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What’s Not to Link?

Movable Snipe is the Jewcy feature where two pen-pals spend a week reading five blogs and offering valentines or vivisections.

Your Snipers this week are Jonathan Ames, bestselling author of What's Not To Love?, My Less Than Secret Life and Wake Up, Sir! (a semiconscious neo-wastrel's homage to Wodehouse), and Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon fame and lately the John Edwards '08 blog contretemps. (Both Jonathan and Amanda are unloved by Bill Donahue of the Catholic League. Not that there's anything provocatively self-promoting about that…)

This week's lineup:

1. Jewlicious: All right, this amounts to Jewish web incest, but fuck it. Jewlicious is the endearing garage band you hope never really makes it because that would rob them of their entitlement to make fun of sell-outs like us. 2. The News Blog: Steve Gilliard's answer to the netroots phenomenon. Hey, if that "No Surge" banner reminds you of Sheryl Crow's less-than-influential "No War" guitar strap back in '03, that's probably fine by him.

3. Gothamist: This is what people who were too cool to watch Sex and City read to get that same "God, I wish I lived in New York" jones satisfied.

4. The Revealer: More incest. We're pretty gemutlich with Jeff Sharlet and his little online experiment in religion and media coverage. But Jeff doesn't like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and we do. It's on, bubbelah.

5. Maud Newton: Dig that American Typewriter font and that liberal use of the paragraph symbol. Less twee than The Believer, more subtle than Bookslut. If James Agee were still around, he'd be reading Maud.

Amanda begins.

– Michael Weiss

To: Jonathan Ames From: Amanda Marcotte Subject: I Really Do Hate Religion as Much as Bill O’Reilly Says

Dear Jonathan,

I can’t be too saucy about The News Blog this week. Steve Gilliard has been a huge influence on my blogging over the years and I’ve met him in person, so his recent illness troubles me on a personal level. Steve’s in the 99th percentile of bloggers in terms of basic common political sense, so I miss his blogging terribly.

That said, it’s heartening to see all the people donating strong, interesting blog posts. When I started blogging, there wasn’t really any concept of guest blogging, but nowadays it’s expected, much like having someone feed your pets while you’re gone. On the surface, it seems like there’s no reason to do it, since the whole point of blogs is at-will publishing, not at all like a newspaper with deadlines and column space to fill. But if you blog for any time at all, it makes perfect sense. You really get a sense of how your readers refresh the page multiple times a day, praying for interesting new content, and you begin to feel, well, much like you have a hungry pet to feed.

That or you don’t want your traffic to dwindle while you’re gone.

The Revealer is one of those blogs I keep meaning to add to my insanely thick RSS reader and then I don’t do it. I really should, because every time someone sends me a link from them, I’m pumping my fist in the air and saying, “Hells yeah!” Because I really do hate religion as much as Bill O’Reilly says, and possibly more, even more than I hate cute pictures of babies with bowls of spaghetti dumped over their heads. Naturally, there’s an intellectual veneer to the relentless liberal bigotry.

This article, for instance, purports to be an examination of the life of rogue Catholic Archbishop-cum-Moonie Emmanuel Milingo, but I’m sure a determined right wing nut could detect loathsome anti-Catholic bigotry as the motivation for this piece, especially if it were politically expedient to do so.

If it wasn’t the week of SXSW here in Austin, I would probably feel more longing to get out of our more slow-paced city and into New York when I read Maud Newton and The Gothamist. (Though Maud is apparently a home girl of sorts, being as she is from Dallas.) How much am I in love with this story about an errant penis snuck into an illustration in the first printing of Huck Finn? Good to see the sneaky penis tradition predates the Little Mermaid scandal by a good century.

As a proper paranoid feminist, I have to point out that it serves our phallic-worshipping culture right. You put symbolic penises everywhere for people to ogle and eventually someone’s going to think it’s funny to put some more literal penises ones out there.

I disagree with Daphne Merkin. I think there should be more, not fewer, Jewish websites with really terrible puns in the name. Religion drives far too many wedges between people, and here we have an excellent opportunity to draw people together in the shared joy of groaning while trying to suppress juvenile snickers at silly puns.

