Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

At least 350,000 dead Koreans.

At least three million dead Vietnamese.

At least two million dead Laotians and Cambodians.

No idea how to begin estimating how many dead South Americans from various countries.

At least two million dead Iraqis.

Tens of thousands of dead Afghans.

And, uh, so on.

Friday, May 28, 2010

I guess there are many things you shouldn't ask, shouldn't tell

"This legislation" = repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell; "he" = Obama:
“This legislation will help make our armed forces even stronger and more inclusive by allowing gay and lesbian soldiers to serve honestly and with integrity,” he said.
OK, two things. First, it will make our military even more inclusive? Even more inclusive than what? Second, how the fuck strong does our military have to be???


Something struck me while looking at one of the pictures of Melissa McEwan's hero, Hillary Clinton, in the post I linked to in my previous.

You frequently see shots of our fearless leaders in settings like these. Two awkwardly large chairs pointed towards the cameras, the subjects of the photographs sitting awkwardly half facing the cameras, half facing each other, twisted in what looks like massively uncomfortable positions, leaning in to one another to attempt to bridge the awkwardly large distance between them as they talk, legs dangling uncomfortably, never knowing whether to cross or stay feet planted on the floor.

One: It reminds me of the awkward posing of televised sketch comedy.

Two: Is there any question this is anything but theater?

Three: Maybe at the very least sitting in these positions gives these people terrible back pain, which would totally make up for all the killing and everything.

Long live the revolution!

The PZ:
There is a cost to these risky ventures in offshore drilling, and they are not adequately paid by the companies doing the dirty work.

Those who would profit need to pay the price. There are clearly at least three companies that shouldn't be arguing…they should be coughing up the cash, and recognizing that their businesses will have to be slightly less profitable.
Yeah! And then, everybody don't buy an iPad!

Another revolutionary: I honestly can't think of anything sufficiently disparaging to say about The McEwan anymore. Yes, Hillary Clinton is the target of much misogyny, and that is bad. On the other hand, she's a mass murderer, and no amount of pictures of her wearing bright colors or looking comfortable with children (when she's not blowing them up that is) changes that.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

on the same level

time magazine recently made a list of the 50 worst inventions of all time. while it isn't in any particular order, this sequencing has one of the funniest turns I've ever seen:

1. The Segway
2. New Coke
3. Clippy [Office 1997]

Throwing something off the Tallahatchie Bridge

Because it's been summer-hot and thunderstormy here, and because I'm listening to her, and because her vocal performances are incredible, and because her songwriting is just as great, and because I haven't written any of what I want to write yet, here's three of Bobbie Gentry's best songs.

Mississippi Delta:

(M, I, double-S I, double-S I, double-P I)

Niki Hoeky (she didn't write this one, but I love the performance):

(woo boo poo poo yoo)

And, of course, Ode to Billie Joe:

The whole Ode to Billie Joe album is a masterpiece.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Monday, May 24, 2010


just came across this in The Transgender Studies Reader and thought it good to revisit some past talkin's:

"'Woman' typically has been mobilized in ways that advance the specific class, racial, national, religious and ideological agendas of some feminists at the expense of other women; the fight over transgender inclusion within feminism is not significantly different, in many respects, from other fights involving working-class women, women of color, lesbian women, disabled women, women who produce or consume pornography, and women who practice consensual sadomasochism..."

- Susan Stryker, (De)Subjugated Knowledges

girls, my schedule has opened up!

if predator drones start to patrol the us border, people like jim gilchrist might have to find another hobby.

thankfully, it looks like he's got one.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


"Truthers" are part of American conspiracy lore going way back. For instance, one of Jonah's intellectual forbears, Robert Welch, made his bones claiming that Roosevelt knew about Pearl Harbor and purposefully did nothing to stop it. In fact, that has been an article of faith among a segment on the right for many decades
Nicholson Baker, Human Smoke, page 238:
Admiral Richardson, commander of the U.S. fleet, had a confrontation with President Roosevelt. It was October 8, 1940. Richardson said...that Pearl Harbor was the wrong place for ships. Roosevelt said he thought that having the fleet in Hawaii had a "restraining influence" on Japan.

