The Best Of The Dish Today

Dec 18 2014 @ 9:15pm
by Chris Bodenner

We missed a BOTDT last night because of a Dish holiday reunion with current and former staffers at Arts and Crafts Beer Parlor, near where we hold staff meetings. Before the drunken revelry, we snapped a rare photo of the whole staff together (except Alice, who joined us at the bar):


Update from a reader:

Love the staff photo. Can you please let us know who’s who? It’s nice to put a face to the name that we see all too rarely. Thanks for all your work and contributing so much to so many.

Left to right, that’s Phoebe (Dishtern), Jonah (international editor), Matt (literary editor), “some clapped out old bear“, me (editor, in charge of email), Patrick (editor, in charge of RSS), Jessie (editor, in charge of weekend), Chas (managing editor, aka Special Teams), and Tracy (associate editor, Jill of all trades).

Andrew, now officially the most frequented guest on the Colbert Report, is attending the series finale tonight, so be sure to tune in. For a dose of nostalgia, check out Andrew’s first appearance on the show back in 2006. And for an even bigger dose, don’t miss this new supercut of Colbert over the years.

The most popular posts today were Will’s “On The Right Not To Be “Triggered” and “Obama Just Ruined Cuba!” His followup to that Cuba post is here. Will also responded to a dissenting reader over his semi-defense of dynasty, spied on the “Elf on the Shelf” Christmas trend, and absorbed the American public’s acceptance of torture.

Michelle, meanwhile, confronted in two parts the caving of Sony Pictures to the terrorist threat over The Interview. She also discussed the discussion of rape, touched on the cycle of outrage stoked by Twitter, took before and after looks at the end of the Serial podcast, and penned an appreciation for Penelope Fitzgerald.

Phoebe also chipped in with her thoughts on white privilege. Don’t miss this epic MHB of Germans playing head-pong, and be sure to contribute to our new Losing Your Faith In Santa thread, which is a much lighter counterpart to our popular and continued thread on rape.

We’ve updated many recent posts with your emails – read them all here. You can always leave your unfiltered comments at our Facebook page and @dishfeed. 17 more readers became subscribers today. You can join them here – and get access to all the readons and Deep Dish – for a little as $1.99 month. Gift subscriptions are available here (you purchase one today and have it auto-delivered on Christmas Day). Dish t-shirts are for sale here and our new mugs here.

See you in the morning.

The Simpsons, Eternal

Dec 18 2014 @ 8:32pm
by Dish Staff

Marking the show’s 25th birthday yesterday, Todd VanDerWerff pens an appreciation:

Yes, the show repeats itself a fair amount, but it would be hard for it not to. And, yes, the show has sort of lost a point-of-view character, as its writers have aged past first the Simpson kids and then even the Simpson parents. Many stories in its later years tend to be along the lines of “Can you believe things are this way?!” and have the tone of a particularly perturbed anecdote in the “Life in These United States” feature in Reader’s Digest. All of these things mean it’s hard for the program to create classic episodes week in and week out now.

But what the [recent Simpsons] marathon underlined for me, more than anything, is that the series has attempted to stay true to its characters, and that it still takes chances, especially in its visuals. Both of these things are immensely important to its longevity, and the fact that it remains a pretty reliable form of entertainment from week to week. Seeing all of the episodes one after the other made the continuum that much more apparent: the show started great, became absolutely brilliant, then declined back to just great, before taking a few seasons to find a plateau of better than average.

Listening For The Voice Of God

Dec 18 2014 @ 8:00pm
by Dish Staff

In an interview about his new book, A Mess of Help: From the Crucified Soul of Rock’n’Roll, David Zahl notices that many of the artists he profiles – who range from ABBA to Morrissey to Axl Rose – “point to some sense of strength being found in weakness, of inspiration being bound up with suffering rather than apart from it.” Still, he’s wary of the didactic approach Christians too often bring to their cultural commentary:

That phrase “Christian approach” often implies that religious people should approach things with trepidation and/or suspicion, and measure them against the standard of our religion. There seems to be an agenda, sometimes an unspoken or unconscious one, that culture is valuable only insofar as we can harness it in some way. But I’m convinced that, to quote someone I admire, “any goodness, beauty, truthfulness, or enlivening candor we have the wit to discern is something for which we have God to thank.” That is, that it’s already been harnessed. So this isn’t a Christian “take” on secular music, at least as I see it. The artists I wrote about are the ones that have spoken and continue to speak to me rather than vice versa; I talk more about what I’ve learned from them than how their work filters through a religious framework. I gave myself plenty of room to explore, though, so who knows (“preacher brain” is not the easiest thing to shut off). Again from the introduction:

“It wasn’t that I set out to write about the intersection of Christianity and culture; it was simply that music was the most honest language available to me—the lingua franca of my inner life, my immediate vocabulary for understanding what was happening to me. In fact, so immersed in it was I, that to avoid pop culture would have been to embrace precisely the kind of phoniness that permeates so much religious ‘engagement’ with it these days.”

Why Not Open Up To Cuba?

