Of all the reactions to the Palin speech…

[EDIT — well hey there C-SPAN, thanks for the link. Mind you, while he’s a fellow Alaskan Republican, I wouldn’t call Halcro a Palin supporter as such — they have a long and complicated history, as he’s more than happy to explain! Also, two ‘t’s in my last name, please. Thanks, and welcome anyone who’s clicked through to this, feel free to browse around the place. But if you’re just following up on thoughts on Palin’s speech, I’d just recommend going to the link to Halcro’s page directly, all I’m doing here is providing a link and brief summary.]

…really I was just waiting to see what Andrew Halcro would say. And he delivered — he boosted her performance in the first couple of paragraphs on what you would expect a fellow Alaskan and Republican to approve of — he has no reason not to, after all — and then slammed down hard on nearly every key part of her gubernatorial record as stated in the speech as being false, a distortion or at the least widely open to creative interpretation.

Then he concluded:

Even with the over reaching, good job Governor Palin.

Backhanded compliments are sometimes the best.

(And don’t think that Obama’s team aren’t happily noting all this information and figuring out how to address it all. Trust me, they are, and they’re going to have some fun with it.)

[EDIT — Halcro’s next post delves deeper into recent developments. When they start talking subpoenas, one wants to hope that anyone starry-eyed over the speech might want to at least question facets of her general savvy in office…]

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EMP 2009 theme is set — start your proposals!

Such a crazy full day with other things (and lemme tell ya, thinking about Bill Melendez passing means more to me than anything Sarah Palin has ever done in her life) that I almost forgot this!:

Call for Proposals: 2009 Pop Conference at EMP|SFM
Dance Music Sex Romance: Pop and the Body Politic
April 16-19, 2009, Seattle, WA

Though Prince seems to have bowdlerized “D.M.S.R.” in his concerts since becoming a Jehovah’s Witness, the relationship of pop music to sex, love, physical movement, and the body rarely stays hidden very long. For this year’s Pop Conference we invite presentations, addressing any period or style of music, that bring erotic and sensual issues to the forefront and connect them to political and aesthetic concerns. Rock and roll has long congratulated itself on riding the Big Beat over all sanctimonious opposition, but can we take our sense of these archetypal struggles somewhere beyond, say, Footloose?

Topics might include, but are not limited to:

* Languages of desire and union in pop: the relationship of ballads, tenderness, and couplehood to carnality and the commerce of bodies.
* Dancing and dance crazes as forces in pop history and the dancefloor as a particularly charged space of friction, play, and unsettling possibility.
* Pop passion as a conduit for capitalism, modernization, and transnational flows, but also local scenes, community formation, and religion.
* How the pop body is marked by, and marks out, race, gender, nationality, class, and region; music as a means for bodies sharing space.
* Music and the negotiation of sexual norms:� sonic fetishism, erotics of pain and disorder, representations of beauty and ugliness.
* Social media and D.M.S.R. A YouTube answer video as a kind of love letter;� the libidinal economy of music-sharing communities and Web 2.0 culture.
* Scandal and excess: the pop urge to take it to the limit; celebrity culture and indie puritanism; humor and hyperbole.
* Voice, gesture, and other modalities of embodiment and disembodiment.
* The diva figure, with all the complexity/trouble/pleasure that term carries.
* The many musical iterations of what a German Jewish immigrant, arrived at the dawn of modern pop, called “Makin’ Whoopee.”

Send proposals of up to 250 words and a 50 word bio to Eric Weisbard at EricW@empsfm.org and Eric.Weisbard@gmail.com by December 16, 2008. Panel proposals (short collective statement and full individual proposals/bios) and roundtable proposals (full collective statement, bios for all panelists) are welcome. Lively writing and unorthodox approaches are particularly welcome.

Go nuts, folks — I have an idea and a copresenter. More as it happens.

RIP Bill Melendez

Today I have lost another of my childhood heroes. Bill Melendez is dead.

Everyone knows Bill Melendez’s work, if you’re an American at least. I exaggerate but surely only by so much. He was omnipresent since the mid-sixties, impossible to miss. And he was simply stellar at what he did, which was bringing to life the work of another into a new field and arena.

That other was Charles Schulz, and when he died I penned this piece, still one of my favorites, and one of the saddest I ever had to write. His passing I felt very profoundly, on a level I can’t describe beyond that of the personal griefs I have had as family members have left this life. But I did Melendez a disservice there, by not talking about him more.

