Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Spam filter

from: nickysam74
subject: Really enjoy nights?
body: Adamize your Eve

from: azitaco
subject: If your spaceship needs power
body: Tarzan's fervor for you

In the style of Jon Schwarz

Digby, on the 2004 tsunami, December 26, 2009:
This was one of the most hideous catastrophes of a decade of hideous catastrophes. But the consensus is that they've managed to come back fairly smartly.

I recall watching the footage on the days after Christmas back in 2004 and then seeing the global response and feeling that the post-9/11 paranoia might be starting to lift a little bit. Global cooperation was in, at least for a little while. US soldiers were deployed to help not make war. It was horrible and life affirming at the same time.
Digby, December 21, 2009:
I think I need to get out my copy of "The Shock Doctrine" again.
From the introduction to Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine:
...I travelled to Sri Lanka, several months after the devastating 2004 tsunami, and witnessed another version of the same manoeuvre: foreign investors and international lenders had teamed up to use the atmosphere of panic to hand the entire beautiful coastline over to entrepreneurs who quickly built large resorts, blocking hundreds of thousands of fishing people from rebuilding their villages.
There's also an entire chapter about it. Yeah, Digby, you need to get out your copy again. Maybe read it this time.

Monday, December 28, 2009

I guess irritating atheists are my current obsession

The Friendly Atheist says, of any and all religious, spiritual, mystical, metaphysical, or whatever beliefs: "It’s dangerous because if you start believing in something without evidence, you’re more susceptible to believe other irrational things."

The Friendly Atheist needs to find me a study that shows that, otherwise I'm considering it something he believes in without evidence.

I also like his ridiculous take on the event that inspired his post: some Liberians claim that some human hunters transform into other animals. Some highly literal white asshole makes a sarcastic offer of $1000 ("Hey, I've got money to spare, why not offer it to and then withhold it from some dumb Africans!") if someone can demonstrate this to his satisfaction. A Liberian, who probably does not have $1000 lying around to glibly play with, takes him up on it, fails. This, to the Friendly Atheist, is a "Liberian Manimal Scam." Someone needs to give the Friendly Atheist a dictionary, help him look up "scam" and "friendly."

Cartooning

I rarely find xkcd funny anymore, but on rare (but frequent enough to make it worth reading regularly) occasions, it is beautiful. Today's strip is beautiful and informative, a nifty visual representation of the relative gravity wells of the various bodies of our solar system, and of how difficult it is to escape them.

Somebody lied

I say it's hip to be alive.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Tidings of the season or whatever

Aside from the fact that I have an aesthetic appreciation for spiritual mystery, and aside also from the fact that I have a fairly strong desire to have, or at least understand, what people call a religious experience, I'm an atheist. Even if those two asides wouldn't eternally separate me from the bulk of Internet atheists, their absolutely insane failure to engage with the world as it is, while claiming that they're the rational ones, would do the trick. Like, whenever they act like the 9/11 attacks wouldn't have happened without religion, I feel like stabbing. Religion wasn't the motivation--it wasn't even the stated motivation. To believe so is to ignore a trillion facts, American imperialism being a big honkin' one of them. That's just one example; they exhibit the same fanatic blindness on a huge number of fronts. Another that's been pissing me off a lot recently is their assertion that religion, and religious organizations, have been holding back human progress for millennia--an assertion made in the absence of a control (i.e., an alternate universe where human civilization developed without religion), resting on the unquestioned assumption that human progress is in itself necessarily a good, and ignoring entirely the role that many religions have played in advancing knowledge to focus only on their role in suppressing it. In other words, a completely unscientific assertion.

Anyway, I bring this all up because PZ Myers pissed me off the other day. He links to an article about this Reverend Tim Jones, an almost completely awesome (judging by the article*) C of E priest in England who recently gave a sermon saying that if your financial situation leads to a situation where you have to steal, make sure you steal from large corporations rather than local businesses. For some reason that Myers apparently does not feel the need to explain (I'm guessing it's because a religious person said it), he thinks this is terrible advice. I suppose he wants the poor of North Yorkshire to starve rather than steal from multinational corporations.

As for me, my only complaint about the sermon is that it doesn't go far enough. Father Jones should be actively encouraging his parishioners, even those who don't need to, to steal from large corporations. They fucking steal from us enough. It's the only moral thing to do.

Merry Christmas! I should be back in a few days, ready to tell you all about the beautiful acts of consumerism my family will have engaged in on my behalf.

*I don't share his concern about Playboy stationery being marketed to children, but seeing him throw it on the ground in the stores was at least probably pretty hilarious.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Barf

My contention has always been that Kanye West is actually a vehemently racist white man in blackface making fun of his ignorant concept of Blackness in general and hip-hop in particular. Meanwhile, Lady Gaga's vaunted feminism has always seemed fake to me, just another emptily ironic hipster gesture (I'm all for irony, but only in the service of something, rather than the nothing that is Lady Gaga). Somehow, this picture doesn't do much in the way of convincing me that I was wrong about either of those things.

QBQ! Chapter One: A Picture of Personal Accountability (part two)

Part One, in case you missed it.

Before I take the polar bear plunge back in to the icy waters of John G. Miller's psychotic book, I would like to point out that in comments on the first installment the indispensable JRB pointed me in the direction of John G. Miller's Amazon page, whereupon I had to immediately change my pants. First of all, I was startled and intrigued to learn that he has a photograph of himself there without a mustache, which blew my mind. And before I had fully recovered from that, I learned that, dude, he has a blog there. OK, there are only three entries in it since the first in November of 2007, but each one is a perfect little morsel of inanity (sic, or you can put an s in there if you'd like). JRB pointed out the second blog entry (blentry) in particular, and I cannot recommend it to you highly enough. To summarize, in this blentry Mr. Miller responds to a reader writing to praise a particular bank for avoiding the risky behavior that has landed a lot of banks in trouble recently (the words "risky," "landed," and "trouble" should be interpreted as comedy on my part, so laugh damn you). A questionable sentiment to be sure, but at least well intended. So how does Mr. Miller respond? By making fun of foreclosed-on homeowners for blaming anyone but themselves. Ha ha ha! I want to listen to what this man has to say!

So here I go.

When we left off, we were about to "take a look at (our occasionally mustachioed hero's) server's thinking and the choices he made." So let's take that look. Johnny Boy summarizes the situation for us again (lunch rush, busy, customer not in his section, guy goes out of his way for some reason most likely having to do with his estimation of potential tip quantities, though Miller would never consider that because he probably doesn't even tip, the bastard). Miller gives us an exciting list of questions that he thinks "many people" would have asked in this situation:
"Why do I have to do everything around here?"
"Who's supposed to be covering this area, anyway?"
"When is management going to provide us with more products?"
"Why are we always so short-staffed?"
"When are the customers going to learn to read the menu?"
Aside from the ludicrous third one, these all strike me as reasonable questions (and even that third one has a kernel of sense in it, namely, why doesn't management allow us to have what we need to do what they demand we do). According to Miller, though,
these are lousy questions. They're negative and don't solve any problems. Throughout the rest of the book we'll refer to questions like these as Incorrect Questions, or IQs, since nothing positive or productive comes from asking them [Ethan interjecting here to point out that no dictionary reads "incorrect, adj. having no positive or productive result"]. They're also the complete opposite of personal accountability, because in each one, the implication is that someone or something else is responsible for the problem or situation.
More specifically, John, they implicate our betters in the problem, which is unforgivable. We must always focus our problems, our anger, inwards or, failing that, downwards--never upwards. Luckily, JG is here to tell us how to do that. After lingering lovingly on that worst of all words, "opportunity," he begins the downward slide to the bolded sentence-fragment paragraph that has been a stylistic inevitability since first we saw the book's cover.
The moment the IQs pop into our heads, we have a choice. We can either accept them--"Yeah, when are we going to get more help around here?"--or reject them, choosing instead to ask better, more accountable questions such as "What can I do to make a difference?" and "How can I support the team?"

This, in a nutshell, is the essence of the QBQ:

Making better choices in the moment by asking better questions.
You'll notice that he has yet to define what better means in this context. This is because if he did, no one would be able to avoid realizing that he does not mean better for you. He means better for the masters, the bosses. After all, if we're not questioning our unreasonable work environments, but rather working ourselves to death within them to "support the team," then we're not organizing, not unionizing, not working together to better our situations; rather, we're staking ourselves against one another to better their profits.

The chapter ends with an unreadable anecdote about the author returning to the restaurant a few months later, asking for this same server by name, and learning that he's been promoted to a non-server position. The conclusions Miller draws from this are obvious (why he assumes that the server is now "on his way toward his chosen goals," emphasis mine, is less obvious), but I'm more interested in this: in the anecdote, Miller refers to the poor guy as "my own personal server." Which leads me to a very, very practical, immediate, and non-political reason why those unfortunates who work in customer service should never go out of their way for a customer: if you do it, ever, for any reason, that customer will think they have a personal relationship with you. They will always expect the same in the future, no matter what, and frequently will tell friends that they can expect it, too. These people will, almost without fail, become very angry and demanding when they don't get what they want, every time. Anyone who has worked in any service position knows this, and it is the most certain way to make an impossible work situation a thousand times worse.