Was the United States going to war? Richardson asked the president. "He replied," in Richardson's account, "that if the Japanese attacked Thailand, or the Kra Peninsula, or the Dutch East Indies we would not enter the war, that if they even attacked the Philippines he doubted whether we would enter the war." But the Japanese couldn't always avoid making mistakes, the president said. "Sooner or later they would make a mistake and we would enter the war."
And page 282:
In Tokyo, the American ambassador to Japan heard something about a possible surprise attack. "There is a lot of talk around town to the effect that the Japanese, in case of a break with the United States, are planning to go all out in a surprise attack at Pearl Harbor," the ambassador, Joseph Grew, wrote in his diary. "Of course I informed my government." It was January 24, 1941.
And page 415:
Edgar Mowrer, the journalist, was at a bar in Manila, having a drink with a man who worked for the Maritime Commission. It was late October 1941, and Mowrer was on a spy mission for Colonel Donovan....

The maritime man in the bar, Ernest Johnson, said he had a daughter in San Francisco. He didn't expect ever to see her again. "The Japs will take Manila before I can get out," Johnson said.

"Take Manila?" said Mowrer. "That would mean a war with us."

Johnson nodded. "Didn't you know the Jap fleet has moved eastward, presumably to attack our fleet at Pearl Harbor?"
And page 431:
Roosevelt's army chief of staff, George Marshall, had some reporters--from Time, Newsweek, the Times, the Herald Tribune, and three wire services--into his office for a briefing. "We are preparing an offensive war against Japan," Marshall said.... The aim was to "blanket the whole area with air power." Keep it a secret, he said. It was November 15, 1941.
And page 433:
Henry Stimson was writing in his diary. He, Knox, Stark, Hull, and Marshall had been in the Oval Office with the president, batting around a problem that Roosevelt had brought up. The Japanese were likely to attack soon, perhaps next Monday, the president said. "The question was how we should maneuver them into the position of firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves," Stimson wrote. "It was a difficult proposition." It was November 25, 1941.
And page 445:
In Washington that night [after the attack on Pearl Harbor], Edgar Mowrer couldn't sleep. He thought, The man in the bar in Manila was right! "And if a member of the Maritime Commission knew the destination of the Japanese fleet, why had the President, why had Knox and Stimson and Hull who were expecting war, not known it and taken the necessary precautions?

And then Mowrer realized: "Nothing but a direct attack could have brought the United States into the War! Here was the 'break' for which both Churchill and T.V. Soong had been waiting."
Of course, Digby probably thinks Human Smoke has a dangerous affect on poor mindless readers who can't be trusted to think about what they take in.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


I continue to find myself completely unable to think about the oil spill.

I can't find a link to it right now (if I do I'll update), but my father was telling me the other day about plans to essentially blow up the Finger Lakes in New York (which my family is deeply tied to and which have a hugely significant place in my own personal history) to squeeze a little oil out of them.

On some fundamental level, it seems we really don't want a world to live in.

Calvin and Hobbes

It amazes me that the first two panels of this strip were circulated in newspapers nationwide. Sure, they're the throwaway panels that a lot of papers edit out, but a lot don't, too.

Marx, updated for contemporary life, presented to children, endorsed by newspapers and parents. Calvin and Hobbes was amazing. Of course, when a lot of kids asked their parents what "opiate of the masses" meant, they probably lied like Calvin's dad would have. But still.

(Also, in the rest of the strip, I'm almost exactly Hobbes.)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Sexually dangerous

So. The other day the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government can indefinitely hold prisoners considered "sexually dangerous", after their sentences end.