Melendez I initially knew by name at the most — but as time went on, by sight. He would appear in books celebrating the strip, and then on specials, looking back on the many marvels he had created. And it’s important to note that he did not simply have the animated Peanuts to his credit — in fact, one reason he got the job in the first place was the face that he had had such a stunning resume already, to quote the previously linked obituary:

Born in Sonora, Mexico, in 1916, Melendez moved with his family to Arizona in 1928, then to Los Angeles, where he attended the Chouinard Art Institute. He was one of the few Latinos working in animation when he began his career at the Walt Disney Studio in 1939, contributing to the features “Pinocchio,” “Fantasia,” “Bambi” and “Dumbo,” as well as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck shorts.

Melendez was an active participant in the bitterly fought strike that led to the unionization of the Disney artists in 1941, after which he moved to Schlesinger Cartoons, animating Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig and other classic characters for Warner Bros.

In 1948, Melendez joined UPA, whose innovative approach to animation delighted him. “The animation we were doing was not limited, but stylized,” he recalled in an interview in 1986. “When you analyze Chaplin’s shorts, you realize people don’t move that way–he stylized his movements. We were going to do the same thing for animation. We were going to animate the work of Cobean, Steinberg–all the great cartoonists of the moment–and move them as the designs dictated.”

After animating numerous UPA shorts, including the Oscar-winning “Gerald McBoing-Boing” (1951), Melendez served as a director and producer on more than 1,000 commercials for UPA, Playhouse Pictures and John Sutherland Productions. In 1959, he directed the first animation of the “Peanuts” characters for a series of commercials advertising the Ford Falcon.

And from there to that most perfect of specials — A Charlie Brown Christmas. It is and remains one of the finest half-hours of television ever, a summation of the holiday and its spirit, a lovely embrace and understanding of the religious tradition that underpins it while at the same time acknowledging its secular nature, and of course a translation of much that was Schulz’s obsessions and themes — he wrote the scripts for this and all the shows that followed, after all — into a new format. The many specials that followed ranged in quality but at their best were a lovely series of works, from holidays to general themes, and helped to bring the strips to life in a series of adaptations that, as with so many similar adaptations, were not the strips straight up and yet were their own works of art in turn.

I would guess it was such a special that first awoke me to the possibility of Peanuts, though I am not positive. It could even have been Snoopy Come Home, the second of the four feature films the team of Schulz, Melendez and producer Lee Mendelson made together separately from the TV shows. Whatever it was, my obsession and knowledge of the strip was part and parcel with those shows and movies, and to extract one from the other would be a disservice, and so my earlier piece on Schultz’s passing, while accurate, is flawed for not giving greater prominence to them beyond a passing mention.

The lovely thing was how Melendez took the basic color schemes (given the Sunday strips) and simplicities of the strip as a whole and brought them to life just enough. By which I mean — sometimes he simply had the characters walking down a road, leaning against a brick wall, talking in a room — all familiar situations from the strips. But he also allowed for more detailed backgrounds, sometimes flights of fancy (literally, as with Snoopy’s dogfight in the second special the team did together, It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown), even trips to other countries and settings such as England and France. The characters moved and looked a little differently to the strip, by default, and yet close enough — it was an approximation that honored Schulz’s wonderful clean lines but brought a sometimes frenetic energy to things that was not always possible in the strip.

And then of course there was Snoopy, who Melendez voiced for the Christmas special due to a last minute time crunch and who from then on was the only choice for the role. And what a job! While Snoopy of course thinks and thinks and thinks again in the strip, his thoughts covering everything from failed novels to thoughts on economics, in the specials and shows and movies he had to act without a legible voice or an internal one. By both animating and voicing the character, Melendez gave Snoopy his own wonderful spark, his not-very-doglike-but-damn-funny moans, howls and murmurs suiting the mad explosions of movement that he often exhibited on the screen. Melendez’s background with that more kinetic style of animation familiar from his Schlesinger/Warner Bros’ work reached its later apotheosis with Snoopy, and of the many moments I could name where look, voice and script all came together, consider his audition for the roles of all the animals in the Christmas pageant (scroll ahead to 3:30):

But just as great — and as representative of what Melendez could and did do — was a voiceless bit from the same show, where Snoopy’s enjoyment of Schroeder’s music gets a little too involved:

How he just crawls away never fails to get me to laugh — in recognition — every time.

Compared to the famously self-tortured Schulz, Melendez came across as vibrant, positive, aware of how to deftly suggest the darker shades of Peanuts without losing the easy-going, inviting feel of the strip, a perfect match. Imagining other possibilities — what if Hanna-Barbera had done it! — doesn’t bear thinking about. The right man for the right job, an artist in his own right who found a perfect partnership — and I can’t thank him enough.