QBQ! Table of Contents

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Where it's due

I make fun of Melissa McEwan and her creepy creepy cult from time to time, so I feel like it's my duty to point out that she and the rest of them actually make really good points on rare occasions (though they are generally still surrounded by overly cutesy, trite, groupthink internet talk). Like this:
I know I'm a big poopypants and everything, but I hate gendered anthropomorphized toys, because they're almost always male. It's "Chuck the Truck" and "Thomas the Tank Engine" (yeah, I know it's a cartoon, but a cartoon obviously designed with marketing toys in mind) and blah blah, which reflects little boys' male personhood back to them, whereas the EZ-Bake Oven isn't "Shirley the Oven" -- "girls' toys" just underline girls' need to engage in service and don't reflect back any personhood at all, unless it's a babydoll, which is a person that the girl needs to care for.

So kids who play with "boys' toys" get the message that being male is being a person, and kids who play with "girls' toys" get the message that being female is being a servant to chores and other people.

Disturbing, right?
Yep, it is disturbing. It's amazing that no matter how many deep-rooted carriers of our culture's misogyny one becomes conscious of, there are always more waiting to jump out at you. I mean, the only major exception to this rule that I can think of is that Barbie is also a person, and really, if the best thing you've got going for you is Barbie, you're pretty much screwed.

My city in the snow

Beautiful. No shots of my part of town, sadly, but those buses are a big part of my life. 1:59 to about 3:03 I hope conveys a bit why I don't mind being a bus person, even in the cold, even when I complain about it.



(source)

Planetary systems, as they form

We can look at them. Each one of those blown up squares is what's called a proplyd, which is a disk of dense gasses circling a star. Many of them will eventually coalesce into planetary systems, like our own or any of the hundreds we know of, and countless billions more that surely exist. That we can just look at this happening is beyond all words.

Also beyond all words is the fact that each of those tiny little squares in the larger image is alone larger than the human mind can comprehend.

YEMEN!!!

So we're bombing Yemen now, huh? You know, the Bush administration called it a Global War, but they at least just picked a small handful of countries and stuck to them, at least in terms of really active killing. Now we're really, truly taking it global.

Dollhouse

So on the show the Rossum Corporation serves as a stand-in for pretty much all of human society as it is today--programming us in ways that keep us down, essentially. And we also know that it's going to bring about the end of civilization within the next ten years.

And then there's the main characters on the show, who are fighting the Rossum Corporation (aka society, remember) from within and trying to gain an independent identity--in other words, trying to bring about an end to civilization from inside of it. In so doing, they are fighting to prevent the end of civilization.

I don't really understand how corporate media manages to produce art that is not only good but important and actually relevant, but every once in a while it does. Dollhouse is one of these times.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Benadryl blogging (100th post!)

I was going to do the conclusion of chapter one of QBQ tonight but this stuff has me higher than a kite. It could be used recreationally, I mean it. So, raincheck on that. Happy postiversary to blog!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Enemy combatants

Chris Floyd points out something very important that I haven't seen anyone else mention: our first Black president has brought back the concept of people who aren't legally people. He's also successfully argued that torture ain't no thang. Dr. King would be so proud of his legacy.

R.I.P. Dan O'Bannon

The effects in Dark Star are pretty amazing, even if half the movie isn't, and the other half of the movie is pretty great at times, too. He also did Alien and Total Recall, without which I would not want to live. Rest in peace.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

tomorrow's worlds

i for one am thrilled about the recent discovery of a nearby super-earth that potentially has one of the requirements for life. (12 parsecs away, 1974 - 1980. should be getting there soon.) here are two specific reasons why:

1. it further promotes public interest in space. even if only for short time.

2. it opens up the possibility for me to witness one of our future geniocratic leaders yell, "SEND HIM TO SUPER EARTH!" when dealing with those opposed to the Solution.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

ovwoonderhaus

this is for us. mostly us:

http://ovwoonder.tumblr.com/

Wait...

The Lou Reed?

Climate change

Digby has had an embarrassing series of posts (one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight) recently where she tries to figure out just what the dickens could possibly cause anyone to engage in climate change denialism. The usual complaints the liberals trot out against their traditional rival team, the Wingnuts, are once again trotted out, and as usual it's a hilarious bunch of narcissism. My favorite is probably the second one, where she approvingly quotes the reliably narrow Amanda Marcotte ("I think she nailed it") saying that it's all about pissing off liberals. Honestly. And I suppose, Digby, that you support gay marriage just to piss of conservatives? What a load of self-adoring nonsense.

Now, I am not by any means a climate change denialist. I'm pretty much 100% sure that anthropogenic climate change is going to severely wreak havoc on human (and other) society within my lifetime. Millions will die, many more millions will be displaced, starve, suffer, and eventually also die. It's going to be very, very bad. The science overwhelmingly indicates this.

However, the people who deny all this (and I'm talking about people, not creatures like politicians and businessmen), though they are wrong, have very good reason to think it's all a bunch of shit. Many of the most vocal climate change celebrities (as opposed to scientists; I'm talking now about creatures like Al Gore here) stand to profit immensely off of the systems they propose to combat this catastrophe--systems that deniers and intellectually honest advocates alike readily recognize are wholly inadequate. And really, what are any of us to make of Al Gore, who claims that this is the struggle of his life, but who was a member of the administration that neutered and neutered and neutered the Kyoto accords before they refused to sign them, essentially forcing a worthless (but expensive) treaty on the rest of the world? And this is one of the less shitty things he's been involved in. The whole "green" movement has been turned into another corporatist, consumerist, and potentially militaristic profit machine, just like everything else in this shithole of a world we've made for ourselves. It's about as good for our ecosystems as the "(red)" nonsense is for the AIDS-ridden nation of Africa (what do you mean, it's not all one country?), which is to say that it is at best no help, and probably worse than that.

Unfortunately, none of this means that climate change isn't happening. It is, and every single goddamn thing any of us does makes it worse. Trying to fight it on an individual level is like trying to buy anything from anyone without in some way supporting the military: it ain't gonna happen. Unfortunately, again, the individual level is all we have, because our only influential collective systems are government and corporations, and look at all the good they're doing.

Basically, the deniers fall victim to the false belief that the truth of the science is in some way dependent on the honesty of the celebrity messengers. Unfortunately, many of the liberal climate change believers (and "believers" they are, with all that that word implies) fall victim to exactly the same belief.

to all you volks out there

through a series of closed-door sessions, i've been granted access to this fine blab-stand.

thanks ethan. i promise to push our vile agenda in any manner possible.

Monday, December 14, 2009

QBQ! Chapter One: A Picture of Personal Accountability (part one)

The entirely of the two opening pages of this seven-page chapter (don't worry, they get much shorter as the book progresses and John G. Miller loses just as much patience with this nonsense as we do) is wasted on inept, and not coincidentally pointless, scene-setting. "It was a beautiful day in downtown Minneapolis when..." That kind of thing. The point is, our mustachioed hero has stepped into a busy restaurant and demanded (or, as he would have it, asked, politely, "with a smile," for) a Diet Coke®; upon learning that the restaurant lives on the Pepsi side of town, he changes his request to water. Some time passes and then:
Suddenly, there was a blur of activity off to my left, the "wind of enthusiasm" stirred behind me, and then, over my right shoulder stretched "the long arm of service," delivering a twenty-ounce bottle, frosty on the outside, cold on the inside, of--you guessed it--Diet Coke!
First of all, let me assure you that I am not fucking kidding you about that style. That is a direct quote. Much of my objection to the style is I'm sure obvious, but I do want to explicitly point out one thing: normally the construction "____ on the outside, ____ on the inside" is used to describe contrast; if a bottle is frosty on the outside, what else would the contents be but cold? Anyway. I should get to the point, lest I waste more words than Mr. Miller himself.

So what it boils down to is that this waiter, I can only assume in a temporary lapse of judgment, decided that this guy really needs his Diet Coke®, rather than the indistinguishable Diet Pepsi® they serve or the infinitely smarter choice of water that he ended up ordering, and so takes one of his own personal dollars and purchases him a bottle of soda from the "grocery store around the corner." "My first thought was 'Hire this man!'" John G. Miller tells us; my first thought would have been more along the lines of "why the hell would he do that," but OK.

Now we come to some hilarity. Apparently, the waiter did not go to the grocery store himself:
By then I was thinking profound and professional thoughts like "Cool!" But what I said was, "Come on, you've been awfully busy. How did you have time to go get it?" Smiling and seemingly growing taller before my eyes, he said, "I didn't, sir. I sent my manager!"

I couldn't believe it. Was that empowerment or what?
Given the options, Mr. Miller, I'm going with "what." If we have defined "empowerment" down to the level of asking our master to help us better prostrate ourselves before rich fuckers, then we might as well empower ourselves with nooses.

The next part of the chapter (I believe this is the only chapter long enough that it can be considered to have "parts") "take(s) a look at my server's thinking and the choices he made." In order not to make this post nine thousand words long (I wish I could avoid being overly wordy and digressive, but I seem to be incapable), I will cover that part of the chapter, and what I consider a more likely interpretation of the event than the one Mr. Miller presents us with, in the next installment.

QBQ! Table of Contents

A convincing argument

The end of capitalism would mean the end of spam.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

ACLU

The ACLU has lost its single biggest donor, which they say has left them without 25% of their annual operating budget. My own tough financial times have led to my letting my membership lapse in recent years, but my finances are not nearly as important as the ACLU's. I just donated $20. So should you.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Female mice turned into male mice...

