Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Obvious example

Jon Schwarz posts the obvious, digby suddenly is able to understand it.

I at first took her "It is so outside the range of mainstream belief that it takes a couple of readings to actually grok what he's saying" as embarrassingly dim, but really what it is is an example of what I was talking about yesterday.

Now, whether it will stick, whether it will lead anywhere, is another question. Signs point to no, as far as I can tell. Still, there's potential there.

A quick note on climate change

I've been seeing a lot of posts around the whatever-we're-calling-ourselves-osphere recently expressing disbelief in human-caused climate change. And yes, Al Gore, and yes, inadequate modeling, and yes, collapse of the oil economy anyway, and yes, there's wars going on too, and so on, and so on. Come on, people.

No, the science is not complete. Science by definition never is. But the basics, the unavoidable facts, anyone can grasp, and they are as follows.

1. Energy can be converted from one form to another, but it can be neither created nor destroyed.

2. The Earth is essentially a closed system. Aside from the continual huge energy input from the sun, what we have is what we have. And it's a complex system to be sure, and variable, but its tendency is towards the development and sustenance of equilibrium.

3. That thing we call oil? This is what it is: vast quantities of energy, ultimately from the sun, our one significant source of input, which was gathered by biological systems (i.e., living things) and stored over billions of years.

4. We are currently towards the end of a process of releasing pretty much all of that energy in a couple of hundred years.

5. Complex systems (see #2) plus even a little bit of energy (and we're emphatically not talking about "a little bit" here) equals lots and lots of unpredictable chaos and catastrophic destruction of equilibria.

All of that energy, this billions of years worth of sunny days being spewed out into the world in a period lasting only a few hundred millionths of that time, has to go somewhere, and I can tell you this: the place it's going is not "away." The fact that we don't know exactly what the consequences will be is not a reason to stop worrying about it, it's exactly the opposite.

And yeah, we pretty much can't do anything about it. Since when has that been a reason to pretend that a problem doesn't exist?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Duchamp's notes on infrathin (40)

The quarrel
of the cast
shadow in its
relationship with the
infra-thin

Obvious

Arthur Silber on the Russkie spies:
To return to Limbaugh's amazement that the evil Russians would feel a need to spy on the noble Americans: yeah, that's a tough one. It couldn't possibly have anything to do with the fact that by means of NATO expansion on one side, and permanent (or at least decades-long) occupations on another, the U.S. is intentionally engaged in an encirclement of Russia. An encirclement that happens to involve deployments of large numbers of troops, plus weapons of all kinds.
This is of course exceptionally obvious. I've often thought, while looking at the globe on my dresser that so handsomely complements the color I just recently painted my bedroom walls, about how painfully obvious it is. All you have to do is just that: look at a globe, or a map.

But many painfully obvious facts, which anyone can discover by thinking about them for half a second, are not actually obvious. The geographical facts of our empire are not obvious. It is not obvious that wealth funnels upwards, not downwards. It is not obvious that rulers have more power than people living in poverty. It is not obvious that a history, and contemporary reality, of slavery and genocide and empire means that America is not a force for good in the world. It is not obvious that each instance of a crooked corporation, or an overzealously sadistic soldier, or a bad president, is not just a "bad apple" but is in fact the system operating as it is intended to. It is not obvious that one should never make excuses for power.

Of course these facts are not obvious; if they were, more people would understand them!

There is always a concerted effort by those in power to create a culture in which these truths are not, as someone once said about something, self-evident. Conditioning begins, essentially, at birth. The ability that some people (I like to think I am one of these people; please let me know if you disagree with this assessment) have to see past this conditioning is not a mark of superiority, rather it is a mark of luck in intellectual development (whether this "luck" was lucky in any other sense obviously varies from individual to individual; for example, I come by my worldview by virtue of having wonderful parents and happening to have read good books in my teen years, while others have them by virtue of being victimized from childhood).

But this is why it's important to keep saying all these obvious things. John Caruso recently posted about a mind that encountered someone (Chomsky, in this case) saying the obvious right at the moment when he was primed to be responsive to it, and the difference that it made. My own mind, made receptive to obvious facts by the upbringing I just summarized, finally made a definitive leap into reality with the help, primarily, of Jon Schwarz and the 2006 congress (somewhat analogous to the carrot and the stick, respectively). You never know when it might work, for whom.

