Student of History ... Draft-Age Blogger 8-01-03


Mr. Williams is a recent graduate in history at the University of Washington. He is now attending graduate film school at Boston University. He has written the following articles (pirates, press, prisoners, plagiarism, personalities) and can be reached at nwblog@yahoo.com.

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The issue


Hill News

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Take your medicine


The Agonist

David Harris

The Watch

Another Nathan



Hitchens goes too far. 8-01-03

I can forgive the illogical but impassioned arguments for war last winter. I can generally forgive the usual militant contrariness. But I cannot forgive Christopher Hitchens's merciless lambasting of Bob Hope the very week the man dies.

Say I met Christopher in an elevator, casually remarked on the passing of the great entertainer, and heard in response,"Well, I never actually found him that funny." That's fine. Comedy is one of the most subjective parts of entertainment. But to write a thousand word diatribe against a universally beloved entertainer (unlike Bing, Hope has no abuse allegations hanging over his legacy) a handful of days after than man dies is utterly tasteless.

Hitchens calls Hope,"paralyzingly, painfully, hopelessly unfunny." I could not agree less. Surely Hope was not the freshest comedian on the menu after hitting 80 (Hitchens attacks him over a bad joke made in 1984; we'll see if Hitchens is even getting published in 2030). The post-Lenny Bruce stand-up era surely left him by. But in his prime, Hope's timing and delivery were impeccable. Woody Allen, to whom Hitchens unfavorably compares Hope, says:

There are a number a films where's he's allowed to show his brilliant gift of delivery, his brilliant gift of comic speech. He had a very breezy attitude, he was a great man with a quip. Those one-liners and witticisms, they're just like air. He does them so lightly. When someone else tries to do them, they're so leaden. It's hard to counterfeit his work and describe it. At times I even prefer him to Groucho.

You probably can't beat praise from a fellow comedian, but I would have liked to have quoted from Steinbeck's WWII era dispatch about Hope's remarkable resilience and talent which was included in Once There Was a War, but I seem to have misplaced my copy. It, and the volume, a collection of Steinbeck's wartime writings, as a whole, are definitely recommended. Also recommended, for Hope's performance at the very least, are: My Favorite Brunette, Son of Paleface, Fancy Pants, The Lemon Drop Kid, and Monsieur Beaucaire.

Posted by Nathan at 10:21pm PDT.

I'm no fan of Terry McAuliffe, but...8-01-03

Dean is in the wrong on this one. According to U.S. News (and World Report):

Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe secretly went to all the campaigns a few weeks ago and said that when it was"mathematically clear" that the party had a nominee (a date he estimated would be no later than March 9) he wanted the losers to drop out, release their delegates and endorse the presumptive winner. Dean refused. He is going to the convention with his delegates pledged to him no matter what.

Also, some have questioned my lack of commentary on the Poindexter madness. What can I say? Markets aren't magic. They don't, as James Surowiecki claimed in Slate, predict the weather. And any minor intelligence assistance the terror futures market could provide would, I believe, be offset by the profound loss of moral high ground when American investors can gamble directly on civilian deaths.

However, don't be surprised if we suddenly find Poindexter running some new bizarre program for the Jeb Bush administration.

Posted by Nathan at 9:35pm PDT.

It really is 1991 all over again. 7-29-03

Bush in the White House, a war in Iraq, an economy going south, and now an equivalent to the Rodney King case.

As some have pointed out, this parallel is a good omen for popular music, but bad for the country as a whole.

Posted by Nathan at 3:25pm PDT.

Open-mouthed shock.

I can't even begin to fathom the logic behind this.

Posted by Nathan at 10:11pm PDT.

On the warpath. 7/28/03

Say what one will about his motives, Bob Graham has been making quite a case for himself for running mate in '04. The old blue dog's taste for Bush's best slippers, so to speak, combined with his unimpeachable Florida credentials, make it hard, at this point, not to hope he ends up on the ticket.

Not to nitpickers: Yes I know that"blue dog" technically implies House membership, but it's such a great term for conservative southern Dems that I wholeheartedly advocate an expansion of the definition.

Posted by Nathan at 9:08pm PDT.

Me and Lorenzo/rolling in a Benzo. 7-23-03

It seems the Chicago police have long memories, none-too-subtly describing in a community alert a suspected sexual predator as resembling the highly-successful anti-establishment-rapper-turned-mainstream-actor, Ice Cube. The Chicago police were no doubt quick to think of Ice Cube's face because they never quite got over his primary authorship of the hit 1989 song,"F--- Tha Police."