...by switching one gene.

"It's still very speculative, but it's possible that this approach could produce an alternative to surgery and the removal of gonads -- ovaries and testes," one of the scientists says.

Awesome. This is obviously years and years and years and years and lots of work and theory and research and speculation away from being applicable to humans, if it ever is, but my god, is it promising.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Gil Scott-Heron has a new album coming out soon!

Crazy! This shit is gonna be amazing.

I discovered this startling fact on Zamboni Soundtracks, which, silly name notwithstanding, is probably the best music blog I've ever come across. Ian consistently posts great, interesting, important, and overlooked music, often stuff I've been looking for forever. Case in point: he's currently undertaking a long-term project of posting as much of Throbbing Gristle's massive live box sets, TG24 and TG+ as possible. And, oh my god, so many beautiful John Carpenter soundtracks the other day! In fact I try really hard not to look at the site more often than once a month at most, because I have such an enormous backlog of exciting music to listen to* that seeing more and more and more of it all the time is just overwhelming and, as exciting as it is, it can get frustrating, wishing I could listen to it all at once.**

Ian compares the sound of the Gil Scott-Heron track that's available for download to Scott Walker's The Drift, and he's right--it really is very reminiscent of that masterpiece, though it's still very much Gil Scott-Heron. God, I'm excited.

*And I mean enormous. My external hard drive currently has 373 albums on it (down from a peak of well over 400 a month ago), organized into various folders, that I have yet to listen to. And I'm now going through some of what Ian posted recently on Zamboni and that number may well break 400 again.
**Like Data!

Peter Watts vs. Fuckers

In general I'm not a fan of statements in the form "The only time I'm in favor of (insert reprehensible thing you're opposed to) is when (whatever)." I find them squirrely and annoying and, y'know, morally inconsistent.

That said.

The only time I'm in favor jailing anyone is when it's cops who beat civilians. Unfortunately, these are among those classes of people, and classes of actions, that will never be punished by jail time. Unlike, say, the action of being beaten by cops, which quite frequently is so punishable.

(And yes, these comments are inspired by it happening to someone whose work I admire [read the comments], someone who is a type of person--middle class, middle aged, and above all white--that this does not normally happen to. Please do not take this to mean that I only care about it when it happens to this kind of person. To me, the assumption that cops are evil assholes who deserve whatever they dish out to return to them twelvefold is as basic as the assumption that I need oxygen to breathe.)

Also: a lot of people, any time any incident like this makes the news, will immediately start going "Oh, well, we don't know what happened, let's give the cops or border guards or whatever the benefit of the doubt, he may have provoked it." Which is bullshit.

Reason this is bullshit #1, this specific case: I concede that there are occasions when one human being can be considered justified in punching another human being in the face and using pepper spray on them. I will concede also that there may occasionally be cases where it is justified for several people in a position of authority to do this to one person who is not in such a position, though we are already on extremely shaky ground with this. What is never justified under any circumstances whatsoever no matter what is releasing someone, vehicle-less, without a jacket, into a winter storm, forcing them to walk across the Canadian border, after public transportation has shut down. This strikes me as attempted murder, frankly. Even if nothing else, and that's a big even if, give the man his fucking coat.

Reason this is bullshit #2, general rule: In all cases of dispute between two parties, the default position should be to suspect the worst of the party with power and the best of the party without. Not only is this the safest assumption based on the evidence of all human interaction in all of history, it is also the fairest. The party with power already has power; don't give them more by giving them the benefit of the doubt. Never give power the benefit of the doubt. Ever.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Twenty-nine years

Sunday, December 6, 2009

We're all going to die

A replacement for the glass carafe I just broke, at a discounted price, still costs more than it would to replace the whole (perfectly functional) coffee maker, full price.

In the strangest places

The time and place
Is only something your mind creates
Only boundaries your mind makes


-The Lemon Pipers, "Rainbow Tree"

Their Green Tambourine album is a pleasant collection of bubblegum psych, along the lines of the hit title track, until the last song, "Through With You," which to my ears is ahead of its time, a largely instrumental, nine minute long, startlingly krautrock-style masterpiece that I've never heard anyone talk about, ever, and I don't understand why.

Here's the album.

QBQ! Introduction: What Ever Happened To...

From a billboard towering over the Houston freeway loomed this question:

"What ever happened to personal responsibility?"

I don't know who put it up there, but it sure jumped out at me. For one thing, it seemed so clearly true. What has happened to personal responsibility?
And we're off! Ladies and gentlemen, you can tell you're in for a treat when a book begins by declaring a question to be clearly true. True or false: how old am I? One gets the feeling that Putnam has fired all of its copy editors, and also that John G. Miller is a brain-dead asshole.

Lo and behold, the second of our feelings is confirmed almost immediately. He offers us "some examples" of his conclusion that "What ever happened to personal responsibility" is true. The first:
I was looking for some coffee in a gas station convenience store, but the carafe was empty, so I said to the person behind the counter, "Pardon me, there's no coffee in the pot." He pointed at a coworker not fifteen feet away and said, "Coffee is her department!"

Department? In a roadside gas station the size of my living room?
Now, if I were making (most likely) minimum wage to work in a gas station convenience store--a relatively dangerous job, incidentally--I would not be particularly interested in going out of my way to help pushy assholes with mustaches, either, but, OK, sure, the guy sounds like he was maybe a little rude. Not rude enough to justify stewing about it for years and writing a book about it, but slightly rude. What Mr. Miller does not tell us, of course, is whether this gentleman was busy doing anything else at the moment, or whether the coworker he pointed at had a history of dropping the ball on making the coffee, or alternatively was a control freak who didn't want anyone else to touch the machine, or whether maybe the convenience store has some kind of safety regulations about who can handle the coffee maker, or any other number of things (like, say, what tone of voice Mr. Miller asked his question in). In other words, not only does Mr. Miller want his inferiors to always go out of their way for him, he does not care what their reasons for not doing so may be. Another thing we do not know, but which I feel we can safely draw conclusions about, is whether it is the nameless employee or John G. Miller who has the bigger living room.
Another: On a cross-country flight, the flight attendant got on the intercom and said, "Sorry, everyone, but the movie we promised you will not be shown today. Catering put the wrong one on board."
First of all, the o in the word on at the beginning there should be lowercase, Putnam. Second of all, I have to wonder if Mr. Miller would have preferred the flight attendant to lie to him. "Sorry! I brought the wrong movie on board!" I wonder also if this desire to be lied to would extend to more serious matters on the plane: "No, we're not crashing! You really shouldn't brace yourself for an impact! Don't worry about a thing!"

He gives us another inane example, then tells us that in addition to finding the billboard's question true he also agrees with it, and then moves on to the meat of his introduction. He gives us a list of questions that people ask that he thinks indicate a shirking of personal responsibility ("When is that department going to do its job?" "Why don't they communicate better?" "Who dropped the ball?" "Why do we have to go through all this change?" and "When is someone going to train me?"), telling us that they "go right to the heart of many of the problems we face today." Oh, along the way he pauses to tell us that he prefers "personal accountability" to "personal responsibility," simultaneously telling us that this whole thing is really about wanting to blame people for things they may or may not have actually done and rendering his whole awkward mention of the billboard pointless.

He doesn't, of course, go into any detail yet--that would make the remaining 110 page (minus all the blank space created by frequent chapter breaks) bulk of the book moot, and who would buy hundreds of copies of a book at a time to force down their employees' throats if that book was only five pages long? He does, however, make this ludicrous claim: "Once (people) start practicing QBQ thinking, things just seem to go better. People have more fun. Life is simply more satisfying and enjoyable for those who choose the way of personal accountability" (emphasis mine). This is just a guess, but I have a feeling that if our convenience store employee is going to find satisfaction in his life, it is not going to come from taking personal responsibility (er, sorry, accountability) and brewing up a new pot of coffee for John G. Miller, yessa massa.

QBQ! Table of Contents

I wish I had a readership

Because if I did, I would throw it over to ladypoverty. This guy, with almost every post, articulates, plainly and concisely, some matter of importance that, as soon as I read the post, I realize has been scratching around my brain for a long time now, trying to figure out some way to coalesce. An excerpt from his most recent:
What we give away must conform to our values. "Paying da bills" is not a value -- it is a necessity. It follows, then, that if there is to be scope for what "constitutes our real selves," it can't exist in conflict with the task of basic survival. But because we surrender that potential to the boss in exchange for "a living," we hope to anesthetize the spiritual agony which ensues with material accumulation in excess.

This is the compact of a consumer society. When times are good, many are invited along the single path which makes it work. When times are bad, fewer are admitted. But in neither case can one hope to make that investment in one's real self without, on some level, rejecting its terms.
I don't know how many people read ladypoverty, but however many it is, it's not enough. Anyone who somehow stumbles across this blog: stumble over there, now.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Pattern recognition

Humans are famously supposed to be good at it. It's remarkable, though, how quickly this ability disappears from many people the instant race or gender come under discussion.

Inspired by the largely hideous comments on this post.

