Natural Disasters

Yee Cannot Expect to Be Both Grand and Comfortable


My favorite piece of Katrina journalism is still Matt Taibbi's gonzo dispatch for Rolling Stone. But Michael Lewis' story in the last New York Times Magazine is a close second.

NEXT: The New Coke Times

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  1. Sean Penn, Matt Tabbi, and David Brinkley climb into a van…

    Heard it!

  2. But joe, this is different! Instead of being characters IN a joke, they ARE the joke.

  3. Wow, you’re going to feel like a real asshole once you read the story.

  4. Wow, indeed. I finished some time ago–despite the author’s valiant efforts to put me to sleep.

    And really, young man, you need to watch your language.

  5. The Tabbi story is steaming pile of derivative crap. I found much of it inherently incredible, or at least so distorted by the author’s attempt to be hip and ironic that I couldn’t be bothered trying to figure out what might really have happened.

  6. Really, R C? You thought it a steaming pile? I thought it more like a fossilized pile. A steaming pile would be disgusting, but at least it would be fresh and useful for fertilizer. Well, we agree it was crap at any rate.

  7. I’ll be the voice of dissent here and say that I thought the Rolling Stone article was very well done.

  8. “Derivative” of what, R.C.? It’s obviously in the Hunter Thompson tradition, but unlike all those unreadable HST knockoffs, it achieves the effect of Thompson’s best work, as opposed to simply recycling gonzo cliches about “bad craziness,” “fear and loathing,” etc. Taibbi’s story is filled with asides so good that they could have carried the weight of an entire article on their own. I’ve disliked some other stuff he’s written, but this… if you want to criticize it as journalism, I’m all ears, but as a piece of writing it’s exceptional.

    But I’ve already linked to it twice before. The Lewis article is actually new. Anyone have anything to say about it?

  9. Number 6

    You’re a far more patient and forgiving person than I. Ah well.

  10. I found the writing superb, but the story uninteresting.

    I’ve got caring about Sean Penn pencilled in somewhere after December 12, 2012.

  11. Jesse Walker-The NYTimes article is good so far, but I just started it. Some very nice writing in the first half, though.

  12. I felt exactly the opposite, jf. I thought the story, including the details Tabbi describes, compelling, but I felt like he strained a bit much to try and sound like Thompson.

  13. JMoore, I have it on good authority that when someone starts using The Bad Swear Words, you don’t have to read their posts anymore. Particularly if they’ve already publicly accused you of saying something you never said.

  14. Phil

    hahaha. I saw that little exchange today. Normally, I am averse to the naughty words, but sometimes they do seem deserved. Well done.

    Although, on that issue, I prefer to keep out; I don’t have a dog in that hunt.

  15. geez, Phil, you’re pretty touchy, aren’t ya?

  16. ‘”Run! Run!” screamed a man among the hordes trying to outrun the chopper. “It’s the president!”‘

    Fortunately, the absurd demagoguery of the left is a victimless crime.

  17. Yeah, anti-me (don’t touch, we’ll annihilate each other!), I have this . . . thing about people telling lies concerning what I do and don’t believe. I’m jes’ tetchy that way.

  18. “I have this . . . thing about people telling lies concerning what I do and don’t believe.”

    Then you should probably avoid blog comment threads.


    (Ooh, made you read to the end).

  19. The NYT article is much better than the other. Taibbi was fairly interesting, but I don’t get how his conclusion follows what he actually said. He acts as if he’s exploded the “myth of America” by talking about the inept government response. Seemed like a bizzarely forced ending.

  20. Or you could just try, you know, not lying, joe. I realize that’s a tall order for you, as lies come to you so naturally, but I’m confident that you can do it.

    That $50/$250 offer still stands, by the way, but it expires at midnight ET. But you’ve never been a stand-up guy before, so I don’t expect you to start now.

  21. What do you like about it? I’m guessing the blame-the government tone, and the praise for the hardy scrappy individual, but I’ll let you answer.

    My take: Lewis captures and praises his folk: eccentric, learned, white, old southern. He adds a little bit to the puzzle, but doesn’t quite get the whole picture.

    Tries though, but can’t reconcile his competing trends: individualism, courage, mispercetion, fear.

    Take these two sentences:

    1. I convinced [Haywood] that in view of the fact that his bravery exceeded that of the entire Police Department and possibly the Armed Forces of the United States, the last thing he would look like is a wuss.
    2. [Many from the mayor on down] harbored a deep distrust of their own city and their fellow citizens – which is why they were so quick to believe the most hysterical rumors about one another.

    So which is it? Is Haywood a brave soul who believed the rumors but stood up to his fears? Or is he an individualist who harbored slightly less mistrust of his fellow citizens and figured he was better off in a hurricaine than in traffic?

