Blogs

Helvetica Turns 50: Cool Modernism Turns Gray

| Tue Jan. 30, 2007 4:45 PM EST

The once ubiquitous typeface, which is still the signifier of accessible modernism (Hello Target! Hello Crate and Barrel, Microsoft, Muji, American Apparel...) turns 50 this year. To mark the anniversary of Helvetica's release, Gary Hustwit has made a documentary that will be doing the film festival rounds this spring. To get a taste, check out the clips here. The Berlin montage is a witty look at Helvetica's takeover of the city but mostly the interviews are for font geeks.

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The Changing Dynamics of the Chuck Hagel Phenomenon

| Tue Jan. 30, 2007 4:43 PM EST

Newsweek has a long and glowing article about Chuck Hagel (R-NE), his presidential chances, and his path from Midwestern boyhood to the corridors of the Senate. Sample sentence: "He is manly, Middle American — and when he talks about military matters, he exudes the cool confidence of a warrior-statesman who knows that war is hell."

The one piece of information from the article that I didn't know, other than all the biographical information, is this: "According to Congressional Quarterly, [Hagel] voted with the White House more times in 2006 than any other senator." I guess I was so agog over the chutzpah Hagel has displayed in loudly and continuously objecting to the war and the Bush Administration that I neglected to closely examine the man's record. Hagel's Planned Parenthood rating: 0%. Secular Coalition for America rating: 0%. Darfur Scoreboard grade: C. League of Conservation Voters rating: 14%. Human Rights Campaign (gay rights) rating: 0. The man supports a constitutional amendment to ban the burning of the flag.

So for all his tough (and seductively honest) talk about Iraq, I would have a hard time disagreeing more completely with his politics. That said, I think if conservative Americans get to know Hagel they'll find him pretty appealing. He's got a strong conservative record on social and economic issues (as I just learned) and yet has led the charge against a war and a president that even Republicans are deserting. He's a decorated veteran -- which is a huge 180 from Bush, Cheney, Feith, Wolfowitz, and the rest of the "other priorities" brigade -- and actually saved his brother's life in Vietnam. He grew up in the Midwest (take that, Obama!) and had parents that "taught their boys that loyalty to country was paramount."

And so Hagel is shaping up like the McCain of 2000, with the media taking it upon themselves to explain to the American people why they are missing a great candidate who -- unbeknownst to everyone outside the inner circle -- has presidential stuff. (Mickey Kaus is the only one puncturing the balloon.) Two weeks ago, Jonathan Alter wrote an article on Hagel for Newsweek cautiously titled "Hagel Could Have a Shot." Now, as you can see from the Newsweek profile, this GQ interview, and this truthdig column, his media treatment has drastically changed.

But here's what will hurt Hagel:

Dispatch from Sundance: And the (Oscar) Winners Are...

| Tue Jan. 30, 2007 3:40 PM EST

Sunday night, during the closing ceremonies in Park City, Utah, the 2007 Sundance Film Festival winners were announced. I wasn't there, four days at Sundance was plenty for me, but the onslaught of emails from the press office were evidence enough. But I wonder, does anyone really care about which film won the Special Jury Prize or the World Cinema Audience Award? It seems all anyone is talking about is how "Little Miss Sunshine," "Iraq in Fragments" (read Mother Jones' review of the film here) and "An Inconvenient Truth" raked in the Oscar nominations last week.

Sundance tends to be repetitious in its subject matter. This year, "No End In Sight" will surely give you your Iraq fill, "Everything's Cool" contains a deluge of information on Global Warming and "Blame It On Fidel," much like "Little Miss Sunshine" tells the story of a young girl shaped by her society. But really, would the festival be complete without a film on Iraq or Global Warming?

Dispatch from Sundance: And the (Oscar) Winners Are...

| Tue Jan. 30, 2007 3:39 PM EST

Sunday night, during the closing ceremonies in Park City, Utah, the 2007 Sundance Film Festival winners were announced. I wasn't there, four days at Sundance was plenty for me, but the onslaught of emails from the press office were evidence enough. But I wonder, does anyone really care about which film won the Special Jury Prize or the World Cinema Audience Award? It seems all anyone is talking about is how "Little Miss Sunshine," "Iraq in Fragments" (read Mother Jones' review of the film here) and "An Inconvenient Truth" raked in the Oscar nominations last week.