Though there may have been legitimate gripes at the time about the song provoking anti-police violence in impressionable listeners, the behavior by Chicago's finest 14 years later is, of course, quite irresponsible.

Posted by Nathan at 3:53pm PDT.

Those durned Makhmalbafs! 7-23-03

Like the Pitt's, the Makhmalbaf's keep producing younger and younger talent, and thus shaming your 22-year old humble blogger. 20 I can handle, but 14!?


Posted by Nathan at 3:19pm PDT.

The good doctor lays it on the line. 7-22-03

Woe be to our country if Dr. Hunter S. Thompson is correct in his prognosis. A little taste:

The Stock Market will never come back, our Armies will never again be No. 1, and our children will drink filthy water for the rest of our lives.

Dangerous stuff, eh?

Posted by Nathan at 11:26pm PDT.

The Phantom Menace? 7-09-03

With the press and Democrats regaining their backbone as stability in Iraq seems farther on the horizon with each passing day, is the real danger to Bush's re-election the Federal Reserve? So says Robert Novak, and he's got a point.

If Bush can limit the casualties--pulling the 3rd Infantry and inserting some unnamed foreign division will definitely help--who's to say the American public really cares if there's a political and humanitarian disaster in Iraq. No one seems to mind about Afghanistan. The only damage I see the administration taking from Iraq (unless the allegations of WMD evidence falsification lead somewhere) is if Saddam somehow regains some visible position of power, even if only regional warlordship.

Oh, and Bill Safire has established a direct telephone link to hell somehow.

Posted by Nathan at 8:33pm PDT.

Yes,"bring them on." 7-02-03

Assuming that the mission is to be well-thought out (not always a given, as we've seen), I applaud the reported intention of the White House to send 500-1,000 Marines to

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More Comments:

Sam Trowell - 8/6/2003

The Lenny Bruce era may have spelt a sea change to Bob Hope-style comedy, but Hope appreciated talent. In a Playboy interview that I read years ago, Hope referred to Bruce as the funniest comedian that he ever watched perform. He spoke of one night when Lenny realized that he was in the audience. Bruce said (something like) "This one's for you Bob- here's my impersonation of Jack Paar taking a shit". He then sat in a chair just offstage, wrapped the stage curtain around himself so all that was showing was his face, which he then contorted as if struggling painfully with the task at hand. Hope said he fell out of his chair laughing.

Nathan Williams - 7/5/2003

It's so clever, I can't imagine it hasn't already been taken. Nevertheless, I shall research the matter...

Pat - 7/5/2003

Artful blogger

Nathan Williams - 5/14/2003

Perhaps I should have made myself more clear, or perhaps dry (or bad) senses of humor don't translate well to blogging. The Illinois students and Chatterbox make convincing arguments that I, who know Deep Throat only as Hal Holbrook, can't really judge. My link to infamous producer was a joke, but he did have a very close relationship with Kissinger at the time.

Don't worry, you aren't the first to be confused by my comments on the matter. And thanks for writing.

Rayna - 5/13/2003

So you don't think it's Fielding? I found their argument, coupled with that of Slate's Chatterbox's quite compelling. As to your hint, is there a particular reason why it is a link to Robert Evans?

Nathan - 4/11/2003

It seems we were both overly pessimistic. However, I would have felt the same way given the evidence available at the time.

Perhaps the biggest difference between '45 Berlin and '03 Baghdad is that the United States, while an invading and occupying power, does not quite strike the fear of brutal reprisal and racial antipathy that Germans might have felt in regards to their Russian invaders. Let us hope our occupation is more sucessful than the Russian as well.

Thanks for your comment.

Mark - 3/31/2003

I concur with your assessment that an assault on Baghdad has greater similarity to the fall of Berlin than the debacle at Stalingrad. Given the complete collapse of communication, discipline, supply and morale within the German troops in Berlin in those waning days; and given the unbelievable firepower assembled by the Soviet forces (e.g. hundreds of 230mm assault guns!) it is remarkable that the Soviets still suffered such appalling casualties. German troops were limited to small arms and "rolling Stukas" (aka a Panzerfaust mounted on a bicycle) Both OKH and OKW had established headquarters far outside the city. And the Twelth Army and Ninth Army were trying to reach each other and the Western Allies, not Berlin.

With Baghdad it is a much different story. The Republican Guard are rested, fed and well supplied. Their morale is reportedly high and their command structure is largely entact.

I fear they will not go quietly into that good night.