Tendency to lead to illegal magical practices

I wanted Janelle Monáe's The ArchAndroid to be the best album of the year. (I mean, just look at that cover!) It ended up disappointing me a little, but most likely it's just because I had built up an expectation that it might be the match for other recent idiosyncratic female R&B masterpieces like Erykah Badu's similarly sci-fi New Amerykah Part One (4th World War) or Solange's similarly skewed-but-still-pop-as-all-hell Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams, and as far as I'm concerned very little in this world is a match for those albums.

I think if I were going to change anything, I would make the production a little (but not much) rougher, a little (but not much) less bouncy. Oh, and I would remove Kevin Barnes's totally unsuitable voice from "Make the Bus." Then the album would be pretty much perfect.

Anyway, enough quibbling. The point of this post is to present the video for "Tightrope," which is just purely delightful. It mixes the imagery of fantasy, of both the "high-" and "urban-" varieties, dystopian sci-fi, 60's soul aficionados, high school drama, counter-culture One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest narratives, and countless other sources with Monáe and her associates' exhilerating dancing and a charmingly (and obviously falsely) cheap-looking visual style to create something that is, to me at least, truly beautiful. Sometimes the post-modern condition is worth it.



The song's pretty easy to get ecstatically carried away by, too.

Two last things to point out. First, the look of pure happiness on Monáe's face, around 2:00, when she first sees Big Boi. Second, every single person in the video is Black.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Google knows me


(clicking makes it bigger)

Dear liberals,

SHUT UP about Rand fucking Paul already. I mean, Christ, what's the big goddamn deal?

Only silence is shame

Scott Walker's 1972 album The Moviegoer is far from his best. If you're not familiar with him, I say start at the beginning, with the four numbered Scott albums, which see him working in a Jacques Brel/crooner-inspired style, with increasing experimentalism as the albums go on, frequently detailing seedy, decadent, disturbing, or violent imagery. Then move on to his later, far more out-there albums, from the Low*-inspired Nite Flights (technically credited to The Walker Brothers; the first four tracks are Scott's and are brilliant, the rest is disposable), to the legitimately insane, and terrifying, Tilt and The Drift. Then, if you feel like you want more, you can branch out, seeking out albums like 1984's interesting but very very 80s Climate of Hunter or the uneven-but-worth-it Til the Band Comes In, or this album.

It's entirely covers of movie themes, and most of it indulges the very crooneriest of Walker's croonery leanings. It's enjoyable in a way, but it's just absolutely nothing up to his other stuff. Except for "The Ballad of Sacco and Vanzetti," originally from the 1971 movie Sacco and Vanzetti. The original version, by the surprising pair of Ennio Morricone and Joan Baez, is great. Musically, I actually prefer Scott Walker's.



True, he cuts out some of the best lyrics ("Against us is the law/With its immensity of strength and power/Against us is the law!/Police know how to make a man/A guilty or an innocent/Against us is the power of police!"), and, in fact, most of the lyrics, and, sure, you could take it as cheesy that he replaces them with a bunch of Biblical blessed ares and the text of the Emma Lazarus poem from the Statue of Liberty, but whatever. I find it kind of startlingly powerful, when combined with the mournful-but-active rhythm (I imagine very sad go-go dancers), the chamber pop strings and harpsichord, and Walker's unmatchably intense vocals.

*The Bowie album, that is

Duchamp's notes on infrathin (39)

Transparency
imitating supposing
hoping for an infra thin
slippery soap
sliding friction
skating

(dated 1938)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

I felt a special kinship

This is a perfect little allegory on why Barack Obama is so goddamn dangerous. This lady is afraid her husband is going to be deported, so she writes to Obama for help. ICE comes and arrests him. The only reason he ended up getting released rather than deported is because she managed to attract media attention to the story.

Obama tricks people into thinking he's on their side. "I felt a special kinship to him because I'm of mixed race, and my husband obviously has a similar background," the story quotes her saying. But guess what: you can be "vice president of marketing at a new-media advertising company," you can be the sort of person to tell CNN that "All he wants to do is contribute to this economy...We want to be a productive couple," and still--he will not be on your side. "Mixed race" is not Obama's background, at least not for these purposes. Power is his background.

The only side Barack Obama is on is his own. If you're helping him gets what he wants, he'll be on your side, too; otherwise, in swoop the stormtroopers. This is what power is.
"I did everything I could and went into survival mode and pushed for all these connections to the press," she said. "We are fortunate to have that leverage. What about the people in the country who don't have access to those means?"
It's an excellent question, and not a rhetorical one, though CNN, in its own empowered self-interest, treats it as one.
Regardless of whether or not her letter was mishandled, the incident has deeply affected the couple's faith in the Obama administration.