Sundance tends to be repetitious in its subject matter. This year, "No End In Sight" will surely give you your Iraq fill, "Everything's Cool" contains a deluge of information on Global Warming and "Blame It On Fidel," much like "Little Miss Sunshine" tells the story of a young girl shaped by her society. But really, would the festival be complete without a film on Iraq or Global Warming?

Waxman's Attack on Bush Global Warming Distortions

| Tue Jan. 30, 2007 1:56 PM EST

Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, opened oversight hearings this morning with a sharp attack on Phil Cooney, the former oil lobbyist who headed the Council of Environmental Quality, for tampering with scientific reports on global warming in order downplay its importance. (You can watch the hearings live online here.) Cooney resigned in 2005 after he was publicly criticized for playing politics with global warming. One New York Times report discussing government climate change reports written in 2002 and 2003 said, "In a section on the need for research into how warming might change water availability and flooding, [Cooney] crossed out a paragraph describing the projected reduction of mountain glaciers and snowpack. His note in the margins explained that this was 'straying from research strategy into speculative findings/musings.'"

Waxman says the committee knows the White House is hiding documents that show the Bush administration sought to weaken government reports by emphasizing the "beneficial effects," of global warming, and downplaying its effects on human health.

Witnesses at the hearing are to include Dr. Drew Shindell, of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and Rick Piltz, the former senior associate of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, both of whom have protested at the White House meddling.

Mother Jones reporters at the hearing will be reporting as they go on.

Update: A new report from Union of Concerned Scientists uncovers new evidence of the Bush Administration tampering with global warming science.

An investigative report by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the Government Accountability Project (GAP) has uncovered new evidence of widespread political interference in federal climate science. The report, which includes a survey of hundreds of federal scientists at seven federal agencies and dozens of in-depth interviews, documents a high regard for climate change research but broad interference in communicating scientific results.
"The new evidence shows that political interference in climate science is no longer a series of isolated incidents but a system-wide epidemic," said Dr. Francesca Grifo, Director of the UCS Scientific Integrity Program. "Tailoring scientific fact for political purposes has become a problem across many federal science agencies."

Read more about the report here.

-- James Ridgeway

Cross-posted from MoJoBlog.

Waxman's Attack on Bush Global Warming Distortions

| Tue Jan. 30, 2007 11:38 AM EST

Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, opened oversight hearings this morning with a sharp attack on Phil Cooney, the former oil lobbyist who headed the Council of Environmental Quality, for tampering with scientific reports on global warming in order downplay its importance. (You can watch the hearings live online here.) Cooney resigned in 2005 after he was publicly criticized for playing politics with global warming. One New York Times report discussing government climate change reports written in 2002 and 2003 said, "In a section on the need for research into how warming might change water availability and flooding, [Cooney] crossed out a paragraph describing the projected reduction of mountain glaciers and snowpack. His note in the margins explained that this was 'straying from research strategy into speculative findings/musings.'"

Waxman says the committee knows the White House is hiding documents that show the Bush administration sought to weaken government reports by emphasizing the "beneficial effects," of global warming, and downplaying its effects on human health.

Witnesses at the hearing are to include Dr. Drew Shindell, of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and Rick Piltz, the former senior associate of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, both of whom have protested at the White House meddling.

Mother Jones reporters at the hearing will be reporting as they go on.

Update: A new report from Union of Concerned Scientists uncovers new evidence of the Bush Administration tampering with global warming science.

An investigative report by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the Government Accountability Project (GAP) has uncovered new evidence of widespread political interference in federal climate science. The report, which includes a survey of hundreds of federal scientists at seven federal agencies and dozens of in-depth interviews, documents a high regard for climate change research but broad interference in communicating scientific results.
"The new evidence shows that political interference in climate science is no longer a series of isolated incidents but a system-wide epidemic," said Dr. Francesca Grifo, Director of the UCS Scientific Integrity Program. "Tailoring scientific fact for political purposes has become a problem across many federal science agencies."

Read more about the report here.

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D'oh! We Still Don't Have Any Good Iraq Intel

| Tue Jan. 30, 2007 6:01 AM EST

Belatedly (because, er, I lost my blog password and BOTH my computers melted down and the dog ate my keyboard), let us praise CQ's Jeff Stein for pointing out that among the casualties of Baghdad's continuing meltdown is... the CIA.

