Rachael Ray is Awesome

See, I had a back-of-the-head, casual hatred of Rachael Ray before today. The excessive abbreviations (E.V.O.O? delish?), the pervasive Dunkin’ Donuts ads, the general giddiness – it was all too much for me. But that was before I learned she not only attends South by Southwest, she brings great acts along with her:

Yes, we already knew foodie superstar Rachael Ray is an indie rock fan — she put twee group the Boy Least Likely To (along with Nellie McKay and Puffy Amiyumi) on her Too Cool for School Mixtape for Kids back in the fall of 2006.

But there’s a big difference between the Boy Least Likely To’s gentle coos and the abrasive instrumental art rock purveyed by Battles and Holy Fuck. I mean, if you try cooking to this stuff, you might end up with a whole arm chopped up in a blender.

Regardless, we’ve just received confirmation that yes, Rachael Ray did indeed invite Battles to perform at her SXSW party. And Holy Fuck too! (Can you even say that word on the Food Network?) Alas, Battles won’t be participating– they aren’t doing SXSW at all this year. No word yet on Holy Fuck.

Boy Least Likely To is a great band, but it’s a band I could imagine someone as professionally effervescent as Ray would like; “Be Gentle With Me” and “I’m Glad I Hitched My Apple Wagon to Your Star” aren’t exactly the hardest rocking tunes ever written.

But Battles? Creators of the 50 minute cosmic death-rattle that is Mirrored (#7 album of 2007), Battles? Authors of the guitar-slime slicking, glam-rock stomping epic that is “Atlas” (#3 song of 2007), Battles?

And Holy Fuck? Their name is Holy Fuck. The Rachel Ray I thought I knew would see that name on the album cover and run away very fast to listen to Feist or something. But she didn’t. She invited them to a party she was throwing. At a hipster-friendly culture festival. I love this woman.

P.S. Yes, yes I am watching the debate right now. But it’s mostly civil, though, and, well, Rachael Ray’s awesomeness is breaking news.

Meeting the Spartans

Mocking the films of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer is roughly as easy as breathing, but then again Josh Levin’s take-down is just so perfect that it’s worthy of commendation:

Isn’t it massive consumer fraud to charge $10.50 for a barely hour-long movie? Perhaps, but it would’ve been unforgivable to make Meet the Spartans any longer than an hour. This was the worst movie I’ve ever seen, so bad that I hesitate to label it a “movie” and thus reflect shame upon the entire medium of film. Friedberg and Seltzer do not practice the same craft as P.T. Anderson, David Cronenberg, Michael Bay, Kevin Costner, the Zucker Brothers, the Wayans Brothers, Uwe Boll, any dad who takes shaky home movies on a camping trip, or a bear who turns on a video camera by accident while trying to eat it. They are not filmmakers. They are evildoers, charlatans, symbols of Western civilization’s decline under the weight of too many pop culture references.

Though I think something has to be for Amelie Gillette’s assertion that Friedberg and Seltzer are “simultaneously smarter and stupider than all of us”: despite their films’ readily evident horribleness, Meet the Spartans is #1 at the box office, besting even Rambo (frickin’ Rambo!). They’re able to make millions of dollars while simultaneously being held in lower regard than a typical sex criminal by the general public. It’s a paradoxical tragedy for the ages.

Electability

I don’t think anyone can really argue that Hillary is more electable than Obama after watching this:

Now, Chuck Norris is with Huckabee, of course, and Sly Stallone’s with McCain. But before today, no action-movie strongman had endorsed either of the Democratic candidates. How would the Democrats win in November if they had to face Walker, Texas Ranger or, worse yet, the deadly combination of Rocky and Rambo? Now that Obama has the backing of the star of Santa with Muscles (holding strong at #29 on the IMDB Bottom 100), as well as the host of American Gladiators, it’s clear that he has the raw human strength to hold his own against either Republican killing-machine/surrogate. But who will be laying the smack down on Rambo for Hillary? No one, that’s who.

Via Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein.

Drop-Outs

So both Rudy Giuliani and John Edwards will drop out of the race today, Edwards in New Orleans and Giuliani in Simi Valley. Giuliani will endorse McCain, while Edwards will not endorse immediately, though Obama seems to be courting his nod. Both these events are for the good, I imagine. Regular readers know I hate Edwards with a passion, and I legitimately feared for the future of humanity when contemplating a White House populated by the likes of Norm Podhoretz and Dan Pipes.