"I feel really confused, I don't understand how something like this is possible. I can't imagine that at the top of the Obama administration that they realize that something like this is happening," Jamieson told CNN.
So much is contained in these paragraphs. "Mishandled"? "Faith"? The quote we leave on clearly indicates that that faith is still, against all evidence, intact. Because what Jamieson can't imagine, and what CNN does its damnedest to keep us from imagining, is that this, again, is the system operating exactly according to normal parameters.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Why I continue to read Shakesville

Seeing a single sentence that indicates both the clarity of thought needed to conclude that
We are as consumerist, greedy, market-driven a capitalist culture as exists on the planet, in which needs are created just to sell products to serve those conjured needs
and a desperate plea for improved inclusion in that culture, for more products for ME!!!, has something of the sublime about it.

In better news, more-and-more-frequent Shakesville blogger eastsidekate has been fairly consistently impressing me recently with both personal narratives and posts about capitalism and class written in a way that even Shakesculters might be able to grasp.

Happy birthday, George



It is impossible to overstate the impact this goofy-looking fellow has had on my thinking. Happy birthday, friend.

Duchamp's notes on infrathin (38)

Contact and
infra thin

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Special form of the general law

Judith Levine, Harmful to Minors, pages 102-3, emphasis mine:
Following the implementation of the [sex ed funding rules in the Clinton-era welfare "reform" legislation], a study of 659 African American Philadelphia sixth- and seventh-graders, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, returned the same verdict. A year after the classes, the kids who had undergone an abstinence-only program were engaging in intercourse in the same numbers (about a fifth) as kids who had received lessons stressing condom use, with the dangerous difference that the first group hadn't been taught anything about safe sex. "It is difficult to understand the logic behind the decision to earmark funds specifically for abstinence programs," commented JAMA's editors. ...

If it is difficult to understand the logic behind abstinence-only policy, it may be instructive to know that its proponents were proudly unswayed by logic. Although the law's impetus came in part from the continuing concern over nonmarital births, the House staffers who worked on the legislation admitted, in the commentary circulated in Congress, that "there is little evidence...that any particular policy or program will reduce the frequency of non-marital births." Now, this is not true; any number of policies, from contraceptive education to college scholarships for women, can reduce the frequency of nonmarital teen births. But the welfare law was not really intended to reduce teen births anyway.
Levine goes on to imply that the law was intended to make a statement that the Congress was on the side of social conservatism; I would argue instead that it was intended as a form of class-based social control.

Regardless, though, she makes a point that is important to remember: our Leaders neither form nor market policy based on what "logically" will accomplish what they claim in public to be trying to do.

Victims of the Oiligarchy


By Diane Steen-Hinderlie, via Jon Schwarz.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Stories

Over at Dead Horse, Rob Payne has a great little one-paragraph story called "World Views". It's about a magical creature. As Rob says, stories are a good way to communicate ideas.

Duchamp's notes on infrathin (37)

Smells more infrathin
than colors.

I almost forgot how much I like this

Monday, June 21, 2010

Smile!

The other day I watched an embarrassing old episode of The Avengers called "The Decapod" (it went downhill after the title). The plot was some sort of nonsense about a Balkan dictator/playboy who's going to be assassinated by some guy in a wrestling costume, only it's really him all along and he just wants to steal the UN's money and go on cruises, or something. But was really struck me was this:


That's Julie Stevens as Venus Smith, who was briefly one of John Steed's sidekicks in the early years of the show. She was a lounge singer, and each of her episodes included a musical number or two, which, you know, kind of tiresome since the music is bland, but nice, I guess?

Anyway. I have a minor temporomandibular joint disorder, which basically means that my jaw has a tendency to get painfully tense and can lock sometimes and occasionally feels like it doesn't fit right, which is terribly uncomfortable. Smiling or laughing for prolonged periods can be particularly bad for it. It's nothing tragic, and considering that it's currently my only notable physical ailment aside from back pain due to shitty posture, I'm not going to complain all that much about it.

My point is, look at that picture. The muscles in poor Julie Stevens' jaw must be so goddamn tense. And she's making that face--completely unmoving, incidentally, I wish I had a video to share--while singing. And then she smiles through the rest of the hour-long episode, in which Steed discovers that the Balkan dictator has a thing for blondes and is coincidentally looking for a "private secretary," if you know what I mean, because the last one was sexily killed by a man in a wrestling mask, so then he tricks Venus into thinking that the dictator is actually some kind of entertainment impresario who wants to book her for a tour of the Balkans even though he's never heard her sing, and then she falls in love with him because he kidnaps her.