Stupak et al

I've long thought that the reason Our Leaders have allowed the ridiculous abortion "debate" in this country to go on as long and as viciously as it has (aside from the fact that it conveniently distracts everyone who cares about it from realizing what else the said leaders are doing, especially as concerns the Supreme Court's rulings on corporate issues) is that the court decision that forced abortion to be legalized nationwide did so while establishing a constitutional right to privacy. In other words, I thought that those in the political/media class who are interested in overturning Roe v. Wade (I say nothing of the members of the Great Unwashed who share this interest) were interested in doing so because overturning it would throw into question this right to privacy, opening wide the door to even more widespread and omnipresent surveillance.

But this Stupak thing has me confused. Do they really, actually care about abortion itself? Right now it seems that way. Maybe it's a longer-term strategy, where they figure someone will challenge the Stupak amendment on Roe v. Wade grounds, thus giving the Court the opportunity to overturn that ruling, but I dunno, that seems overly complicated.

Incidentally, if this doesn't convince all the people who are rabidly pro-choice (among whose number I certainly count myself, as I tend to think that abortion should be encouraged where applicable, although, again, I consider things like the mass murder of brown people for profit more important, if we must rank issues) that the Democrats aren't on their side any more than the Republicans are, I don't know what will. But then, I've said that before about other things.

Correction

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

(via, though I hate to admit it, Shakesville)

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Question Behind the Question

So my current job is about as good as you can expect a temp data entry job to be--in other words, I make enough money to live on (for now; who knows what I'll do once the job ends), it takes under an hour to get there on the bus, and the people there are all fairly to very nice. When I first started, though, I wasn't sure I would be able to take it, because of the very high level of corporate behavioral indoctrination involved in the training--videos of inspirational speakers managing to quote Martin Luther King, Jr., next to B.C. Forbes, on the importance of not aspiring to anything above your shitty station, before launching into descriptions of horrible methods of "going above and beyond" (for no additional pay, of course), inspired by the actions of quite frankly a creepily over-involved mailman, that kind of thing (if you want to look into this, it is seriously called "The Fred Factor" and it is awful). It turns out that once you get through the training, everyone for the most part ignores this stuff (except for the occasional rah-rah meeting, but you get those pretty much everywhere), so all in all the job is borderline tolerable.

Perhaps the bulliest, the shittiest, of all the bullshit was the book whose title might be rendered QBQ!: The Question Behind the Quesion®: Practicing Personal Accountability at Work and in Life: What to Really Ask Yourself to Eliminate Blame, Complaining, and Procrastinating, written by professional white asshole John G. Miller. This 115 page, 39 chapter (work out that impressive average if you dare!) wonder is a marvel of idiocy honestly unrivaled in my experience by anything short of The Barenaked Ladies.

So, over the next few months, my plan (which, you know, who knows if I'll actually do it) is to blog about this book (book blogging, or blooking), chapter by chapter, explaining exactly what is so execrable about it. As I do, I will continually update this post to function as a blog table of contents, and each individual entry will contain a link to this post so as to make crossreferencing easy. Sound good? Ha ha! I don't care if it sounds good!

TABLE OF BLOGTENTS
Introduction: What Ever Happened To...
Chapter One: A Picture of Personal Accountability, part one and part two
Chapter Two: Making Better Choices
Chapter Three: QBQ! The Question Behind the Question
Chapter Four: Don't Ask "Why"
Chapter Five: The Victim
Chapter Six: "Why Is This Happening to Me?"
Chapter Seven: "Why Do We Have to Go Through All This Change?"
Chapter Eight: "Why Don't They Communicate Better?"
Chapter Nine: Don't Ask "When?"

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Listening to the radio

In a row, just now, on 92 PRO FM:

1. David Guetta & Akon, "Sexy BitchChick"
2. Taylor Swift, "Fifteen"
3. Kesha, "Tik Tok"
4. Lady Gaga, "Bad Romance"

It's like mainstream radio is going out of its way to be an ugly, meaningless mess these days. I've already discussed "Sexy Chick" here, but the other three songs I think win out in the awfulness fight.

Taylor Swift, who started her ill-fated VMA acceptance speech with the sentence "I sing country music," continues never to do so with a song that would have sounded stale on Lilith Fair's second stage in 1998. It seems to be a sort of response to the kind of bizarrely unhealthy teen sexual/romantic model proposed by works like Twilight, though it cleverly manages to do it without rebutting the sex negativity of these narratives, so really it's useless both as music and as propaganda. (Incidentally, I have no objection to the dissolution of genre lines; if a white lady wants to perform with T-Pain on the CMT awards, and the country music people are into this, I say go for it; just do it well--or, come on, at least try--and acknowledge that what you're doing is dissolving the genre line. Don't keep calling it country, because that is a word that means something, or at least should. When I say I like country, I want people to know that I don't mean Taylor Swift. Again, I'm all for deconstructing and taking apart language and norms and whatever shit you want, but we still have to live day to day.)

Kesha is remarkable primarily because the only thing that distinguishes her from Fergie is the fact that she is an order of magnitude more annoying. A new breakthrough from the same lab, presumably. If you're into masochism, I highly recommend listening at least through 2:40ish, when the backing track drops out and she bravely attempts to sing one line unaccompanied--I'm not even sure how to describe the difficulty she has. Rivals the line "Haven't you heard/How we rock each other's world" in Avril Lavigne's "Sk8er Boi" (at around 2:40*) as the all-time worst vocal moment in pop music history. What a god damned mess.

Lady Gaga...I feel like I would need to write a book-length essay, with all the hours of research that implies, to fully explain what bothers me about Lady Gaga. But since I don't actually care nearly enough about her to do anything that labor and time intensive, suffice to say that I find her to be the epitome of the empty gesture. I mean, take a look at that video; it's trying so hard, but it says nothing; Kylie Minogue's "Can't Get You Out of My Head" video**, eight years ago, conveyed far more with similar elements, effortlessly, and without pretending to pretentious ambitions it doesn't even try to fulfill. It's too bad, because I want to like the fact that the public is responding so strongly to a meta-pop star, a pop star deconstruction; even the fact that a huge hit song has a bridge in French should be pleasing to me. Coming from her, nothing is pleasing to me.

The common thread in these songs is a kind of deep, root-level ugliness. Now, I like a lot of what could be called ugly music. Hecker's Acid in the Style of David Tudor is probably my number one album of the year. La Monte Young, The Stooges, DNA, Captain Beefheart, Throbbing Gristle: these are all artists I thought of offhand that I love, much of whose music could defensibly be described as ugly. But in all these cases, and infinitely many more that I could name, including some on pop radio (an argument could be made for Britney Spears' "3," which I am completely head over heels for these days), the ugliness exists for a reason. It achieves a kind of beauty, and part of this beauty is that it expresses something, even if that something is a Stooges-style nihilism. The ugliness of these four pop songs is different; it feels almost accidental--though that word is wrong for several reasons, chief among them its implication that I find the artist's intentions more important than I actually do, not to mention that it doesn't begin to convey the aggression with which this ugliness imposes itself on the listener. It's an ugliness that would make me angry if it had any affect at all, but in its utter lack of affect instead leaves me sort of vaguely depressed. It's awful, and it makes me sad.

Oh, and now Citizen's Bank has an ad on pretending to be charitable because they "know bad economic times are making things difficult for everyone." Yeah, and it's your fucking fault, Royal Bank of Scotland. How much are your executives being compensated these days?

*And I don't think it's a coincidence that these two moments are at almost exactly the same point in the songs.
**Sorry for the pixelation and poor sound compression; you'd think Parlophone could do better but apparently not. You'd also think Firefox would know the word "pixelation" but, again, apparently not.

Monday, November 30, 2009

NOVEMBERZOVER

I just submitted my final word count to the NaNoWriMo site. At 40,041 words, I squeaked in juuuuust this side of...10,000 words short of winning. Partly this is due to two major periods of slacking off during the course of the month, but it's (honestly!) more due to the fact that the story I was writing just wound itself up and finished right at the 40,000 word mark. If I had gotten to this point on the 24th, when I would have if I had kept to schedule, I honestly wouldn't have known what to do for the remainder of the month. The story is just done, and no amount of aiming for 50,000 words would have changed that.

And goofy as it sounds, I feel like I won. I accomplished a hell of a lot more than I expected to. At the beginning of the month I honestly expected myself to give up by the one-week point. Instead, I never gave up, even at my laziest, even as I fell dramatically, irreparably behind. I kept trying. And I succeeded: I finished what is now by far the longest work of fiction I have ever written. And while it's awful in a lot of ways, I think there's stuff worth salvaging in there. I surprised myself especially today and yesterday with the beauty of the imagery I was coming up with (it also quite frankly surprised me when I realized that the novel was going to end on a fairly hopeful note; I didn't think I had that in me).

So: I'm goddamn proud of myself. Thanks, NaNoWriMo, for forcing me to do all this. I don't know where I'm going next, but hopefully I can keep up the writing habit. Probably not as intensively as in November, but to some degree.

As for bloggy pursuits, I do have a blogject I want to get started on, and even aside from that I'll probably be popping in here a bit more frequently than I have been to make all those witty observations that keep you coming back for more. Ha ha! Just kidding! If you could see my google analytics page, you'd know that you quite literally do not exist! Anyway, that's all. Carry on.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

If I were making a Buffy Sainte-Marie best of compilation...

...it would most likely include anywhere from one to three songs from each of her first five albums, maybe four songs total from her career after 1970, and the entirety of Illuminations. If you haven't heard that album yet, fix that problem you have.

