Monday, April 04, 2005

I [Heart] Matt Taibbi

It's true, and that despite the dead pope column, which just wasn't that funny. The man occasionally flashes true genius, though, a rare enough thing and even rarer in newspaper/newsweekly columnists. I was reminded of this as I was perusing righty blogs, and came across this woefully misinformed Vodkapundit post:

Tom Friedman needs to stop using poker analogies:

And this poker hand is seven-card stud, no-limit Texas Hold 'Em.

If you don't know, in Seven Card Stud, each player is dealt seven cards. Two down, then four up, then one down. There is betting after each card is dealt, starting with the first up card.

Texas Hold'em is an entirely different beast.

As Taibbi observes, though, mixing metaphors is Friedman's stock in trade:
The hallmark of the Friedman method is a single metaphor, stretched to column length, that makes no objective sense at all and is layered with other metaphors that make still less sense. The result is a giant, gnarled mass of incoherent imagery. When you read Friedman, you are likely to encounter such creatures as the Wildebeest of Progress and the Nurse Shark of Reaction, which in paragraph one are galloping or swimming as expected, but by the conclusion of his argument are testing the waters of public opinion with human feet and toes, or flying (with fins and hooves at the controls) a policy glider without brakes that is powered by the steady wind of George Bush’s vision.

Another gem:

"The Long Bomb," March 2. On the eve of war, Friedman puts us in a special kind of movie theater, one that has movable chairs instead of seats: "If this were not about my own country, my own kids and my own planet," he writes, "I’d pop some popcorn, pull up a chair and pay good money just to see how this drama unfolds." (Is there a place in the world where one can pop one’s own popcorn and then "pay money" to watch something?) But as it turns out, we’re watching not a movie, but a crap game; Bush is about to undertake a "shake of the dice." By the third paragraph, Bush has abandoned dice for football: he is about to throw "The Long Bomb." We then find out that Friedman’s wife is opposed to the war, but soon go back to the crap game and the "audacious shake of the dice." In the end, we find out that this has not been craps or football all along, but shop class:

"So here’s how I feel," he concludes. "I feel as if the president is presenting us with a beautiful carved mahogany table–a big, bold, gutsy vision. But if you look underneath, you discover that this table has only one leg. His bold vision on Iraq is not supported by boldness in other areas."

This must be derived from the popular expression: "He sure has guts. Like a mahogany table." Only in this case, the guts only have one leg.

I was assigned Friedman's book The Olive Tree and the Lexus this semester, and lemmee tell ya: Taibbi ruined it for me. I couldn't actually read the book; I was way too busy trying to figure out how the electric herd could build a mass transit system to download the supernovas of ingenuity. I almost got whiplash from constantly shaking my head in exasperation.