Smiling all the while.

Women of the world, if I may, I would like to sincerely apologize to your temporomandibular joints. If you don't want to smile all the time, that's totally fine with me. Next time someone stops you and asks "Why so glum?" or ingratiatingly tells you to "Smile, it's not so bad," sock him one for me. Maybe you can fuck up his jaw, too.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Duchamp's notes on infrathin (36)

Condensing vapors -- on polished surfaces (glass
copper
infra thin

one can draw and perhaps re-condense
at will a picture which would appear
by the application of water vapor (or other)

Friday, June 18, 2010

RIP José Saramago

Maybe I should finally get around to reading you.

Difficult to know

Marisacat quotes from an exchange between ABC's Yunji de Nies and Robert Gibbs, about the dispersants they're going to be using in the Gulf, which may in fact be more harmful than the oil itself. De Nies, to her surprising credit, attempts to break through Gibbs's imbecilic stonewalling on this:
This particular chemical, this Corexit, as it’s called, because it’s patented, scientists are not able to see the actual formula of what this is, so it’s difficult to know what’s in it.
A more succinct summation of everything that's fucked up in this world is hard to imagine.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Oh, Mary, I'm in deep water

As the 60's groups broke up and members started releasing solo albums, circa 1970, some truly amazing music happened, and almost none of it was what you would expect from the people responsible. As an example, Plastic Ono Band, McCartney, and All Things Must Pass are three extraordinary objects*, none of them what anyone must have been expecting from the former Beatles at the time (with the possible exception of parts of All Things Must Pass). Not having been born yet, I can't even imagine what it would have felt like to be experiencing it as it happened (my father described it as "very, very sad" when I asked him, and it certainly must have been, but sad as the music and the circumstances that produced it are, it is incredibly vital music; there must have been an overwhelming excitement mixed in with the sadness).

On a less mainstream level, you could say the same about Vintage Violence, Transformer, and Chelsea Girl, though of course the timing and circumstances there are considerably different, Nico and John Cale having left the Velvet Underground long before Lou Reed and releasing albums while the band still existed. Nevertheless, the excitement of being around as these albums came out, one after another, must have been almost unbearable.

I just listened for the first time to John Phillips' first album after The Mamas and the Papas fell apart, which is sometimes referred to by his name, sometimes as John the Wolfking of LA. This is, as I said before, amazing music. It's in a country-folk style not entirely unrelated to TM&TP's most frequent modes, but feeling utterly different, more like a Tim Buckley or even a Leonard Cohen. The lyrics are, as they were with his band, frequently heartbreaking, but where John, Denny, Michelle, and Cass covered the sorrow with a kind of bombastic sweetness, the very different sweetness here leaves the emotion bare.

Incidentally, a good deal of the sweetness on this album comes from the backing vocals, provided perfectly by the legendary Darlene Love alongside her less legendary but no less delightful colleagues Fanita James and Jean King. Love, James, and King were the three most regular members of The Blossoms, frequent session singers who also recorded some obscure records under their own name, and much better-known songs as Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans and as The Crystals (in some versions; for hints of the Phil Spector-is-terrible story behind that, see here).

Anyway, music can speak for itself, so I'm going to shut up and present "Topanga Canyon."



PS And my god, that piano sound!

*Or technically four, since I don't want to dismiss how awesome Yoko Ono's Plastic Ono Band is, but since she was never in the Beatles it's not directly relevant to what I'm talking about. But: awesome, awesome album.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Halfway through Pride Month

I guess once July starts I have to go back to being ashamed?

Duchamp's notes on infrathin (35)

Infra-thin separation

2 forms cast in
the same mold (?) differ
from each other
by an infra thin separative
amount --

All "identicals" as
identical as they may be, (and
the more identical they are)
move toward this
infra thin separative
difference.

Two men are not
an example of identicality
and to the contrary move away
from a determinable
infra thin difference -- but
there exists the crude conception
of the déjà vu which leads from
generic grouping
(2 trees, 2 boats)
to the most identical "castings"
It would be better
to try
to go
into the
infra thin
interval which separates
2 "identicals" than
to conveniently accept
the verbal generalization
which makes
2 twins look like 2
drops of water

Copenhagen
July 29,37

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Weird

If digby is, as she says, "immune" to speeches, what the heck keeps her so damn snookered?

Think of the children

Not irrelevant to the post I might eventually write at some point during my lifetime about young people and sex: I see that Perez Hilton could conceivably be charged with distributing child porn, which according to the article carries a mandatory minimum 15 year sentence, for linking to an upskirt underpantsless photograph of seventeen and a half year old Miley Cyrus.