Looking over my list of albums I have that came out in its year (yes, I keep lists of my albums by year), I have no problem naming it by far the best of all of them. And we're not talking, say, 1987 here. This is 1969. I have over seventy albums from 1969. It's the year of The Beatles' Abbey Road, Can's Monster Movie, Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica, Fairport Convention's Unhalfbricking, Isaac Hayes' Hot Buttered Soul, John & Yoko's Life With the Lions, Nico's The Marble Index, Pharoah Sanders' Karma, Silver Apples' Contact, Skip Spence's Oar, Dusty Springfield's Dusty in Memphis, the full version of Stockhausen's Hymnen, The Stooges, The Velvet Underground's self-titled, two great Scott Walker albums, and Marva Whitney's It's My Thing, and if I had to I'd give them all up in order to keep Illuminations.

This thought just struck me with urgency for some reason on the verge of going to bed. I hopefully will elaborate later, but if anyone in the dire position of not having heard this album stumbles across this post, for the love of god, listen to Illuminations as soon as possible.

Despicable

I'm pretty sure that if Martin Luther King, Jr. had known that, forty-one years after he died, his words would be quoted alongside those of such other fighters for human dignity and equality as Sam Walton and B.C. Forbes in inspirational speeches given by corporate managers to their wage slaves, he probably would have inserted really vulgar words into everything he said. Anyway, when are they going to start quoting lines like "A riot is the language of the unheard" or, even better, when are they going to break out the Malcolm X quotebook?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The radio redeems itself

My "local" top 40 radio station just broadcast a Veteran's Day-themed station identification where that vaguely sinister radio-announcer-guy voice said "92 PRO FM supports our troops all around the world. Thank you."

Looking beyond the surface inanity of this, I find two things of value:

1. They acknowledge that we have troops all over the fucking world. Maybe--just maybe--one person will say, "Do we really have troops all around the world? Why would that be?" And that one person is a victory. Of course, that one person is probably 100% imaginary, but I can dream, can't I?

2. The "Thank you" sounded really sarcastic. Which of course it should be.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Everything is terrible

I just heard a commercial on the radio with a HYSTERICAL WOMAN FREAKING OUT because her son should go to college RIGHT NOW but she HEARD he's talking to a recruiter, and then her jocularly sensible husband sets her straight--actually, what HE the son is doing makes a LOT OF SENSE! He's joining the NATIONAL GUARD! And then the WOMAN, who has NO HEAD FOR FIGURES, starts FREAKING OUT ABOUT HOW ARE THEY GOING TO PAY FOR ALL THIS, and the smart sensible (condescendingly chuckling) husband SETS HER STRAIGHT ABOUT THAT TOO.

Ha ha ha! Women are stupid and your sons should want to kill people right out of high school!

In other sad news, the new Amerie album is a huge letdown. The best few songs are stale retreads of her older, greater work, and the rest sound like they're jockeying for position in the bottom half of AT40.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

I should check my spam filter more often

From: dr.dave
Subject: your marks
Body: obama died of heart stroke

NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month starts today. I'm giving it a shot this year. I don't know if that means that my already meager blog offerings (blofferings) will dry up even farther or if procrastination will push me to post more, but it seems like it'll certainly have an impact on my bloggy activities (blogtivities*), and I know that all of my fans are just drooling for an update on those, so...I oblige (bloguesse oblige).

Oh, and if you want to follow my NaNoWriMo word count and place bets on when I become a quitter, here's the link to my profile.

*Blactivities sounds racialismical.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Work dumb

My new job gives me internet access but blocks Blogspot, Wordpress, and Twitter, and who knows what else. What's the point of internet?!?!?

I will, incidentally, have more to say about this job. It's awfully wacky in some ways.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Dear Mr. David Guetta and Mr. Akon,

If you really are trying to find the words to describe this girl without being disrespectful, I would suggest you keep searching. "Damn, you's a sexy bitch" really didn't cut it, and your more recent attempt, "Damn, you's a sexy chick," is only an extremely minor improvement.

Yours,
Me

P.S. Also, Mr. Guetta, please get off the radio. You sound awful.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Actual Wall Street Journal headline

Colleagues Finger Billionaire

Hilarious facts about terrible songs

1. "Tears in Heaven" by Eric Clapton.

So you throw your son out a window your son jumps falls out a window and you write a song about it. Deeply personal, right? I always thought it was in questionable taste to release it as a single, but, whatever works, Mr. Clapton, whatever works. Obviously the song is very important to you--

What? You only wrote the first verse and then couldn't be bothered to finish? So you hired the guy who wrote "Looks Like We Made It" and two whole albums for Jimmy Buffett to finish it? And then when he said "I don't know, Eric, that seems awfully personal, maybe you should write it yourself?" you forced him to write it over these objections? That is hilarious. As is the fact that you only were writing it in the first place because the people who were making the soundtrack for Rush decided as an afterthought to ask you for a second song.

2. "Jack and Diane" by John Snow Leopard Mellencamp

I have a short list of songs that, every time they start, just hearing the first few unmistakable seconds hurts me more deeply than I can easily express. It's like a little piece of my soul dies, and my faith in the essential goodness of humanity is torn away and if you put a gun in my hands I might just turn it on myself at that moment. "One Week" by the Barenaked Ladies is one of those songs. "Jack and Diane" is the other.

But, you know, working class hero! Mellencamp is a brave songwriter, representing the lower classes! The working man! The--

What's that you say, Wikipedia? "Mellencamp has stated in interviews that 'Jack and Diane' was originally about an interracial couple, but he realized that in the early '80s there could be backlash over such a song."

Oh, John Mellencamp. You cowardly twat!

Shakesville again

Melissa McEwan has a post about a satirical website called "Republicans for Rape" that's responding to some bit of legislative inanity that I can't be bothered to find out about because, really, anything coming out of Congress is going to be bad for me and you and anyone else who doesn't have money, so I have no patience for the details.

Anyway, basically her complaint is that these jokes aren't funny and just trigger rape survivors and are very painful for them. I tend to think that satire works best when its intended audience is horrified, but it's a complicated issue, and I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it, so I won't take a position on that. But:
Republicans are just trying to protect their corporate sponsors, and if victims of rape are a casualty, so be it. The "Republicans for Rape" creators just hate Republicans, and if victims of rape are a casualty of hitting back at Republicans, so be it. What they share in common is that neither one of gives a fuck about rape survivors.

And you can't claim to be anti-rape if you don't give a fuck about rape survivors. It's really just. that. simple.
This, of course, comes from the woman who has posted about the Polanski case about nine million times in the past few weeks, whose group blog has posted about it more often, and who recently defended a post entitled "taking her side" equating being anti-Polanski with being pro-his victim. Which, judging from all of her public statements, the victim herself would disagree with. She has said that every time the case makes the news she feels victimized all over again. For McEwan this is irrelevant because, in her words, "justice doesn't operate on the principle of what's best for the victim; it operates on the principle of what's best for the community."

I realize, again, that this is a complicated issue, but I wish that McEwan would ever acknowledge that fact. In the world of her and her co-bloggers and her loyal readers (the comment sections there are creepy in their total agreement on everything), the world is entirely black and white, good and evil, and with the occasional recognized lapse (for which they will immediately apologize and "blub" and promise to learn from, because they are so self-righteously progressive in all things), they are 100% positive that they are on the good side.

For people who have bought into, for example, the lie that Hilary Clinton is a feminist force for good in the world and that any criticism of her can only be founded in misogyny, this is kind of a laugh riot. Of course, with that starting point, pretty much anything is gonna be a laugh riot. Or, as they would say in their twee internet talk, LOLsob.

OK, enough about Shakesville. I promise to leave them alone for a while.

(NOTE: It is solely in the interests of brevity that I ignored the Republicans vs. Democrats tribal/sport team aspects of the post, but, needless to say, oh my god how stupid can people continue to be?)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

From Mars

I beg you to click on it.

In the strangest places

Paul Revere & the Raiders have an "Eleanor Rigby" ripoff called "Undecided Man" that I like quite a bit even though it's done nothing to deserve it. Nothing, that is, except for the first two lines, the second of which I think is brilliant and pretty damn profound:

I've been thinking twenty-two years all about it
The closer I get to the truth the more I doubt it

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Belated

If the Nobel committee wanted to honor someone for "not being Bush," as people are saying, surely they could have found someone more distinguishable from him?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Ugh

Not to pick on Shakesville too much, but come on.

US foreign policy leads directly to situations where rape is used systematically as a weapon, all over the world. Obviously, you morons. I admit that I am in woeful ignorance of the situation in Guinea, and actually have no idea what US interests are there, if any, but I do know that similar horrible events happen all of the world, daily, as a result of the actions of our State Department. Clinton can say she's horrified all she wants, it doesn't mean she's not culpable. If I wanted to I could say I was horrified of sandwiches and it wouldn't change the fact that I just ate one.

Words don't matter, people. Ignore speeches, look at actions. Oh, and also? Woman ≠ feminist; Clinton is not on your side.

Edited to add It is always useful with public figures to pay attention not to what they say, but to what they don't say. Clinton apparently feels perfectly free to denounce brutality in Guinea. Why there? Where is there identical or worse brutality going on that she's not talking about? Why do you think that is?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Polanski

The people at Shakesville occasionally say good things, but for the most part they're pretty dumb. Is my experience, anyway. So I'm not surprised by their approach to the whole Polanski thing, but I am infuriated by it, as is my duty as a person on the internet.