According to several well informed intelligence sources, hundreds of CIA operatives have become virtual prisoners in the Green Zone, the sprawling American enclave whose high walls and guards separate the U.S. embassy, military command and related civilian agencies from the raging sectarian violence in Baghdad's streets.
The CIA operatives cannot safely roam the city to meet their few agents, much less recruit new ones.
It's just too dangerous. CIA chiefs don't want to risk one getting kidnapped, tortured on camera and beheaded.
That would certainly dampen the allure of a career in the CIA.
So "they spend their days playing cards and watching DVDs," said a former senior CIA operations official who maintains close ties in the agency.

You can't make this stuff up.

Clueless White Writer + Hipster = Clipster?

| Tue Jan. 30, 2007 4:22 AM EST

Yesterday's NY Times plays the race card with an article on, well... black people who like indie rock. Or make indie rock. Or, um, skateboard. Cause white people totally do that! Idolator already has some choice comments about this strange piece (correctly pointing out that UrbanDictionary.com is a kind of lazy source, even for the Gray Lady), and some bloggers and journos have taken exception to the Times' unironic use of the term "blipster" (as in, "black hipster"). Some other blogs point out that blacks didn't just saunter away from rock music because they felt like rapping (see Colonel K's blog entry here)...

See the full version of "Clueless White Writer + Hipster = Clipster?" on Mother Jones' new Arts and Culture blog, The Riff.

Clueless White Writer + Hipster = Clipster?

| Tue Jan. 30, 2007 4:15 AM EST

Yesterday's NY Times played the race card with an article on, well... black people who like indie rock. Or make indie rock. Or, um, skateboard. Cause white people totally do that! Idolator already has some choice comments about this strange piece (correctly pointing out that UrbanDictionary.com is a kind of lazy source, even for the Gray Lady), and some bloggers and journos have taken exception to the Times' unironic use of the term "blipster" (as in, "black hipster"). Some other blogs point out that blacks didn't just saunter away from rock music because they felt like rapping (see Colonel K's blog entry here).

Hmmm. I'm sympathetic to any attempt at unraveling the racial basis underpinning so much of how we define and categorize music, and, er, "lifestyle," but this article doesn't even try. Can we have some statistics of black artists on white radio? Racial makeup of hip-hop buyers? History of Billboard charts? Ultimately, if you ask how many black people make rock music, you have to define rock music. Oops. You end up back where you started: it's white people music! Turns out the question reveals more than the answer, with the very terms being discussed laden with decades of racial bias. With racism so entrenched, and so many other factors at play (howabout girls who like boy music! Straight people who dance to Scissor Sisters!) it seems like the subject needs a little more attention and care than this lazy, condescending article gives it.

What's the deal with the Times and cultural, specifically current music, coverage? Despite an occasionally amusing piece that comes out of nowhere, they just don't seem to have any idea what's going on, and so they end up trying to overcompensate, and we get these vague articles about perceived cultural trends that just end up being offensive. Too bad.

Air America Goes Green (& Al Franken Takes the Green and Runs)

| Tue Jan. 30, 2007 1:13 AM EST

The latest chapter in the looooong saga of Air America has evidently been penned, but I must say that even those of us who'd wondered if the network's tortured history had become parody/proof of the right's criticism of the left didn't quite see this one coming. AA or Ax2 or Asquared will, it seems, be acquired by NYC real estate mogul Stephen Green, brother of perennial NY mayor/senate/attorney general candiate Mark Green. "Speaking only as the brother of the purchaser," Mark Green, who's also played guest host on AA, told the NYT that "no hiring or programming positions had been decided for the network, should the deal go through."

None 'cept one, I'd guess.

And if Brother Green becomes a permanent AA personality, he won't have to live in the shadow of Al Franken. Franken, who'd been paid a truly outrageous $2 million a year—10 times more than "many other syndicated hosts with a similar audience reach"—will host his last show on Valentine's Day. Franken's outsized salary makes him an easy target for those who mourn AA's passing, but to my mind it's just further proof that the people behind the network (and there have been lots) just had too much money and little idea of the media terrain. Wishing you (and why would you?) had a lefty 24-hour equivalent to Rush/Imus don't make it so people.

Meanwhile, Spinsanity Alert: Green said the sale will, in the words of the NYT, "usher in a new phase for Air America, focused on digital content distribution rather than radio."

"In this digital era, the tech changes by the day and Air America Radio has to become something of a new media company," Mark Green said. "We look forward to an A.A.R. 2.0 that has sharp smart content better distributed over a variety of platforms. And what better time to try this than with progressive and democratic values obviously on the rise?"

So does this mean that Stephen is buying his brother a podcast? If so, Senator Chris Dodd has some programming suggestions.