Now, from what the article says, no one is actually charging him as of yet. But I hope we can all see past the natural disgust we feel towards Perez Hilton, and towards the concept of upskirt shots, to see how patently ludicrous even the possibility, even the suggestion, that someone could be imprisoned for fifteen years for not taking, not posting, but linking to a photograph, taken in public, that includes a glimpse of a vagina belonging to a woman half a year away from an arbitrary "age of majority."

I mean, it's absurd to call that porn, let alone criminal child porn. Our society's attitudes about sex are insane. That includes both what I've just described and the attitude that leads to the idea that taking and "distributing" such a picture is desirable. In fact, they're the same fucking attitudes.

Incidentally, I stumbled upon that article because it was linked to in the sidebar of this Greenwald article, which is overall his usual decent quality but which also casually refers to high school seniors as "children." I mean, what is wrong with us?

Monday, June 14, 2010

pass it on

well, we've finally given up being coy and are ready to declare an unbound desire for afghan mineral deposits. hell, let's just consider them ours already. from linked article above:

"[State Department spokesman] Crowley downplayed questions about the potential for other countries to try to exploit Afghanistan's possible wealth and acknowledged that internal corruption could pose a problem...


'We're very mindful of the fact that around the world, you have a number of countries that are blessed with natural resources that may become a source of conflict and corruption,' Crowley said...


'We want to be sure that we have helped Afghanistan develop effective institutions of government so that it's able to develop its mining sector, that it's generating revenue that can be turned into greater prosperity and shared opportunity for the Afghan people,' he said."

Duchamp's notes on infrathin (34)

inhabitants of
the infra thin
do-nothings

Sunday, June 13, 2010

This city was murdered, buy our product

Via io9, I see that Absolut has created an ad (or, sorry, Absolut sponsored an artist's creation, and then put their branding on it for entirely selfless reasons!) in which Picasso's Guernica is, as io9 would have it, "reimagined" as an x-ray. As a work of art it's fine, I guess, though a bit pointless unless I'm missing something. As an advertisement it is reprehensible beyond belief.

Judith Levine, Harmful to Minors, introduction page xxii

(Cross-posted from Commonplace)

Beleaguered parents have only the media and the marketplace as sources of advice and help. The parenting magazines indict a hazard of the month, providing fretful mothers and fathers with a ready list of names for their vaguest fears: television radiation, chlorine, medicine droppers, iron pills, automatic garage door openers, latex balloons, trampolines, drawstring sweatshirts. The newsweeklies chime in with perils of a less concrete, more moral nature. "How Can We Keep Our Children Safe?" asked the cover of Life magazine in the mid-1990s, ringing the vulnerable face of a blond-haired, blue-eyed girl with a boldfaced wreath of horribles: "sexual abuse, abduction, television, accidents, neglect, violence, drugs, vulgarity, alienation." The article, like the pieces on chlorine and sweatshirts, offered few solutions that were not purchasable, and private.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Why can't I stand up and tell myself I'm strong

On a different subject, Jackie DeShannon:

Good night. Til tomorrow.

Sexually dangerous, belated addendum

So obviously the promised followup to my Sexually dangerous post, focusing on our society's attitudes towards young people and sex, hasn't happened yet. Maybe eventually I'll feel up to the task. But in the meantime, I want to point out something that I didn't say (or even think of) explicitly when I wrote the original post.

In comments, there was quite a bit of back and forth, first between ASP and myself, then between ASP and Richard, and then between ASP and Jack, and eventually I started feeling really bad that it seemed like an argument between ASP on one side and a bunch of dudes on the other. Of course the only person who really got argumentative in the whole thing was me, and that was because a) I was tired and b) I unfortunately conflated what silly Jenny was saying with what sensible ASP was saying, which, sorry about that.

Uh, anyway, now that my absorbing summary of the comment thread is done, what I want to point out is that out of the exchange between Jack and ASP came this statement of Jack's, in response to a summary of a study of rapists:
It contains the beginning of the answer of how to "handle" rapists.

Don't make them.
No one, I think, could disagree with this. The disagreement arose when ASP responded, quite accurately, that feminists have been working on this for quite some time. And it is true, and no matter how minor any individual example may seem, I do think it's valuable to point out examples of how our mass culture reinforces the attitudes that lead to so many men thinking it's perfectly OK for them to do as they please with women, regardless of how the women might feel about it. On all this, I agree with ASP 100%.

However.