First, there's Melissa McEwan's repeated posting of the names of celebrities who have become "disappoinments" to her by signing the "Free Polanski" petition. No mention of the fact that she doesn't actually know these people (they're celebrities, not acquaintances), so having a preconceived notion of their feelings about these issues is a bit silly. No mention either of the fact that there is no relationship between, say, Harrison Ford's feelings on Roman Polanski and Harrison Ford's usefulness as an actor (when it's a director or a writer I could see there being more of a link, fine, but PETA were still idiots for protesting Chicken Run because the creators of it eat chicken, if you get what I'm saying*). No mention that if all of these people that she once respected feel this way, perhaps there might be a least a little room for argument? I'm not necessarily saying that Polanski is innocent, or that he deserves to be freed (any more, I should specify, than any other imprisoned person, all of whom deserve to be freed, but that's too much to be getting into right now). All I'm saying is that if a whole bunch of people you respect are suddenly behaving in a way that you find objectionable, you could at least consider that you could be wrong. Not saying you have to come to the final conclusion that you're wrong. Just consider it.

And now, far more objectionable: co-blogger Deeky's post titled "Taking Her Side".
Aside from Kevin Smith (who tweeted this out yesterday) and Greg Grunberg (who posted this) I've not seen any other celebrities siding with Samantha Gailey, Roman Polanski's victim.

The silence is, as they say, deafening.
Leave aside for the moment that Kevin Smith's "Do the crime, do the time" is a reflexive, thoughtless repetition of someone else's reflexive, thoughtless repetition of a horrible, horrible cliché that reinforces the disgustingly punitive aspects of our culture. Leave aside the fact that Greg Grunberg seems to be posting in utter ignorance of the details of the case (Polanski pled guilty because the judge agreed to a lenient plea bargain, and fled because the judge changed his mind after Polanski made his plea--which, incidentally, is not illegal but sure as hell should be).

What's disgusting about Deeky's post is that people are not taking Ms. Gailey's side by denouncing Polanski. What she wants, as she has said repeatedly, is for everyone to drop it so she can move on. By talking about it, endlessly, the Shakesville bloggers are emphatically not taking her side. Regardless of their reasons for thinking they're in the right (some of which are convincing, some of which are not), they are not on her side. Claiming that people like themselves and Smith and Grunberg are is extremely presumptuous, and denies Ms. Gailey's right as a human being to choose for herself how to feel.

I find it extremely ironic that a bunch of self-righteous ninnies are denying Ms. Gailey her humanity in their overeager attempts to denounce someone else for denying her her humanity. Obviously there is a huge difference in degree in not respecting her wishes and (allegedly**) drugging and raping her, but both actions are efforts to strip her of her human agency in order to achieve what you want. There's also the fact that the bloggers (myself included, unfortunately) are doing it now, whereas Roman Polanski, if he did it, did it thirty years ago. He and she are different people now than they were then, and the people they are now are not in a relationship of victimizer and victim. But the people who are refusing to just fucking drop it like she wants are, in their presumably*** smaller way, victimizing her now.

The silence is, as they say, what she fucking asked for, you arrogant asshole.

Oh, and incidentally? It's possible to be a feminist and not automatically think that Polanski should be locked away forever (especially if like me you think no one should be locked away). It's also possible to be a feminist and like directors you don't. Or to find worth in works that have elements of misogyny. If it upsets you that I say that as a man (and therefore someone not directly impacted by misogyny), I'll add that I feel the same way about works that are homophobic or antisemitic. The world is a complicated place that includes bad things mixed in with good things. The ability to recognize the good things in spite of the bad does not necessarily make someone your enemy.

*Among other reasons that PETA are idiots.
**Not in legal terms, perhaps, but in human moral terms, the accusations have by no means been proven.
***Of course I have no idea if Ms. Gailey would agree with my assessment.

UPDATE: While I was writing this, the following exchange took place in comments. Commenter clauclauclaudia said "The difficult thing about speaking up to support the victim, is that the victim has publicly said [that she feels] victimized all over again every time the case gets lots of media focus. How do you support her by saying *anything*, given her feelings on the subject?" To which Melissa McEwan, the owner of the blog but not the writer of the post, responded,
Just a point: It does say "her" and not "Samantha."

Given the sex of most rape victims, and the fact that this case is indeed about justice and about rape narratives generally, like the ever-popular "he said-she said" and so forth, maybe it's relevant that it's "her" side.

Just sayin'.
Which is such a steaming load of bull. For one thing, if that was Deeky's intent, he should have said "women's" instead of "her", considering that the specific case he was referring to was about one specific person, so naturally "her" would seem to refer to, well, her. For another thing, he explicitly says "I've not seen any other celebrities siding with Samantha Gailey." So unless McEwan is trying to say that Samantha Gailey is some kind of new collective noun indicating every woman on Earth, she's full of shit. For clarity's sake, when I say "she's full of shit," the word she refers specifically to McEwan, not all women.

UPDATE II: I guess I should mention that I'm using the name "Gailey" partly because it's the one Shakesville used and partly as an attempt to be as respectful to her as I can be while, you know, disrespecting her wishes and continuing to talk about it. She uses a different name now, possibly (I don't know for sure if this is actually why, but my impression is that it is) to help disassociate herself from all this, and by not using it I am, I hope, at least not harming that effort. I just don't want to come off as disrespecting her in another way by using a name she has abandoned. I think and hope my reasons for doing so are sound.

Pitchfork: Deliberately hilarious?

I'm pretty sure it would be absolutely impossible to parody the writing style of the nincompoops who write for Pitchfork. Their writing could not be more ridiculous. I haven't decided if I'm going to write anything about their list of the best albums of the decade (links at the bottom of that page) or not, but my god has it made me laugh more than just about anything else I can think of, ever. If I do write something about it, it might have to be whole long essays about individual paragraphs, and may be very time-consuming. But hey, what else do I have to do? We'll see.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Party in the USA

Every once in a while I try to make an effort to listen to the radio, though recently these efforts have always been short-lived. Take this weekend, for example. I turned on the radio on six different occasions (actually seven, but that last one I'm going to discuss separately), and each time turned it back off within a few seconds. One of these six times there was an ad playing and I didn't have the patience to listen all the way through. The other five times I turned it off because the same song was playing, each and every time, and that song was "Party in the USA" by Miley Cyrus.

Now, I don't need to get into why that's ridiculous and also why that song is overwhelmingly terrible, right? Like, laughably inept and just startlingly bad. OK.

So then a few minutes ago I turned on the radio for the seventh time, and what should be on? Well, the end of some other song, but I didn't even hear enough of it to identify it (if I even knew it, which is unlikely these days) before "Party in the USA" came on. And I decided to listen to it all the way through.

And you know what? It's so bad that I actually find it weirdly appealing. I'm not usually much of a one for the "so bad it's good" thing--if I like something, I tend to think it's good, and whether it's good intentionally or not is irrelevant--or for the "guilty pleasure" thing, either. But I think I may just feel that way about "Party in the USA".

I do think it's interesting that in the late 90's and early 00's teen music was electro dance-pop--"Genie in a Bottle" and "Baby One More Time" and "Bye Bye Bye" and all of that. And then after that there was a big thing with guitary "singer-songwriters" coming in and everyone was saying they were gonna destroy dance-pop (I remember Avril Lavigne on the cover of Rolling Stone with the headline "The Britney-Killer"). And now all of those people have moved on to adult pop (in the adult versions of their teen styles, too, with predictable results as far as quality, i.e., the dance-pop people are still good and the singer-songwriters are still terrible--when the best thing your genre has going for it, by far, is Pink, your genre has troubles). And what's teen pop now? It is a completely un-self-conscious combination of the two. "Party in the USA" is exactly halfway between Britney Spears and Avril Lavigne, at least stylistically (as far as quality goes it's far closer to Avril). In a way it reminds me of the way elements of punk and disco fused to form new wave, with the difference (among others, including the cultural use of the forms) that punk and disco happened concurrently, where these two forms of teen pop were almost entirely discrete.

Come on, Switzerland

1978 was thirty-one years ago. Polanski's alleged victim wants the charges dropped. The case is damn muddy at best. And my god, Switzerland, I thought you were supposed to be a neutral country? Like, OK, I don't know the specifics of your laws about that stuff, but surely arresting Polanski and considering shipping him off to the US so that a mishandled weak case the plaintiff doesn't want pursued can be continued three decades later violates the spirit of neutrality?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Joss Whedon, I love you...

...but your taste in music is abysmal.

Now I wish I was sick

Via Avedon Carol, who suggests expanding the idea from just H1N1 to include any illness, a scathingly good idea on how to lobby for health care reform.

Time fucking sucks

I'm really really poor right now. As in, I have about $50 to my name and currently no income. This is temporary, because I do have a job lined up, but it doesn't start until the middle of October, so I have a dicey few weeks of figuring out how to pay bills and buy food ahead of me. So I'm trying to sell some things to make enough money to tide me over. The other important thing to know is that I finally got rid of my essentially non-functional car last week (sold it for a measly $100, most of which is gone already--thanks a bunch, necessities), so I have to get to the DMV in Pawtucket (an awkward bus jaunt away) to turn in the plates. If I do it before the end of the month I can get a $30 refund on my only half-used two year registration. You can imagine how important that $30 is right now, so yes, I will do it before the end of the month.