Señor, Usted es magnificado — muchas gracias.

The obituary links to this interview on YouTube, where he talks of some of his many different animation experiences (you might need to turn up the volume), and other interviews can be found from there. A treasure trove of experience and stories that should not be overlooked. The family has indicated that donations in his memory can be made to the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles.

Rest well.

Peggy Noonan proclaims the race over — in that McCain has lost

Well now. A bit bold, shall we say. Nonetheless, there it is:

And that’s Mike Murphy in there as well, also piling it on. In both cases, they’re chalking it up to McCain’s choice of VP. Well then.

Sure, it’s a big ol’ point-and-laugh — but you know, it’s the best one of the week so far. Puts this latest piece of hers in some perspective. But hey, tell your audience what they want to hear — and then talk amongst yourselves.

Oh hey, a transcript

Noonan: [Can’t hear since Todd (who is still on air) is talking over her]

Murphy: Um, you know, because, I come out of the blue swing state governor world. Engler, Whitman, Tommy Thompson, Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, I mean, and these guys, this is all how you win a Texas race, just run it up, and it’s not gonna work.

Noonan: It’s Over.

Murphy: Still, McCain can give a version of the Lieberman speech and do himself some good.

Todd: [can’t really tell what he says, but he mentions something about “insulting to Kay Baily Hutchinson]

Noonan: I saw Kay this morning…

Todd: She’s never looked comfortable up there..

Murphy: They’re all bummed out.

Todd: I mean, is she really the most qualified woman they can obtain?

Noonan: The most qualified? No. I think they went for this, excuse me, political bullshit about narratives…[couldn’t hear the end of it]

Todd: Yeah, but what’s a narrative?

Murphy: I totally agree.

Noonan: Every time Republicans do that, because that’s not where they live and it’s not what they’re good at, they blow it.

Murphy: You know what’s the worst thing about it, the greatest of McCain is no cynicism, and..

Murphy and Todd together: This is cynical.

Todd: And as you called it, gimmicky.

Far be it from me to gainsay anyone speaking, really.

[EDIT: Ah, here we go — I knew this wouldn’t take long:

We were speaking informally, with some passion — and into live mics. An audio tape of that conversation was sent, how or by whom I don’t know, onto the internet.

(A quick note from me — audio tape? This IS 2008, right?)

…In our off-air conversation, I got on the subject of the leaders of the Republican party assuming, now, that whatever the base of the Republican party thinks is what America thinks. I made the case that this is no longer true, that party leaders seem to me stuck in the assumptions of 1988 and 1994, the assumptions that reigned when they were young and coming up. “The first lesson they learned is the one they remember,” I said to Todd — and I’m pretty certain that is a direct quote. But, I argued, that’s over, those assumptions are yesterday, the party can no longer assume that its base is utterly in line with the thinking of the American people. And when I said, “It’s over!” — and I said it more than once — that is what I was referring to. I am pretty certain that is exactly what Todd and Murphy understood I was referring to. In the truncated version of the conversation, on the Web, it appears I am saying the McCain campaign is over. I did not say it, and do not think it.

However, I did say two things that I haven’t said in public, either in speaking or in my writing. One is a vulgar epithet that I wish I could blame on the mood of the moment but cannot. No one else, to my memory, swore. I just blurted. The other, more seriously, is a real criticism that I had not previously made, but only because I hadn’t thought of it. And it is connected to a thought I had this morning, Wednesday morning, and wrote to a friend. Here it is. Early this morning I saw Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, and as we chatted about the McCain campaign (she thoughtfully and supportively) I looked into her eyes and thought, Why not her? Had she been vetted for the vice presidency, and how did it come about that it was the less experienced Mrs. Palin who was chosen? I didn’t ask these questions or mention them, I just thought them. Later in the morning, still pondering this, I thought of something that had happened exactly 20 years before. It was just after the 1988 Republican convention ended. I was on the plane, as a speechwriter, that took Republican presidential nominee George H.W. Bush, and the new vice presidential nominee, Dan Quayle, from New Orleans, the site of the convention, to Indiana. Sitting next to Mr. Quayle was the other senator from that state, Richard Lugar. As we chatted, I thought, “Why him and not him?” Why Mr. Quayle as the choice, and not the more experienced Mr. Lugar? I came to think, in following years, that some of the reason came down to what is now called The Narrative. The story the campaign wishes to tell about itself, and communicate to others. I don’t like the idea of The Narrative. I think it is … a barnyard epithet.

I feel better already. As do her editors. Doubtless.]

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Hmm. Maybe a daily Palin update is necessary.