  22. I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t care to know what you’re talking about. You seem to be very upset about something, and I think you should chill out.

  23. Actually, you’re developing quite a history of over the top freakouts directed at me.

    I’ll try to be aware of your particularly sensitive nature in the future.

  24. will you two get a room?

  25. I felt exactly the opposite, jf. I thought the story, including the details Tabbi describes, compelling, but I felt like he strained a bit much to try and sound like Thompson.

    We were somewhere around Baton Rouge, on the edge of the bayou, when the drugs began to take hold.

  26. Very nice article from Michael Lewis. Did not expect it from the guy who carpeted the “new, new thing” with wall-towall cliches.

  27. I’ll make it as plain as I possibly can, joe:

    You made a direct claim that I was in favor of something: “You’re the one who wants the government to subsidize your cattle-ranch-sized estate,” or whatever your precise words were. You then proceeded to level insults at me for it.

    Problem was, I never said anything of the sort, and in fact don’t want the thing you accused me of wanting.

    So you made words up, put them in my mouth, then insulted me despite the fact that I had never said them.

    I think you owe me an apology for it. You appear to think it’s just fine and dandy. If that’s the way you’re going to pose arguments, I can only conclude that you’re, well, an asshole.

    Actually, you’re developing quite a history of over the top freakouts directed at me.

    Perhaps if you didn’t regularly accuse me of holding positions I don’t hold, then insult me for those positions, that wouldn’t happen. There’s a simple solution: Don’t tell lies about people.

    Frankly, though, I don’t think you’re capable of it, because you spend too much time arguing with The Libertarian In Your Head, Who Is Really A Secret Republican, to care much what individual people actually have to say.

  28. And as far as the $50/$250 offer, I offered to make a $250 charitable donation of your choice if you could find a statement by me that even remotely approached what you said; and $50 if you would simply admit I never said any such thing, and apologize.

    Your actions tell me that you’re a man who prefers to stand on a lie when he gets caught, even when offered extra, risk-free incentive to tell the truth. Ergo, you are dishonest and not to be trusted.

  29. Yes, you’re right. As such, there’s really no point in reading, much less responding to, my comments.

    Problem solved.

  30. Yawn. So you’ve got nothin’?

  31. What I got is better things to do.

  32. Better than to apologize for lying about me? Wow, you really are dishonest. I guess in a perverse way it’s principled, but really.

  33. Jesse, the Rolling Stone article was painfully imitative of Hunter Thompson, yes. I had a hard time getting around that, and so I discounted the whole thing.

    Much of it was so lefty-filtered and distorted that I found it frankly incredible. To pick one example, do you really think soldiers refer to machine guns (even “really huge ones”, as if one SAW is bigger than the next) as “street sweepers”? Not that I have heard of. Street sweepers are full auto shotguns, and rare as hen’s teeth. Soldiers in conversation generally refer to their man-portable machine guns as “SAWs”, not as full auto shotguns.

    That one conversation with the solder reads like a lefty would imagine a conversation with a soldier would go, not how actual soldiers talk, especially while on duty. The whole thing reads that way to me – this is how a lefty imagines NO looked, how people there acted, etc.

    This is all subjective as can be, of course. Maybe there are kernels of truth scattered through the article, but I try not to make it a habit to go looking for kernels in steaming piles.

  34. Yes, Phil, even better than apologizing about “lying about you.”

    First of all, I don’t give a rat’s ass about you. Second, I haven’t lied about you. Third, I don’t give a rat’s ass about you.

  35. RC, isn’t it a little more likely that Tabbi is just misusing the term “machine gun,” and applying it to an automatic shotgun?

  36. Second, I haven’t lied about you.

    Well, of course you have, dummy. Did you not write the following statement yesterday at 10:31 am?

    Hey Phil, you fascist statist, you’re the one who wants the government to subsidize your definition of decent here.

  37. Good bye, Phil.

  38. Cat fight!!

    Anyone got a workable password/ID combo for NYT? The bugmenot offerings aren’t working.

  39. RC, isn’t it a little more likely that Tabbi is just misusing the term “machine gun,” and applying it to an automatic shotgun?

    Except I don’t think full auto shotguns are used anymore.

    To me, that exchange reads like it was written someone who had no exposure to or knowledge of guns or ordnance, trying to sound knowledgable and tough. Which is fine, except he does it by fabricating a quote. Which is a no-no, in my book.

    I just found the whole article to be full of clunkers and false notes.

  40. Whether or not the quote is accurate, he clearly isn’t “trying to sound knowledgable and tough.” The whole point is that he isn’t knowledgable and tough. If you missed the self-mockery in that passage — one of the funniest moments in the piece — then you aren’t reading very carefully.

    As for whether they’re actually using full automatic shotguns: Who knows? He’s describing a private security operation, not the official military.

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