The electoral implications, however, are more complicated. As Matt Yglesias says, Giuliani’s drop-out, coupled as it is with a McCain endorsement, combined with Huckabee staying in the race, will all but guarantee McCain the nod, as Romney will have to surpass both the pro-war/independent base of McCain and the evangelicals behind Huckabee, and winning without those groups is practically impossible. And given as McCain will be much, much harder to defeat in a general election than Romney (though I’m sure it can be done), this is bad. Meanwhile, I could go on for hours debating whether Edwards’ drop-out will help Hillary or Obama in and of itself. An endorsement, of course, would lead to a definite net gain for the candidate endorsed, but without that I really don’t know which way it’ll go. On the one hand, Edwards and Clinton both get blue-collar support; on the other hand, Edwards and Obama were splitting the “change” vote. On the one hand, Edwards and Obama were the two left-of-center candidates; on the other hand, Edwards is often mistakenly viewed as conservative. Dana Goldstein’s piece on the matter is inconclusive, and cites a national poll showing that Edwards voters prefer Clinton to Obama, but not by much. So I really don’t know. Hopefully the apparent offers on the part of the Obama campaign to make Edwards Attorney General will work out, he’ll endorse, the combined Obama/Edwards might will lead to a landslide victory on February 5th, and then Obama will renege on the AG promise. Hey, a boy can dream.

So, for now, let’s give a hearty congratulations to Dan Drezner, who, while not endorsing any candidate, undorsed both Giuliani and Edwards on the basis of their godawful Foreign Affairs pieces. And someone ought to send some bouquets in the general direction of Neil the Ethical Werewolf and, most of all, Petey, the most committed, hardcore Edwards supporter ever to dominate Matt Ygleisas, Ezra Klein, and TAPPED’s comment threads. They both made the primary season more intellectual and entertaining, and they deserve props for that.

The South Carolina Bounce

Hartford Courant poll of Connecticut Democratic Primary voters, conducted from January 9th to 17th:

Clinton: 41%
Obama: 27%
Edwards: 9%

Rasmussen poll of Connecticut Democratic Primary voters, conducted January 27th:

Obama: 40%
Clinton: 40%
Edwards: 11%

Note that the Rasmussen poll contacted more people (900) than the Courant one (400). I’m feeling pretty good about Super Tuesday if there’s a dead heat in Clinton’s home area.

Non-Victory Victory

I know he’s a sexist asshole, but I love Chris Matthews right now, as he talks about Hillary’s “victory” in Florida: “this is fake”, “this doesn’t count”, “this is a renegade primary”, and the best one, “Clinton is currently celebrating her winning of zero delegates”. Awesome.

The Second World

When it came out this past weekend, I didn’t immediately leap to read the excerpt from The Second World by Parag Khanna in the New York Times Magazine because, well, it looked like it sucked. From the reception it was getting, there didn’t seem to be much other than “The Rise & Fall of Great Powers (2008 Remix)”, and considering how right the original version turned out to be (didn’t the US decline in power from 1987 to 2000?), I was inclined to disregard the retread. I briefly considered giving it a looksie after Dan Nexon praised it, but thankfully Drezner was there to set me straight:

I will heap praise on Khanna’s agent for getting the excerpt placed into the Magazine. There’s less demand than there used to be for prose stylings that read like Benjamin Barber after a three-day coke bender in Macao.

Ouch. And I mean that even excluding the Macao coke bender. Comparing anything to Benjamin Barber, the kind of person who thinks the neologism “McWorld” is clever, is and should be a tremendous insult.

On more substantive ground, I think Robert Farley is right to bring up Ken Waltz’s quip that “To say that militarily strong states are feeble because they cannot easily bring order to minor states is like saying that a pneumatic hammer is weak because it is not suitable for drilling decayed teeth.” Waltz is wrong on a lot of things, but he gets this right. Hegemony is not omnipotence; it’s relative coercive strength. And relative to other states in the system, America’s coercive strength is huge. 48% of the world’s defense spending is done by us; next in line are China, Russia, the UK, and Japan, with about 4-5% a piece. We spend more than the next 14 countries put together. Our GDP is more than triple that of the #2 slot holder, Japan, and more than quadruple that of #3, Germany, and #4, China. The EU’s is slightly larger, but to consider that a functional state-like entity is a conceit on Khanna’s part that bears no relation to reality. In every quantifiable way, we aren’t just more powerful than any other country, we dwarf our nearest competitors. Unless something dramatic happens to either disrupt our economic growth and military spending, or to outrageously increase those in another nation, we should expect to keep our position in the international system for a good long while. Let’s make the best of it.