In that:

  • Right about when Joseph Lieberman, rightly known for his pride in his Jewish faith and upbringing, was praising Palin to the skies at the convention, the news started to circulate that Palin had apparently no problem with a speaker at her church — namely one David Brickner, head of Jews for Jesus — a couple of weeks back saying things like this:

    But what we see in Israel, the conflict that is spilled out throughout the Middle East, really which is all about Jerusalem, is an ongoing reflection of the fact that there is judgment. There is judgment that is going on in the land, and that’s the other part of this Jerusalem Dilemma. When Jesus was standing in that temple, He spoke that that judgment was coming, that there’s a reality to the judgment of unbelief. He said “I long to gather you, but…” what? “You were unwilling.” God never forces His way on human beings. And so because Jerusalem was unwilling to receive His grace, judgment was coming. He says, “Look, your house has left you desolate!” What did He mean by that? Remember where He is. He’s standing in the temple there in Jerusalem, the place where God had promised, through Moses,

    “There I will meet with you, there I will hear your prayers, and there I will forgive your sin.”

    And now Jesus in that temple, just before going to the cross, says, ‘From now on this place is desolate.’ And Jesus’ words have echoed down through the centuries. Not a generation after He uttered this promise, Titus and his Roman legions marched into that city and destroyed both the city and the temple. And from that day until this very present there has been no temple, and there is therefore no sacrifice in Judaism. Only we could sacrifice in…the only place was in the temple. And therefore there has been, and there is today, no confidence of atonement, no confidence of forgiveness. If you were to stand outside of a synagogue on the day of atonement and ask those leaving the service, “Did God hear your prayers? Were your sins forgiven on this most holy of all days?” the answer would be, “I hope. I hope, but who can know?” Who indeed but those of us who have come under the wings of the Almighty, who’ve entered into that place of grace where forgiveness is assured for the dilemma of human life. Judgment is very real and we see it played out on the pages of the newspapers and on the television. It’s very real.

    When [Brickner’s son] Isaac was in Jerusalem he was there to witness some of that judgment, some of that conflict, when a Palestinian from East Jerusalem took a bulldozer and went plowing through a score of cars, killing numbers of people. Judgment—you can’t miss it.

    Well that’s…charming. And lest you think I’m misquoting, hey, the full sermon’s right here.

  • “Never mind,” you might say, “is that anywhere as bad as Rev. Wright was for Obama?” (Which misses the point much like the whole question of experience and lack thereof has been torpedoed but let us move on.) Ah well, how about this, courtesy of, unsurprisingly, Andrew Halcro:

    With all the debate surrounding the Bridge to Nowhere earmark, I offer you a campaign photo from 2006 when the Bridge to Nowhere was considered the Bridge to Somewhere by one candidate seeking votes from the people of Ketchikan.

    He goes on to explain the timing of both her support — and then her well-publicized and, I now see more clearly, utterly cynical rejection of said ‘bridge to nowhere.’ The details are there, read them as you like. And the photo, well, John at Balloon Juice has provided a helpful crop:

    She certainly seems happy.

    Cute. Really. In a sick sort of way.

  • Then there’s that whole troopergate thing — Halcro has a new general summary up, as well as a good snark at people who keep missing the opportunity to talk with Wooten directly — and the investigation that’s due to conclude right before the Presidential election and all that. Looks like she’s due to testify soon, or they’d like her to. So much to say, really…but isn’t it odd that that, in part to avoid having to testify, she’s had to file an ethics complaint…against herself?:

    Gov. Sarah Palin wants a state board to review the circumstances surrounding the dismissal of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan — taking the unusual step of making an ethics complaint against herself.

    Her lawyer sent an “ethics disclosure” Monday night to Attorney General Talis Colberg. The governor asked that it go to the three-person Personnel Board as a complaint. While ethics complaints are usually confidential, Palin wants the matter open.

    Under state law, the board must hire an independent counsel for complaints against the governor to determine whether evidence of a violation of the state ethics act exists.

    “Governor Palin believes it will find no conceivable violation of the Ethics Act,” her complaint says. She wants the investigation “to put these matters to rest.”

    Tom Daniel, an Anchorage labor and employment lawyer hired by the board in the Renkes case, took a quick look at Palin’s complaint Tuesday.

    “It appears that the Governor has filed an ethics complaint against herself. … This is very unusual because ethics complaints typically are filed against others,” Daniel wrote in an e-mail responding to a Daily News query.

    Asked whether the personnel board could take the investigation away from the Legislature — as Palin wants to do — Daniel answered: “I’ve never looked at that issue, but I can’t see why filing a complaint with the personnel board would deprive the Legislature of the right to conduct its own investigation.”