I like Jewlicious already, since they engage in what I hear is my favorite bloodsport, taking angry swipes at institutional Catholicism. Granted, the real beef isn’t with church doctrine so much as with some German bishops who made comments comparing the Warsaw Ghetto with a ghetto in Ramallah, without taking the time to remember that these sort of comments sound especially bad coming from German Catholics. Still, I appreciate this dustup as a classic in the genre of the culture clashes and non-apologies that rise up when there’s a steady hum of strong religious differences in the background.


To: Amanda Marcotte From: Jonathan Ames Subject: My Left Pinky and Bill Donohue's One-Man League

Dear Amanda,

I’m going to try address each of your major paragraph blocks in order. You began with talking about the The News Blog, but mostly you wrote about blogging and nothing specific about the site. I don’t say this as a criticism but just some kind of need to restate things so that it explains to the reader and to you my comments. Does that make sense?

About blogging: I’m way behind the times. I don’t read blogs and when I’ve gone to them I find them hard to navigate, and so I just don’t do it. (Except for one blog – see below when I talk about Maud Newton.)

Also, my vision is going and reading on the computer kills me or something. It’s the glare, I think. I’m a very slothful person. For two years I’ve had the name and phone number of an opthamolagist and yet I don’t call. I desperately need glasses. But I never take action in life until it’s practically too late.

I write on the computer and I play internet backgammon on the computer and this is killing my eyes. My eyes are blurry all the time and they hurt. I can’t make out people’s faces the way I used to. Maybe today, I’ll call the opthamolagist. I also have some weird condition in my hand – dupuytren’s contracture – and I need to call the hand doctor since my left pinky is starting to look like a fish-hook.

Even my 95 year-old great-aunt, whose vision may be worse than my own, said: “What’s wrong with your finger?” This was in the nursing home two weeks ago. This past week, I took her out, it was a bit warmer, and we went to a restaurant called ‘the Kosher Nosh’, located in Glen Rock, NJ. I ordered a smoked-fish plate and fed her little bits of lox, sable, and smoked whitefish, kind of the way you would feed a child, since she has, unlike a child, lost her appetite.

Then I bought her cigarettes and she smoked a Virginia Slims, which I had to get going for her by taking a hit off the thing and I nearly choked, and then I think the cigarette made her a bit sick and so she had to lie down when we got back to the nursing home. Anyway, I’m digressing . . . She wanted me to lie on the bed with her, because I was also exhausted, but I was afraid one of the nurses would come in and I’d get in trouble, though I often take a nap on her nursing-home bed and she sits in her chair and looks at me. But this is different from the two of us being in the bed together.

Well, this digression is sort of all right because I mentioned smoked-fish and I think the website we’re writing for is somehow connected to things Jewish, though I’m not entirely sure because when I went to the site I couldn’t really decipher what it was all about; this is not a fault of the site but my own blog problem.

One further thought on blogging: I used to write for the New York Press in the late 90’s and people used to really look forward to getting the Press when it came out once a week. It’s where people went for unusual, idiosyncratic writing, but now readers don’t have to wait once-a-week, they can, as you wrote, go to blogs and refresh constantly over the course of one day. So I feel the kind of writing I once did for the NY Press (I had a bi-weekly column) has been replaced by what happens in blogs. This is neither good or bad, just a change I’ve noticed.

When you mentioned The Revealer you referred to your RSS. I have no idea what that is, but I know that it must have something to do with the internet. You also mention that this site goes into issues about Catholicism, and the editor of Jewcy who asked me to do this, wrote to me something about you getting in trouble with the Catholic League, and I was wondering if the person you got in trouble with in the Catholic League is William Donohue?