These efforts, particularly as I see them at Shakesville but also in other places (and I am not accusing ASP of doing this herself; this is simply a response set off by what she said, hopefully not to be taken as a criticism of her herself), often seem to come hand in hand with the kind of punitive impulse, and the kind of deference to power, that I was clumsily attempting to criticize in my original post (I realized later that I should have split it into two posts, one discussing the ruling itself, one discussing the reaction to it, but my own navel gazing self-criticism is neither here nor there right now).

The problem is that these attitudes, the deference to power and the impulse to punish, are in themselves extremely powerful drivers of the rape culture.

The problem with the deference to power, expressed here by McEwan's bizarrely trusting "sure, there's potential for abuse, but..." framing, expressed elsewhere in her fawning admiration for people like Hillary Clinton and Al Gore, surely needs no explanation. Rape is in large part about expressing power, the rapist declaring his total dominion over the body of the victim. A society with entrenched power structures such as we have, in which we are expected to subsume ourselves to the individuals at the top who present themselves as speaking for us, by its very nature encourages other, violent expressions of power. And this is all without even mentioning the fact that the wielders of American power have encouraged and instituted regimes of systemic rape as a means of control, around the world.

(Another aspect of the power-worship--passively allowing huge corporations to define culture for you--was ably demolished by Jack in the original comments.)

The problem with the punitive impulse as a response to rape should be even more obvious, but somehow it doesn't seem to be. I mentioned in comments to my original post that "rape is itself rampant in prisons." Your good liberal thinks that this is something that could be regulated away; of course I think differently. Rape, as far as I'm concerned, is an integral part of the prison system, a way of ensuring that the power structures that prison serves to reinforce are perpetuated on every level. But even if it's not--even if we could somehow eliminate all traces of rape and sexual assault from prisons--even in this hypothetical (if you ask me, impossible) world, the prison system, and the punitive impulse that leads almost everyone, no matter where they fall on the limited spectrum allowed in mainstream thought, to encourage it, would still reinforce the rape culture.

Opposition to the death penalty is thankfully common among liberals. In discussing it, they often rightly point out the hypocrisy inherent in killing someone as punishment for killing someone. That the implications of this line of reasoning are never explored any further is an indication, again, of how limited the range of mainstream, allowable thought is.

Because surely a moment's reflection would make anyone realize that imprisoning someone (i.e., the use of power to remove someone's agency) as punishment for raping someone (i.e., the use of power to remove someone's agency) is just as hypocritical. And if one's goal is changing the culture that creates rapists, it can only be counterproductive.

I hope it is clear that none of this should be taken as a defense of rapists, nor as an erasure of the fact that, as things stand, rape is a largely consequence-free act as far as the rapist is concerned. And no, I don't have a solution for what we should do with rapists, given that we obviously have a culture that creates them in large numbers. I do know, however, that what we currently do with them, both when we let them go free and when we do punish them, only contributes to creating more and more of them.

UPDATE I'm kind of an asshole. See comments.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Quasi-scientific study

This morning I walked two miles, half of it on a main road through a small city, half of it on suburban residential streets. As I did, to amuse myself I decided to keep an eye on the cars driving towards me and count how many carried only one person versus how many carried passengers. Just one passenger was enough to be counted, and I disregarded any vehicle that seemed to be business-related (pickup trucks with logos on the sides, anything bigger than an SUV, that kind of thing), just to be extra-clear.

In the two miles, fifty-one eligible cars passed me. Six carried passengers. The remaining forty-five carried only the driver.

The rapid use of energy that took billions of years to store up is killing us. We know this. In order to get this energy, we've cut bleeding gashes into the earth, all of which, but especially one of them right now, are killing us. We know this. But nothing changes.

And to a certain extent, how could it? Or, rather, how could we change? I'm all for assigning some of the blame to each and every single one of us, and have engaged in some of that myself. But at the same time, our leaders have invested a lot of money and effort over the decades forcing us to behave in the ways that make us responsible. Sure, we could all do better--carpool, say. But our local worlds have been delocalized. Most of us have to drive to work, most of us can't eat without having our food wrapped in plastic and shipped from miles and miles and miles away. And so on and so on and so on.

As far as the cars go, I've often thought that if we need them at all, they should be modular. If you're just driving yourself, you've got a smart car or a motorcycle or something similar. Small, so you're not lugging tons of steel around just to move yourself. Then if you have a passenger, you can add a passenger seat. Or if you have cargo, you can attach a trunk. Of course, decades of engineering have steered us in a direction where designing that would probably be near impossible, even if anyone wanted to.

