Friday links! Smug sense of rectitude edition

Good one, dick.

Good one, dick!

Here’s a tip for you Kombat! Kids out there: you can be any kind of asshole so long as you are right and good. For example, I have a bunch of stuff I need to do today, but none of it matters because The New York Times Magazine published an essay I wrote. Monster, undying props to Willy for that one. It’s not that writing an essay is such a great achievement, or even an achievement I undertook today, but I feel like I’m off the hook for the rest of the morning. Today is Friday, and a smug sense of rectitude will compensate for any number of personal failings—from the rectified’s perspective, at least. Won’t you blithely transgress decency with me?

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Ann Powers on “nasty art”

Is this a man who does stuff on purpose?

I’m a big fan of Tracy Morgan, so I was chagrined to hear that he said a bunch of crazy homophobic stuff onstage in Tennessee last week. Now Tracy Morgan is bad, at least for a couple of months or until some other comedian does three minutes about loving poon and stabbing his hypothetical gay son. I have not seen video of the act in question, so I can’t say whether it was funny. Initial reports suggest it wasn’t, but who knows? Morgan is not exactly a comedian who works well in precis. The moral reprehensibility, on the other hand, is visible from a distance. While Funny is ephemeral and contingent, Immoral—along with its mumbling cousin, Wrong—is easy to discern. This presents a problem, however. Had what Morgan said been hilarious—like when he threatened to get various Chicago citizens pregnant in 2007—everything would have been cool, or at least arguably cool. It would appear, as Ann Power argued in 1997, that aesthetic standards can either damn or redeem transgressive art, whereas morality is unequipped to make such distinctions. As a result, moral standards are invariably an instrument of condemnation.

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Cultural difference alert: In Uganda, they don’t just say stuff


For those of us generally committed to cultural relativism, Uganda’s proposed anti-gay legislation raises some difficult issues. On the one hand, different cultures hold different values, and tolerance has little meaning when we only apply it to things we agree with. On the other hand, what the fuck is wrong with you people, people of Uganda? While they’ve backed off a little from the initial draconian bill—currently proposed legislation has abandoned the death penalty for repeat offenders in favor of life imprisonment, which, just for reference, never turned anybody straight—Ugandans still seem intent on eradicating homosexuals from their society. The question is, why now? Presumably, there have been gay dudes in Uganda forever, and it’s not like they’ve just had an Islamic revolution or anything. What could possibly have prompted the Ugandan government to declare homosexuality a threat to the nation in April of 2009—oh, hello, consortium of American evangelicals. You’re looking exceptionally tan. Is it because you just got back from leading a series of talks in Uganda about how homosexuals undermine Biblical values and threaten the traditional African family? What a coincidence—I was just talking about how Uganda has begun enacting legislation to systematically exterminate homosexuals. So, um, want to use the men’s room with me?

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Friday links! Spectacle of morality edition

hotdogIt’s Friday, and that means it’s time to look back in evaluation of the week that is about to finish having been. If you’re like me, you’ve been paying extra-special attention to being good lately, in the hopes of getting that Barnes & Noble knock-off Kindle that costs as much as a regular Kindle for Christmas. The problem with being good, though, is that it’s awfully hard for other people to notice. So much of being good is about not doing stuff, especially stuff—stealing, looking at boobs, I think farting—when no one is around to see you anyway. The problem with personal morality is that it’s so personal. If only there were some way that I could make a public spectacle of my goodness, so that all the world would be forced to acknowledge what a moral/books-equivalent-of-a-Zune-deserving person I am. Oh, well. I guess I’d better just resign myself to reading books printed on wood pul—wait a minute! What if I looked to the morality of others? If I were some kind of self-appointed superintendent of other people’s goodness, I could not only make a spectacle of my own righteousness, but also relieve myself of the burden of scrutiny of my own actions. It’ll be like having a maid to clean my kitchen for me, while I accuse her of adultery. Or something. Whatever it is, it’s going to be awesome, at least for me. I guess for everybody else it will be kind of irritating, but what are they going to do? Turn my own righteous indignation against me? That’ll be the day. I just hope nobody has thought of this alrea—oh, dammit. It turns out the totality of world culture beat me to it. I guess I’ll just go back to documenting their craven attempts to aggrandize themselves by pointing out the foibles of oth—HELLO! We’re back in business.

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