So, selling things. The last episode of Battlestar Galactica was shitty enough that I pretty much don't ever want to watch the show ever again, and the season sets go for a decent amount of money on Amazon, so up they went. Someone bought Season 3 last night, so I have to mail it today (otherwise I have to wait until Monday, which is a delay in getting paid, and right now any delay is unacceptable).

The only post office in reasonable walking distance of my house is about ten or fifteen minutes away. It's on a college campus, so it has odd hours. I knew that it closed for forty-five minutes around lunchtime, and was thinking I remembered it being 12:15 to 1:00. I got kind of a slow start this morning (oops), so I was gonna leave my house at 11:00, mail the DVDs, pick up the 11:30ish bus from the college to downtown, and then connect to the Pawtucket bus to get to the DMV by around 12:30, plenty of time to take care of things by the time they close at 3:15.

But nope! As I was getting my things together to leave I thought to double-check the hours at the post office, and ha ha ha! It's closed from 11:15 to 12. I discover this at five past eleven, just exactly the right time for it to be too late. I'm a fucking idiot. So now I have to wait until 12 to mail the thing. But if I do that, because of the complications of coordinating two bus schedules and the intermittence of service to Pawtucket, it'll mean I can't get to the DMV until really uncomfortably close to the time they close, i.e. close enough that if there's a delay on the bus I'll get there too late and will have wasted $4.50 round trip ($1.75 to get downtown, $0.50 to transfer, and then the same fares to get back), which I can't risk doing. Which means I'll have to go Monday. God frickin' dammit.

I also wanted to change my address while I was there (my license still has my address from two moves ago, don't tell anyone), but there's a $6.50 fee to do that, which means I have to choose between spending money I can't really afford to be spending right now, and wasting an entire additional day of my life to do it later. Thanks, DMV!

I say all this as a demonstration of how, when you're poor, everything is harder, more time-consuming, and more expensive than when you're not. I don't say this to whine about my situation--I have a hell of a lot more resources than most actually poor people. I have an amazing roommate/best friend who is more financially stable than me at the moment and is willing to help out with the rent for next month until I can pay it back. I have fairly stable (though struggling) parents I could fall back on if all else failed. I have the knowledge that it'll be over soon, when that job starts. But right now I'm poor. And as a result tasks that would take a less-poor person a few hours fill up entire days. Small amounts of money ($4.50 bus fares, $6.50 DMV fees) become insurmountable obstacles. I can't even imagine how difficult this situation would be if I was currently working poor--I'd probably have to take whole days off of work, most likely unpaid (and possibly putting my continued employment in jeopardy), to get to the DMV (open Monday through Friday, 8:30-3:15) at all.

And this is just one unusual task--consider routine things like getting to the grocery store (easy for me because it's in OK walking distance and because the aforementioned roommate-friend has a car and goes once a week, so I can tag along) or doing laundry (I have machines in the house, thank god). All of these things take up enormous chunks of time, and time is extremely valuable. During that time you could be working (in which case that time is a direct expense) or if not, you could be taking a few precious moments to fucking relax. Instead, it's just more hours of time whose use is not dictated by you. More hours of slavery.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

In case anyone who doesn't know this happens to breeze through here

People like Keith Olbermann and Jon Stewart and Rachel Maddow might be entertaining (Stewart way more than Olbermann and Maddow, in my view), and they might even be smart (same), but they only talk about what their bosses allow them to talk about. If you're going to them to find out what political outrages to get upset about, you're using them wrong.

If Jon Stewart and Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow and all the rest of them are talking about an issue, it's one that Those in Charge don't care about.

What you should be upset about, and trying to push into the wider discourse, are the things they aren't talking about. Because those are the things that Those in Charge don't want you to think about.

(The same would go for people like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, but unfortunately the things they crap out every day are actively, immediately harmful, rather than passively, long-term harmful like the line their "left" counterparts spew, and must be actively, immediately countered. Which is of course also part of The Plan.)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Two interesting things about 2001

There's obviously a lot more to talk about, but two quick things.

1. We see four Russians. All of them are scientists, three of them--the majority--women. We see a hell of a lot more Americans and British. Of them, the only women are secretaries, flight attendants, and two women who I guess are scientists (sitting at the table at the Clavius debriefing) who have no speaking parts or names. I don't think this was unconscious on Kubrick's part.

2. I really like the way that for at least the first half of the movie, many really startlingly exceptional, wondrous things (the discovery of an alien artifact, artificial intelligence) are rendered everyday and banal by being surrounded by small talk, while things that would actually be banal for the characters (eating in space, moving from one part of a commercial spacecraft to another, throwing away garbage, docking with a space station) are filled with more sci-fi sensawunda than you can easily deal with.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Stooopid

So the idea of redistribution of wealth, even in such a ludicrously gentle way as taxing the rich slightly more than the poor to provide social services, is unacceptable.

But banks can take huge swathes of money from people who don't have any (overdraft fees!), while simultaneously giving huge swathes of money to people who have a lot already (interest!), and that's OK.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Trying to get a sense of 2009

Aside from some TV shows (the brilliant Dollhouse in particular) and a teensy handful of movies (the disappointing Harry Potter, the amazing Inglourious Basterds, the unbearable Star Trek), I've been pretty disconnected from culture this year. Particularly where music is concerned. About a month ago I listened to about two thirds of American Top 40 and didn't recognize a single song on the countdown (I also kind of hated all of them). Until recently I had only heard about four albums that came out this year.

I'm trying to remedy that. I scanned through a bunch of recent Tiny Mix Tapes reviews, and looked through the entire top 1000 albums of the year according to Rate Your Music ratings and found what sounded interesting that was findable. So far, this is what I've got, broken down into categories. Some things I've heard won't be included because I listened to them and felt no need to keep them, and have since forgotten them, but this is the bulk of it.

Albums I've listened to that I'm on the fence about keeping
Antony and the Johnsons, The Crying Light
Bat for Lashes, Two Suns
Richard Youngs, Beyond the Valley of Ultrahits

Albums I've listened to and found just kind of OK
Jarvis Cocker, Further Complications
Hildur Guðnadóttir, Without Sinking

Albums that probably need to grow on me
Mos Def, The Ecstatic
Mount Eerie, Wind's Poem
Jim O'Rourke, The Visitor

Albums that are really good
Mulatu Astatke & the Heliocentrics, Inspiration Information
Cluster, Qua
Fever Ray, Fever Ray
John Zorn, Alhambra Love Songs

Albums that blew me away and really excited me
James Blackshaw, The Glass Bead Game
Hecker, Acid in the Style of David Tudor

Albums I have in my possession but haven't yet listened to
Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavilion
Olafur Arnalds, Found Songs
William Basinski, 92982
Sir Richard Bishop, The Freak of Araby
Ciara, Fantasy Ride
Graham Coxon, The Spinning Top
Dälek, Gutter Tactics
Ekkehard Ehlers and Paul Wirkus, Ballads
Faust, C'est com...com...compliqué
Lee Fields & the Expressions, My World
Gregor Samsa, Over Air
John Hassell, Last Night the Moon Came Dropping Its Clothes in the Street
Tim Hecker, An Imaginary Country
Giuseppe Ielasi, Aix
Klotzsch & Krey, Through All These Years of Trying to Belong
Long Distance Calling, Avoid the Light
Alva Noto, Xerrox vol. 2
Iggy Pop, Préliminaires
Raekwon, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt II
Super Furry Animals, Dark Days Light Years
Jimi Tenor & Kabu Kabu, 4th Dimension
Throbbing Gristle, Third Mind Movements
Uochi Toki, Libro audio
Caetano Veloso, Zii e Zie: Transambas

Upcoming albums, will get as soon as released
Ghostface Killah, Ghostdini: The Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City
Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band, Between My Head and the Sky
Shakira, She Wolf

On the off-chance that anyone reads this, am I missing anything important that you know of?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Acid in the Style of David Tudor

I don't remember ever being so profoundly affected by music, on a physiological level, as I just was by my first listen to Hecker's new (well, several months old, but newest as of now) album, Acid in the Style of David Tudor. You can feel this music. If I read someone saying you almost feel like you can see it I would write them off as either a) Pitchfork-level retarded or b) synaesthetic to the point of not sharing my understanding of the world, but I'm tempted to say it anyway, because I really feel like I almost can. Editions Mego, who released the album, recommend playing the album loud on speakers, and avoiding headphones. Good idea. I haven't tried it on headphones (though I think I may, at very low volume, to see what that's like), but it seems risky. This stuff seems like it could easily damage your ears, not necessarily by virtue of being loud but by attacking them. Aside from that, listening on stereo speakers rather than headphones allows the music to physically fill the space you're listening in, and no matter how large that space, it will fill it. Listen loud, feel your furniture and your body shake.

There are intellectual things that could be discussed about the album (mostly things related to how entirely accurate the album's title is), but I'm not going to. On a purely visceral level this shit is amazing. It altered my involuntary physical functions. It at times scared the shit out of me, and at others made me laugh hysterically, and at times almost (almost) made me cry for the beauty. If I sound faggy, I'm sorry. If I'm talking a way I don't usually, it's because I felt this in a way I usually don't. If this strikes you as my usual hyperbole, well, don't listen to me, listen to fucking Hecker.

Even the silence when it's over feels like a goddamn revelation, and again, I'm sorry I'm talking like this. I don't know what else to say.

