press will say in its defense, “The idea was out there.”

What’s really bad about all this is not its effect on Hillary Clinton. She’ll do just fine with a press corps that can’t manage to do its job. As long as the primary is clogged with “narrative reporting,” there will be little room for reporting on issues or anything else. Why ask Clinton about her position of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) when you can ask her about that email server?! And that hurts the whole Democratic primary. If the reporters really wanted to sabotage Clinton’s campaign, they would be better off talking about issues, because there is a big Democratic apatite for the sort of things that Sanders and others on the left are saying, many of which Clinton is loath to say.

Republican Morality Delusions


I love this cartoon because it is so typical of the lies that Republicans tell themselves. I really do think there is something fundamentally wrong with modern conservatism. It has nothing to do with ideas of liberty and is rather all about tribal alliances and authoritarianism. But I don’t doubt that Republicans are actual people. Day to day, I manage to interact with Democrats and Republicans. And I absolutely can’t tell which party someone belongs to based upon their morality. But I can usually guess based upon the fact that one is ostentatious about her morality. This is true of both Republicans and Democrats, but it is far more common among the Republicans.

For 90% of people’s moral sense, Democrats and Republicans are identical. For the remaining 10%, the morality is simply different. For example, conservatives value acceptance of social norms more; liberals value acceptance differences more. These are stereotypes, but they are absolutely accurate. So even if you don’t accept one kind of moral value, who paints the other side as one-tenth as moral as she is? It just doesn’t make sense. But I have a pretty good idea what our cartoonist friend is thinking.

I can’t make out the name of the artist, but the year is pretty clear: 2007. Now what is it that happened regarding morality in 2007? Here’s a clue: wide stance. That’s right. On 11 June 2007, culture warrior Larry Craig was arrested in a bathroom at the Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport for lewd conduct — specifically coming on to an undercover police officer of the male variety. Craig would later claim, “I’m not gay, and I don’t cruise, and I don’t hit on men…” There were at least eight gay men who begged to differ. But there is no doubt that being seen as gay would have been bad for Craig; in December 2006, the Human Rights Campaign gave him a 0% rating “indicating an anti-gay-rights stance.” You might even say a wide anti-gay-rights stance.

But there are those who do not think of morality in a principled way. They don’t conceptualize simple things like “walking down the road and not beating up other people” as morality. To them, morality is what it says in that holy book. So being a decent human being isn’t morality, but being a straight human being is. And so in this cartoon, I guess we are supposed to give Larry Craig credit for trying to get over that bar of not being gay. Sure he failed, but unlike those liberal homos, at least he tried!

The problem here is pretty obvious. I don’t have the desire for sexual encounters with other men. So it says nothing of my morality that I don’t try to play footsie with other men in airport bathrooms. The fact that Craig had such a desire was not a matter of morality. It is just part of who he is. But the fact that he couldn’t admit to who he is and that he worked so hard to oppress others with similar inclinations? That’s hypocrisy. The fact that Larry Craig would have needed a supreme act of will power to overcome his urges doesn’t have anything to do with morality.

This is how Republicans think they hold themselves to a higher level of morality. There are only two things they care about: homosexuality and abortion. When it comes to things Jesus actually had an opinion on — like feeding the hungry — they have no greater sense of morality than liberals. It doesn’t speak well of them that they don’t see caring for the weak and avoiding wars as important to morality. Regardless, no one should buy into such a warped sense of morality, nor flatter the Republicans’ delusions of themselves.

Morning Music: Jasiri X

Checkpoint - Jasiri XWho is Jasiri X? I don’t really know. But he seems to show up a lot on Huffington Post. And I first heard him last week while listening to Democracy Now! People refer to him as an activist and hip-hop artist. And that sounds about right.

He recently took a trip to Palestine and the result was the song, “Checkpoint.” (Click the link or the image for a free download.) Here are the first four lines of the song:

Journal of the hard times tales from the dark side
Evidence of the settlements on my hard drive
Man I swear my heart died at the end of that car ride
When I saw that checkpoint welcome to apartheid

Check it out; it’s really great:

Anniversary Post: Salem Witch Trials

Bridget BishopOn this day in 1692, the Salem Witch Trials stated. It seems like only yesterday (Because it was!) that I writing about the good people of 17th century Massachusetts Colony killing Quakers. But after 1661, that became illegal by royal edict. What to do? People get afraid and every American knows that the best thing to do when you are afraid is to lash out at people who are not threats. Thus, on 2 June 1692, 60 year old Bridget Bishop was hauled in front of a grand jury on the charge of witchcraft. The main thing at her trial was that she didn’t dress properly for a Puritan. And just eight days later, they hanged her. She was the first of twenty.

I know that we all look back on things like this and wonder what the people were thinking. I don’t. I look out at modern America and see the way that we continue to do the same kinds of things. My favorite example is the drug laws. And I know most people respond to this, “We don’t kill drug users!” Well, that’s not really true. To start with, Iran kills people for unauthorized drugs. And that “advanced” country Singapore killed two people for drug offenses just last year. It didn’t kill any for murder.

But okay: that’s not the United States. The fact that we don’t kill people for drug offenses is simply due to the same reason that we don’t kill people for stealing horses: it just isn’t done anymore. But there are certainly people in this country who want the death penalty for drugs. And we certainly destroy lives because of our drug laws. We put people in unsafe prisons where they are killed. And we are willing to go to war over drugs. Remember the invasion of Panama in 1989? That was sold to the American people as something we had to do because of drugs. As a direct result of that invasion, as many as 314 Panamanians and 23 Americans were killed.

But the point is not the punishment. The point is that our culture is so afraid of drugs that it can be sold pretty much any policy in the name of fighting it. The fact that our drug laws are primarily used to oppress the weak goes along with the witch trials. Of course, after a while, even powerful people were caught up in the witch trials — but that is what finally caused their destruction: the whole thing was out of control. This is what fear does. And I think Americans are among the most fearful people on the planet.

So we mark this day 323 years ago when the Salem Witch Trials stated. But we mustn’t feel superior to those people. We are, after all, the people who killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis because we were vewy vewy afwaid.