    The ethics disclosure echoes points made in a four-page backgrounder on the Wooten matter released by the McCain/Palin campaign. Did Van Flein write the background paper on Wooten for the campaign? He didn’t answer that question when asked in an e-mail Tuesday evening.


Now, what haven’t I talked about in this post so far? The answer is obvious. What would I like to direct your attention towards? This post over at the NRO by Byron York, who is one of the few people there who is starting to get openly queasy about a lot of things — which is nice to see, even if he’s looking at it more from a strategic ‘how can we rescue the beloved brand’ perspective more than honest ‘good grief, we’re utterly messed up, aren’t we’ feelings:

How will Palin address the family issues that have arisen since her elevation to the GOP ticket? My source didn’t want to address that — not because Palin isn’t going to do it, but because that’s the kind of thing the campaign wants to leave for the speech itself. Still, my source said, “We said on Monday and Tuesday that this discussion for us is over. We’re asking people to respect their privacy.” Well, they can dream. In any event, the campaign will release excerpts of the speech later today that might give us a hint where that particular issue is going.

On a question that is flying around here in St. Paul: What about the presence of one Levi Johnston, the 18 year-old father of Bristol Palin’s unborn child? At the end of this kind of speech, there is usually a lot of applause, music, and the candidate’s family up on stage. Johnston is in St. Paul, I am told, but there has been no final decision about what he will do tonight.

“This is not an issue that we’re going to act ashamed or scared about,” my source told me. “Despite the media coverage of this, voters still have such a great response to [Sarah Palin]. This just makes her more real.” So, I asked, does that mean Johnston will be on stage with the Palin family? “At this point we don’t know whether he will be up on stage,” I was told. “It remains to be seen. There hasn’t been a decision made yet.”

Perhaps I’m focusing on an irrelevant issue, but the presence, or non-presence, of Johnston on the stage tonight strikes me as important. It’s one thing for delegates to be understanding and compassionate about the fix these two teenagers have gotten themselves into. It’s another to actually celebrate it. And, given what we’ve learned in the last few days, if Johnston is up on stage with his girlfriend and the Palin family, and Republicans are wildly cheering, it will certainly look like they are celebrating this situation.

I don’t usually engage in these scenarios, but I’ll do it here. If the Obamas had a 17 year-old daughter who was unmarried and pregnant by a tough-talking black kid, my guess is if that they all appeared onstage at a Democratic convention and the delegates were cheering wildly, a number of conservatives might be discussing the issue of dysfunctional black families.

That’s already produced some grumbles and complaints on the site and I suspect he’s getting mail too. Probably not as much as David Frum over there, who has been viewing everything with ill-disguised horror. And he’s been pounded for it by a slew of people, and he’s not backing down, to his credit. He’s gotten some positive mail, though, and I’d like to quote from one letter he put up:

The Palin decision effectively torpedoed, as you clearly understand, the best card in John McCain’s hand: namely the popular perception that he put country before party and himself. Basically it made him and the GOP look both irresponsible and deeply unserious, a perception that is only being heightened by the soap opera atmosphere starting to develop around the nominee.

I’m a retired bank exec of moderately Republican views but I’ve become deeply disenchanted with a party that is now dominated by the sort of people who were writing you anguished letters of rebuke. Most of my circle are upper middle class folks, now dismissed as elitists when in fact we are the achievers, the people that basically make the country work. A lot of us with resumes not unlike Barack and Michelle Obama, in fact two of my kids went to the same schools. My family have voted Republican for generations, my Grandfather used to boast he voted for Alf Landon in 1936, so you get the picture. The Republican party as we used to know it has been destroyed by what I’ll call extreme right wing ideology and Rovian tactics that elevate politics above governance with predictably awful results. I’d say my view is widely shared amongst the sort of Republicans with whom I associate. It explains why the party is losing the suburbs generally, states like VA and CO, and only has one congressman, my congressman, in New England. If November does turn into a wipeout I think you’d be well advised to reflect on this and recognize that if the GOP stays in the NRO/Evangelical Christian/far right mode its future is bleak for demographic reasons if none other.

It’s a little too early, way too early, to call GOP apocalypse yet. But the strains, far from being cemented over by this choice, are starting to show.

I predict Palin will make a firecracker of a speech tonight that will be welcomed with huge applause and cheers by the crowd. And I suspect that will be the highlight of her entire time as vice-presidential nominee.

[EDIT: well, I guess we know this much in terms of public image:

Yes, that’s Levi and Bristol in the center, from earlier today. We’ll see about tonight, per York’s post above.]

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