If so, that fellow once wrote a letter into NY Press complaining about a column of mine. In that column, I recounted my visit to a Mexican strip club/brothel where some of the strippers were wearing Catholic schoolgirl outfits. I didn’t write that I thought this was a good thing but I did mention that the girls were awfully cute. Anyway, I think I was told by my editor at the NY Press, though my memory could be faulty, that William Donohue is the Catholic League, or at least he was back in 1999 when he wrote to the Press about me. I could be wrong about this, though. But my impression was that the guy was the self-appointed leader of a group that had only one member – himself. Nevertheless, he puts a lot of people on notice – if you make yourself President of something it helps to get your letters-to-the-editor published. Then again I could be completely wrong and there might be many members of the Catholic League. Is there a Protestant League? A Jewish League? There used to be a Negro League.

One blog I have glanced at on occasion – about once every two months – to find out what’s happening in the lit world is Maud Newton’s blog. She’s very bright and writes beautifully about books and her various passions. For example, she’s a big Graham Greene fan. I went through a Greene phase about ten years ago and read about fifteen of his novels. His use of the colon is quite remarkable.

I thought I should check out Gothamist and so I typed in Gothamist and got something completely wrong. So then I typed in and it worked, but see this is why I can’t take the internet.

There was a piece on there about how there have been no female bridge-painters, or, rather, no female bridge-painters hired. I have no strong feelings about this one way or the other. It seems like an injustice that will now be rectified. I don’t know if you need extra strong arms to hold onto cables and paint them but I’m sure women are strong enough to do this sort of job and this leads into the next subject:

I like your mention of the posting on Maud Newton of “this story about an errant penis snuck into an illustration in the first printing of Huck Finn.” And then your further mention of the “little Mermaid scandal,” which I had never heard about, and when I expertly followed your link I was shocked to see that horrific pink penis on the Little Mermaid video-box cover.

But you write that you’re a proper paranoid feminist. What do you mean by this exactly? What should a feminist be paranoid about in relation to these two things? I don’t ask in a confrontational away, but in an honest and curious way as a myopic fool/male, and I’m not talking about my organic eye problems above but a sort of intellectual blindness.

Pursuant to this, I should mention that I once had a contest called ‘The Most Phallic Building in the World Contest’ because I made a remark in an article for Slate in 2003 that living in Brooklyn with the Williamsburg Bank building was like being in a locker-room with Shaquille O’Neal, that you just had to look at the thing, and I also stated that the Williamsburg was the most phallic building in the world and then lots of people wrote to me saying that it wasn’t the most phallic building in the world. So I held a contest to determine which building is, in fact, the world’s most phallic.

Four years later, people still send me pictures of phallic buildings. Here’s a link to the contest, which was hosted by my friends at Cabinet Magazine, though I just tried the link and it didn’t work (I don’t know why): but maybe it will work later.

Your last mention had to do with Jewlicious and more Catholic issues. I more or less covered this above, though I am a bit worried that William Donohue will somehow get wind of our dialogue and give us a hard time, but I guess it won’t be too painful. But maybe he’s not even the person who gave you a hard time. Who knows? I imagine I could search the internet and find out what happened to you, but my eyes are already killing me.

I do want to say, not to appease William Donohue, though I am a people-pleaser at heart, that I like the Catholic churches. They are often so beautiful. A couple of times a year, I find myself staggering into some Catholic church and breathing in the dusty air and feeling sort of peaceful, and I meditate and pray in my own confused, agnostic, lost, disheveled, and despairing way.

And I like the fact that the Catholicism inspired Graham Greene to write so many novels of torment (see my mention of Maud Newton above.)

Well, I guess that’s it.

All the best,

Jonathan Ames

P.S. You mentioned enjoying living in Austin, TX. I am going to be there twice in the coming months. March 29th at 8pm, I will be at the Paramount Theater in the cast of the Spalding Gray play – Stories Left to Tell, and on May 3rd at 8pm, I will be telling a story as part of the Moth, and this will be at Alamo Draft House.

Check the Daily Shvitz for updates on this installment of Movable Snipe.

Click here for Day Two of this series.

Previous Movable Snipes:

John Derbyshire and Daphne Merkin [James Wolcott, Reason's Hit & Run, Design Observer, Kesher Talk, Matt Yglesias]

Michael Helke and Fiona Maazel [, , , , ]

Spencer Ackerman and Melissa Lafsky [Captain’s Quarters, Feministing, TNR's The Spine, Jossip, Wonkette]

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