I don't really have a point. We're fucked and I don't know what to do about. Shocking, I'm sure.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Look who's doddering

Digby thinks Helen Thomas is senile, or something.

UPDATE since I don't want to devote a whole new post to it: The McEwanator feels "obliged" to write a post about it, thank god! And uh, she thinks Thomas's comments were terrible and also talks about her like she's dead.

Press release

Chris Bowers:
I want to make it clear that I know there are still "amateur" independent blogs around. Also, I do not begrudge a single person for taking any of these various routes to professionalism. Hell, I have wanted to be a professional blogger since Kos first began selling ads in late 2003.
You heard it here first: I have never been jealous of Markos Moulitsas, and I will never go pro. No ads here!

That post is up there with the most unintentionally funny things I've ever read.

(via Avedon Carol)

Duchamp's notes on infrathin (33)

when the smoke
of the tobacco smells also
of the mouth from which it comes, the
3 smells marry
by infra thin

Sunday, June 6, 2010

In happier news

It's getting more and more likely that we're not the only life in the solar system. Hydrogen-breathing, acetylene-eating, methane-pooping microbes on Titan! It's a big maybe, but my god it's beautiful.

Between this, the ease with which life could evolve on Europa given the conditions we know exist there, and the increasingly strong evidence that there may have once been or may even currently be microbial life on Mars, it's a damn near certainty in my mind.

Life may have evolved independently as many as four times just in our solar system alone. That's not even including the entire rest of the universe.

Makes me happy, is all.

Excellently crafted blog comment sentences

hist on SMBIVA:
If I wrote a fictional villain who put out a young art students eye and laughed about how she deserved it, I'd be accused of laying it on too thick.
fred on Tiny Revolution
Israel will always agree with Turkey on this matter: it's simply a coincidence that some Armenians were killed at the same time that other Armenians were being killed.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Where its due, part whatever

This digby post, unless my reading comprehension is failing me, is shockingly on-target and undeluded.
It’s an article of faith among financial elites across the planet that the welfare state is an abomination and this is a global opportunity to end it. Each culture will deal with it slightly differently --- riots in Greece, marches in France, blog posts in America. But in the end, the result, short of revolution, will be similar everywhere --- the post-war welfare state will be weakened or destroyed. The left is barely relevant anywhere anymore and they simply do not fear any kind of serious populist uprising.

Duchamp's notes on infrathin (32)

Magnifying glass to reach it (infra thin)
μμμμ separating the infra thin
The infra thins are diaphanous and occasionally transparent

(verso)
50 cubic cent. of Paris air

To my fellow East Coasters

Uh, go to the beach while you can.



Projection via Minnesota Public Radio, h/t Johnny Sunshine Jackson in comments.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Redundancy

If you read this blog (you do, don't you?) you probably already read the much more useful Chris Floyd and Arthur Silber and IOZ, which means most likely you've already seen this amazing Washington Post article about how "the Obama administration has significantly expanded a largely secret U.S. war...in 75 countries." But just in case you missed it, here you go. The next time you hear someone talk about how at least Obama's better than Bush was or McCain would have been, or about how America is fundamentally a force for good, or whatever nonsense people like that let fall out of their mouths, point them in the direction of this evil shit.

The best intro before reading the article, I think, is this from Chris Floyd:
[T]he Post is often a very good source of information about the operations and machinations of the militarist empire -- not because its editors are seeking to expose the empire's crimes and atrocities, but because they approve of them. And thus they will often write about them, in detail, in the most straightforward manner: "Hey, look at the cool stuff our boys are doing now!"

As a final note, I would like to point out that a bug just deliberately flew into my nose.

Another post that might confuse JR



Don't worry, though, JR. I'm confused too. The only way I can think to interpret this is saying that capitalism drives the knife of hatred through the heart of human love, but I sincerely doubt that that is the message that B.C., best known for promoting the most virulently capitalist strain of evangelical Christianity, was trying to get across.

Still, I have to admire the strip for getting the word "capitalism" onto the comics page at all. When was the last time that happened? Hell, how often does it show up in the paper, period?

RIP Rue McClanahan

I feel bad being a day late on this, but I wanted to get this video uploaded and that shit takes forever.

The Golden Girls continues to be one of my all-time favorite entertainments; the quality of its specific combination of a writing team, four actors, and a spectacularly useful formula has rarely been equaled. You could say this equally of Bea Arthur, Estelle Getty, or Betty White, but: it never would have worked without Rue McClanahan.