Dec 18 2014 @ 7:14pm
by Dish Staff

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 12.43.00 PM

Aaron Blake flags one argument that won’t get much traction – that Cuba is a genuine national security threat:

Despite Cuba’s proximity to the United States (about 90 miles from Florida) and its alliance with other antagonistic countries like North Korea and Russia, Americans have grown progressively less and less concerned that the island country actually poses a threat to the United States. A CNN/Opinion Research poll earlier this year, in fact, showed that just 5 percent of people viewed Cuba as a “very serious threat” and 21 percent said it was a “moderately serious threat.” Another 72 percent said it wasn’t a threat at all or “just a slight threat.” Back in 1983, two-thirds of Americans viewed Cuba as at least a “moderately serious threat,” but that numbers has fallen steadily since then.

Zack Beauchamp notes that another favorite talking point of anti-Cuba hardliners – calling the country a state sponsor of terrorism – is a bit outdated:

The US government designated Cuba a state sponsor of terrorism in 1982, which imposed financial penalties on the Cuban government. At the time, the US accused Cuba of supporting the Spanish Basque terrorist group ETA and the FARC militants in Colombia. Though the US continues to label Cuba a terrorism sponsor, that’s just transparently untrue. According to the State Department‘s most recent annual review of terrorism worldwide, “there was no indication that the Cuban government provided weapons or paramilitary training to terrorist groups.”

Read On

Face Of The Day

Dec 18 2014 @ 6:42pm
by Dish Staff

Bird Feeding

A Mynah bird feeds its young in Sydney, Australia on December 18, 2014. By Guillaume Gros/GG. Update from a reader:

I’m sure I’m not the first to tell you, but those do not look like Mynah birds. They look to be swallows, but I don’t know what species they would be in Australia.

Another adds, “They are probably Welcome Swallows, Hirundo neoxena.”

Getting High For Two

Dec 18 2014 @ 5:55pm
by Dish Staff

Libby Copeland tells the story of Tamara Loertscher, “a woman arrested for drug use even though she says she stopped when she realized she was pregnant, brought to court and twice refused lawyers (even though her fetus was given one), and then sent to jail for 17 days, where she was placed in solitary confinement, denied prenatal care even as she began cramping, and not given her thyroid medication for two days, according to the woman and her lawyers”:

[Y]ou can’t consider Wisconsin’s punitive approach to pregnant women—which purports to protect “unborn children”—without first considering how the state has failed to promote actual family values.

Read On

by Dish Staff

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 12.26.49 PM

Erik Voeten notes that, in one respect, Cuba isn’t the only country that’s been internationally isolated by the US embargo:

The United Nations General Assembly has voted since 1992 on an annual resolution on the “necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba.” In 1992, with the Cold War just ending, fewer than 50 percent of all member states voted in favor of the resolution (more than half abstained). The graph above shows how quickly any semblance of support for the embargo evaporated. In its latest iteration only Israel joined the Americans in voting against the resolution, although, to its credit, the United States did get the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Palau to abstain.

U.N. General Assembly resolutions have mostly symbolic value as they do not create binding legal obligations. Yet, U.S. isolation probably undermined the effectiveness of the embargo.

Juan Carlos Hidalgo applauds Obama’s decision to re-establish relations:

Read On

Sony And The First Amendment, Ctd

Dec 18 2014 @ 4:41pm
by Michelle Dean


I got a little unlucky with the timing of yesterday’s post about Sony, which went up right before we learned that Sony was pulling The Interview from release. And also before we learned that federal officials believe North Korea really is behind the hacks. My frustration with James Franco movies seems rather less funny in retrospect. In any event I guess I don’t have to worry about being forced to watch it, since apparently it won’t even appear on VOD at this moment.

I’ve been trying to muster up some fire to write about how chilling this all is for people who want to write outré speech. I wish I could write something incandescent about how unjust it is to suppress a film – even one that I’m about as allergic to as a person could be – over physical threats and privacy violations. But I haven’t been able to. I’m exhausted. I’m exhausted just contemplating how we’re going to describe this one in the history books. (“Seth Rogen, a Hollywood star of Canadian extraction…” “And then Aaron Sorkin, who was not a journalist but who wrote a fictional show about journalism, which he said was more journalistic than journalism…”)

Suffice it to say, it’s all terrible, though honestly this incident doesn’t seem half as bad to me as other events in this proto-dystopia we call America in late 2014.

(Photo: Workers remove a poster-banner for The Interview from a billboard in Hollywood, California, on December 18, 2014, a day after Sony announced it was canceling the movie’s Christmas release due to a terrorist threat. By Michael Thurston/AFP/Getty Images)

Mental Health Break

Dec 18 2014 @ 4:20pm
by Dish Staff

Behold, the rainbow-slinky master:

Yglesias Award Nominee

Dec 18 2014 @ 4:05pm
by Dish Staff

“It’s been a half century now. Unless and until someone can show me something besides political talking points to the contrary, the embargo was simply not working. The Castros remain in power and the government has not significantly changed. And as we have repeatedly demonstrated in our negotiations regarding sanctions and punishment of other nations such as Iran, Iraq or Russia, sanctions and embargoes do not work unless you can get significant buy-in from your allies. Nobody is joining us on this. Canadians regularly vacation in Cuba. Nearly every other western nation trades with them. We simply don’t have any backup here,” – Jazz Shaw, Hot Air.