Split into three parts because of free fileden's limitations. I don't pull any of that linked .rar files nonsense or any password shit so there shouldn't be any difficulties.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three

Removing the thinnest of veils

me: God, it really pisses me off how non-male and non-white, and unapologetic about both, Yoko Ono is.
She should at least have the decency to be uncreative.
Chris: her only lyrics should be "please" and "thank you white men for letting me play"
me: "Even though I sang in Carnegie Hall when John Lennon was still throwing rocks at priests in Germany, I only latched on to him to mask my utter musical illegitimacy. Good thing he's a moronic sap who fell for it!"

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I really don't give a shit about gay marriage

Or at least not as much of a shit as I seem to be supposed to. Equal rights and all, sure, but I can't help feeling that the fact that people get all incensed on one side or another of the issue (which, of course, like all issues, has more than the two sides allowed to be discussed in the mass culture), but not about the systematic incarceration of American human beings, particularly American Black human beings, or the enormous wage gap between workers and their owners, or the mass murder of foreigners for profit, or whatever, is just extremely misplaced passion and helpful to the ruling class. Not to mention that gay marriage is not the be-all and end-all (or however that's supposed to go, typographically) of gay rights, the way many people seem to think it is. Same thing goes for abortion.

Anyway, I'll read anything that criticizes Governor Carcieri, so I read this article about him speaking at an anti-gay organization in Massachusetts. No surprise from Carcieri, really. I tend to think of him as being a comic book super villain, evil for no other reason than that he enjoys it. His wife's the same way; after her husband fired all of the state's translators, she called Asian kids who were upset at their parents' now extremely limited access to already minimal state services "terrorists". For writing a letter. Um, anyway, that's beside the point. I just like to bring it up.

So I'm reading this article, standard, standard, blah blah, fags, and then I come across this passage:
A Brown University poll from May showed that 60 percent of registered voters would support a law allowing gay couples to marry, but obstacles remain for those pushing the idea: The state is heavily Catholic, and same-sex marriage is opposed by both Carcieri and Democratic legislative leaders.
Now, come on, what? Yes, that second listed obstacle is real. Our elected officials in Rhode Island are largely opposed to gay marriage, including the leadership on "both" "sides". But the second one? How can you go directly from saying that 60% of the voters are in favor to saying that the heavily Catholic population is an obstacle? Obviously that Catholicism isn't stopping a large majority from being in favor. Christ. I mean, hell, you might as well say "Spain is heavily Catholic, so there's an obstacle to legalizing gay marriage".

This is exactly the same kind of reasoning that gets support for single-payer health care or withdrawing troops from Afghanistan being branded as "far left" rather than "blandly centrist". I understand why it happens, but my god, it's so obvious.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Discussion question

"David Bowie was kind of the Radiohead of the 1970s, only more prolific and even better."

Is the statement true or false? Why? To what extent?

Reminder

Today's my last day guest posting at Daily Premise. If you missed me, I was there all week, so take a look.

It was lots of fun. Thanks, Daily Premise, for inviting me!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Katra

I just finished my first completed solo song in quite a while. I haven't stopped working on music, but I've been focusing more on making things that could be backing tracks for music I make with Chris than on my solo project (the things I "release" under the name Brain and Brain). So here it is.

Brain and Brain - Katra

A little bit about my process. I started with, of all things, the instrumental break from Leonard Nimoy's version of "Abraham, Martin & John", which had some rhythms and timbres that struck me as potentially interesting. I separated it into the left and right channels, which made one be primarily the horns and lead guitar, and the other primarily the rhythm section, though they weren't entirely separated so there was some bleed. Then I duplicated the rhythm track...well, I experimented a lot, but it ended up being twenty-four times, and staggered them so a new one started on every beat, and then set them to alternate between the left and right channels to create a kind of pulsing effect. I looped these tracks and then mixed them down into three tracks, each with eight of the original track layered over itself.

Then I made the other track mono, so it'd be centered in both speakers, and looped it a bunch of times and messed around with slicing it up and reversing it (most of it as you hear it is backwards, but some of it is forwards, too). I got it to a point where I liked it, but felt something was missing, so I consulted the Oblique Strategies, which told me to "remember those quiet evenings at home". So I quieted it down for a bit at the end by extending one of the rhythm tracks, so that at the end most of it dies out except for one (i.e., the original rhythm layered only eight times, rather than twenty-four). This little change gave the whole thing whatever extra it was that I needed, so thank you, Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt, once again.

The very end still seemed pretty sudden to me, and I liked the way the very last drum beat sounded, so I made it repeat a few times and fade out. Somewhat cheesy, but I like it. And there you have it. Oh, and then I named it Katra, after the Vulcan word for the soul (as a literal thing that truly exists; the mental essence of a person). Seemed appropriate both for the sound and for the source of the sample.

Here's the original song I sampled. Leonard Nimoy's an inept performer, but very charming (it helps that I love him as an actor and a person), and I pretty much love everything he's recorded. The part I took was from 1:12 to 1:30, which actually features no Leonard at all. Sometime, maybe, I'll sample his voice, but not today.

Leonard Nimoy - Abraham, Martin and John
Bonus, because it's charming: Leonard Nimoy - Put a Little Love in Your Heart

Thursday, September 10, 2009

SPEECHES DON'T MEAN ANYTHING

SPEECHES DON'T MEAN ANYTHING
SPEECHES DON'T MEAN ANYTHING
SPEECHES DON'T MEAN ANYTHING
SPEECHES DON'T MEAN ANYTHING
SPEECHES DON'T MEAN ANYTHING
SPEECHES DON'T MEAN ANYTHING
SPEECHES DON'T MEAN ANYTHING
SPEECHES DON'T MEAN ANYTHING
SPEECHES DON'T MEAN ANYTHING
SPEECHES DON'T MEAN ANYTHING

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Agatha Christie, with spoilers if you care

I'm re-reading And Then There Were None (also known as Ten Little Indians and probably several other things) right now, for some reason, which is the first time I've read Agatha Christie since I was probably like twelve*. As I read it, remembering who the murderer is but not much else (and I probably didn't pick up on much else when I originally read it), it occurs to me that while Christie is a decent enough writer, and individual books of hers are entertaining enough, her real brilliance doesn't become apparent until you've read a wide selection of her works. Because she's relentlessly experimental with the mystery format, and that's, to me, really cool.

And Then There Were None, for those unfamiliar with it, is kind of the ultimate locked room mystery, but in real time: ten people are called to an isolated island on various pretexts, whereupon it is revealed that the person who summoned them believes them all to be guilty of a murder they're getting away with, and has taken it upon him or herself to punish them for it. One by one they are murdered, and they quickly realize that there can be no one hiding on the island, so the murderer must be one of them.

The cool thing is (in part) that it's obvious all along who the murderer must be. One of the characters is a judge, which kind of gives it away seeing as the murderer has to have access to a lot of judicial information on the various people and also, you know, sees himself as a judge. He is always made to seem unpleasant and inhuman(e), described as a reptile, and right from the start a bunch of the characters suspect him. He's also the only one who consistently has comfortable opportunity to do the murders.

But then (and here's the rest of the cool part) Christie kills him off about two thirds of the way through the book. You've spent all this time thinking, well, surely, he's the only possible culprit, but then he's dead and the murders keep happening! Of course, he has faked his death (I think--either that or he's set mechanisms in place that will kill everyone else off, I haven't gotten there yet and I can't quite remember), but that possibility just doesn't occur to you.

And a bunch of her other books fuck with mystery structure in similar ways. There's the one where the narrator did it, which is a brilliant idea, made more brilliant by the fact that the book also supports the interpretation that he may be lying to protect the real murderer. There's the one where the police detective called to investigate a murder at a house--who, that is, did not show up at the house so far as we know until after the murder was committed, and who does not at first seem to have any connection with the victim--turns out to be the murderer. There's the one where almost literally everyone is the murderer, even though there's only one murder. If I remember right there's also one where the real murderer is psychically inducing others to do the killing for him, but I think she was kind of senile when she wrote that one. Regardless, there are a bunch more along those lines, and that kind of experimentalism, especially coming in such genteel, classicist packaging, is very interesting to me.

In general I'm not that interested in mysteries as a genre, largely because most of those I've read (and I'm sure this will sound to a mystery fan the way someone saying science fiction is all busty broads being kidnapped by bug-eyed monsters would sound to me) seem more interested in quirks of setting than in the actual significance of gathering clues, solving things, and the process of investigation, which is what would be more interesting to me (and why I love Sherlock Holmes). And more interesting than that would be an investigation into the (I guess) metaphysical or philosophical implications of these things. Christie's experiments are a starting point for this, a gateway allowing it to be more fully explored in works by people like Jo Walton (the trilogy starting with Farthing), Michael Chabon (The Yiddish Policemen's Union), and Paul Auster (The New York Trilogy), among others, in all their extremely different ways.

By the way, if a real mystery fan comes across this and disagrees with my take on the genre, please, let me know. If my thinking the authors I mentioned were doing something new and exciting strikes you the way Phillip Roth saying "I had no literary models for reimagining the historical past" (idiot) strikes me, I'd love to know it, because I'd love there to be more works like this out there for me to investigate.

*Except I just realized I'm lying, because I read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd about four years ago after reading a critical essay about it, because I never had read it when I was in my Agatha Christie phase.