Everyone knows Blanche, or if they don't, it's easy to find her (and they should). I'd like to leave you with something else, though. It's her brief appearance in Starship Troopers, which I have been known to describe as my favorite movie of the 1990s (this isn't always true, depending on my mood, but it's definitely up there). The scene is sadly under a minute and a half long (you can tell it was edited down from a longer take, I'd love to see those deleted scenes) and largely taken up by Denise Richards' antics, but McClanahan's blind weirdo biology teacher is worth it. I love her face in the background of the Denise Richards barf shot.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Edgar Allan Poe, "Berenicë" first two sentences

(cross-posted from Commonplace)

Misery is manifold. The wretchedness of earth is multiform.

Ronald Reagan, Campaign Speech 1976

"I would like to be president, because I would like to see this country become once again a country where a little six-year-old girl can grow up knowing the same freedom that I knew when I was six years old, growing up in America."

---

"I would like to be a president. I would like to be a six-year old girl. A country can grow to like a six-year-old girl president.

Growing up old in America, where a president can be a six-year-old girl, I knew freedom. Again, I knew freedom... Can I know freedom? I would like to.

'Where can I see this freedom?' In this country. This America, where freedom can grow. Grow up, America!

I would like to see this country become a six-year-old girl once again."

Duchamp's notes on infrathin (29)

Isolation of the infra thin!
How to isolate --

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Misunderstandings

President...er, former President Horst Köhler of Germany:
A country of our size, with its focus on exports and thus reliance on foreign trade, must be aware that military deployments are necessary in an emergency to protect our interests, for example, when it comes to trade routes, for example, when it comes to preventing regional instabilities that could negatively influence our trade, jobs and incomes.
Whoops! Someone told the truth! And then he resigned!

The funny thing is, Köhler's a politician. So even when he was telling the truth, he was still lying, and doing it all for the wrong reasons:
I regret that my comments in an important and difficult question for our nation were able to lead to misunderstandings.
This is hilarious on several levels. First of all, "able to lead to misunderstandings." I concede that it could just be an awkward translation from the Deutschlandish (he may actually have said that Israel needs to be wiped off the map for all I know), but really, how perfect is that little bit of politicianese?

Second of all, it's funny because most sane human beings would take a statement like "military deployments are necessary in an emergency to protect our [economic] interests" as being definitively unmisunderstandable; that is, your average every day sane human being would hear that an interpret it, correctly, as meaning "We kill people for profit every day, isn't that evil?"

But you see, that's not what Horst meant. For whatever reason, he forgot himself while making those statements. He thought he was talking to his friends; you know, the other shapeshifting reptilians from other dimensions who rule the world. These are not your average every day sane human beings. To them, the statement "military deployments are necessary in an emergency to protect our [economic] interests" means "Who should we kill today in order to maximize our profits?" This is the spirit in which Köhler intended his remarks to be not able to have been regrettably misunderstood. Imagine his surprise when he remembered the species that made up the majority of his audience!

Here's my favorite part of the NYT article:
He complained that some critics had suggested he supported military “missions that are not covered by the Constitution.”

“This criticism lacks any basis,” he said. “It also is lacking in the necessary respect for the presidential office.”
Now let me get this straight. The mere suggestion that he might have suggested breaking the Constitution is "lacking in the necessary respect" for the office of the President of Germany?!?! Well, sieg heil, I mean really.

Some added funny is that while I am no expert in the intricacies of the German political system, it is my understanding that the President is pretty much a ceremonial figurehead. So I'm like, exactly how much respect is necessary, when we really get down to it? (Answer: None now, he's not the President any more!)

Everyone stop trying!

For reasons not unrelated to what JR says about Greenwald, I don't feel that I have anything useful to say about the Israeli massacre of relief workers en route to Gaza. If only this same reservation would stop others from feeling the need to chime in on it, maybe we'd hear less about how, OK, maybe it's Israel's fault, but it's the malevolent dead folks' fault too, and about how wanting to help people who are being throttled to death is not "peaceful," and how when armed troops started boarding their ship if they really hadn't wanted to get shot they would have just stood around and waited for the men with guns to attack them, and how, yes, it is still mostly Israel's fault, but all in all it was just a "hawkish" "screw up." No big deal, really, unless it turns out, as it "possibly" will, that it was a war crime, whatever the fuck that is. It's really amazing that the shooting didn't start sooner! Way to go, IDF!

The last sentence, though, I can agree with:
Sometimes I think that Netanyahu would be better defender of Israel if he just stopped trying.
Because yes, in general if you stop "trying" to murder thousands of people for profit, you don't usually have to do much to defend yourself against them.