Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Pretzel Logic: Andrew Sullivan Twists in His Own Wind

I have a jukebox in my head that is easily triggered. Today, as I was listening to Hugh Hewitt try to interview Andrew Sullivan about his new book, The Conservative Soul, the Steely Dan song Pretzel Logic repeated on a continuous inner loop that only I could hear.

Sullivan is one of our founding blogfathers and a prodigiously gifted writer. If weblogs are the most personal form of modern public writing, Sullivan is in large part responsible for breaking down barriers between blogger and reader. I used to be a daily visitor to his site, subscribed to his Weekly Dish and corresponded with him to voice my support. Then came Lawrence v. Texas, the imminent possibility of legally sanctioned gay marriage, and President Bush’s advocacy of a constitutional amendment to protect the marital status quo. With a swiftness that gave mental whiplash to loyal readers like me, Sullivan reversed himself on well documented, long held positions, such as his support of the Bush administration’s Iraq policy.

Sullivan soon turned to empty Clintonesque word games and the absurd pretense of being politically undecided during the 2004 election campaign until he endorsed John Kerry. The breathtaking candor that defined his pre-Lawrence writings has been overtaken, to my regret, by intellectual dishonesty. His blog has become so incoherent and colicky that it depresses me to read it. He seems to value controversy over consistency. I suspect he prefers to be the resentful outsider, a literary sniper taking potshots at those whose standing he begrudges.

Certainly Andrew has delighted in "Fisking" – one of his memorable additions to the bloggers’ lexicon – hypocritical figures elevated by the old media. Likewise I coined my own Sullivan-inspired phrase: to sully. Andrew has been spoiling for a fight with Hugh Hewitt since 2003 and today finally appeared on Hugh’s radio show with a different agenda than book promotion – to Fisk Hewitt as a “Christianist” apologist for the Bush administration. I have not read Sullivan’s blog for many months, but I am astonished that his aim is now so false.

Hugh is an essentially decent man and, in his misguided smear, Andrew draws unflattering comparisons upon himself. Hewitt is the hub of the center-right new media network and uses his considerable influence to serve humanity beyond the political realm. He relishes a well-matched debate and defends his philosophy wherever it is challenged without resorting to inflammatory rhetoric.

Since his ideological U-turn, Sullivan can be seen only in the public company of “yes men” like Chris Matthews and Bill Maher, who never require him to justify his positions – and Andrew’s self-imposed isolation has improved neither his debating skills nor his disposition. Varifrank offers a humorous recap of today's interview.

I feel sorry for Sullivan and assume that anyone so quick to scorn others probably loathes himself enough for both of us. He has carved out a new niche as the preeminent stalker of the conservative blogosphere, throwing rocks at his erstwhile friends’ windows and mistaking them for glass houses.

Meanwhile, my inner jukebox keeps playing these lyrics from Pretzel Logic.

They tell me he was lonely, he's lonely still
Those days are gone forever
Over a long time ago, oh yeah

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I Love the 90s: Lloyd Cole

The first time I saw Lloyd Cole was with his 1980s band the Commotions in the video for Perfect Skin. He had a baby-faced look like Tim Finn but lacked the Finn brothers' overtly self-mocking humor. Cole was so sensitive that he seemed perpetually on the verge of tears.

Lloyd Cole was also a literate songwriter of very personal odes to romantic angst. His first two solo albums, the eponymous Lloyd Cole (1990) and Don't Get Weird on Me, Babe (1991), contained gems reminiscent of Lou Reed, Jimmy Webb and Chris Isaak, including She's a Girl and I'm a Man.

My personal favorite is No Blue Skies. Why this song failed to catapult Lloyd Cole into megastardom, I'll never understand.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Building a New Life

As you can see if you have visited before, my blog has a new look. I'm trying on new colors and, as is my prerogative, may continue to redecorate as Beta Blogger allows. I am in the process of restoring my old links and adding new favorites.

I haven't blogged much since American Idol ended, but the timing is strictly coincidental. Last June I began to undergo months of tests on my left hip and leg. Richard, my deaf brother who lives with us and belongs to the same medical group, had months of tests that resulted in surgery. As his sign language interpreter, I had to accompany him to every appointment and took a week off work to stay with him in the hospital. I immediately went from being an Elliott Yamin “groupie” to a medical groupie.

As my pain grew in severity, using my laptop computer became an act of masochism. What would I have written anyway? I would like to think I would have described my situation with as much grace and as little self-pity as Dean Barnett, who posted so touchingly of his battle against cystic fibrosis. But it is too easy, I have found, to become negative, impatient and self-absorbed when living with chronic pain. Humility comes with every wince, but optimism takes hard work, faith, and a sense of humor.

October 18, 2006 was my sixth wedding anniversary to the wonderful Luis – and the date I received confirmation that my breast cancer has spread to my hip.

I will have more to share as I begin this next phase of life. For now, I thank God as always for Luis, my family, my friends, and their support. I am truly blessed.