"Sexually dangerous." This, in a country where teenagers taking naked pictures of themselves on their phones can be convicted of child pornography (and made permanently "registered" sex offenders). In a country where, for example, a man can be sentenced to ten years in prison (and maybe more, if someone decides he's "sexually dangerous" at some time in the future) for having sex with his fifteen year old girlfriend when he was seventeen. In a country where the first thing that leaps to mind (at least for me) when hearing the phrase "sexually dangerous" is this.

The primary reaction of our good liberals seems to range from indifference to complete silence. A notable exception is Melissa McEwan, who in this one post transforms in my eyes from an amusingly misguided and ignorant simpleton into an irredeemable, despicable monster. any extrajudicial detention policy, there is a huge potential for abuse.

But, unlike most other crimes, perpetrators of sexual assaults have a high recidivism rate and are more resistant to rehabilitation. Convictions for sexual assault frequently don't come with sentences that reflects that reality, with average prison terms being appallingly low. So, something's gotta give.

I'd personally prefer to see long mandatory sentences with multiple parole opportunities, with parole contingent on rigorous and comprehensive rehabilitation, some demonstrable evidence of success, and a required lifetime commitment to ongoing treatment, the failure to comply with which automatically triggers a reversal of parole.

Waiting until people re-offend is not working. For anyone.
(Incidentally, she closed the comments on the post after about twelve hours because a few people were questioning her baseless assertions, and when she said she had provided links to back herself up in previous posts, they responded by saying "Where?")

"Potential for abuse, but..." Nice. Yes, Melissa, there is a potential for abuse. A potential for abusing this ruling, that is in itself an abuse of a system that is an abuse; a potential for abusing this ruling made by a body that is by definition an abuse. And there is no fucking "but." Sexual assault is of course a horrible and all-to-common thing, but advancing the power of the prison-industrial complex is not the solution.

As for what she'd "personally prefer to see," anyone who thinks that "long mandatory sentences" (regardless of her caveats on it, which range from laughable to terrifying) are acceptable for any crime, particularly one so ill-defined, variable, and frequently (note I say "frequently," not "always" or even "a majority of the time") completely harmless as the vast range of acts our sick society lumps together under the sensationalistic umbrella label "sex crimes," is a horrifying beast who can only vaguely be recognized as human.

And another thing: she posted that horrific excretion just one day before sanctimoniously criticizing what seems to be a fairly useful article from the Guardian on the seldom-discussed, massive increase in the wealth gap between white and Black Americans in the past few decades, because it doesn't use the specific word "racism." MS. MCEWAN, LET ME REMIND YOU OF THIS.

I have a monster post bubbling up in me about our society's attitudes towards young people and sexuality. I've been thinking about it for several months now, trying to figure out how to structure it, and how to go about it so as not to say things I don't mean to say. It was inspired mainly by the popular reaction to the latest round of Catholic sex scandals, but shit like this ruling is pushing it along even more. I hope to have it written soon but make no promises.

Oh, and one more thing. This ruling split 7-2. Guess who the two were? That's right, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. And the person who successfully argued the case before the court? Elena Kagan. Tell me again why I have to vote Democrat because of the Supreme Court.


My best interests? How do you know what my best interest is? How can you say what my best interest is? When I went to your schools, I went to your churches, I went to your institutional learning facilities! So how can you say I'm crazy?

I'm not crazy!
You're the one who's crazy!
You're driving me crazy!

-Suicidal Tendencies

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Via io9, this video is amazing. It's the demolition of the Cowboys stadium, from inside, and you can click and drag to rotate the view as the video plays. It loads slow for me at least, I'm assuming because there's so much information in it, but it's worth it.

Imagine... Digby would react if someone said something like this about a Democrat:
Granted, there's no reason to assume that he holds views like that. But to he best of my knowledge, he hasn't repudiated them either.
Such a stupid line. Incidentally, doing a search for "repudiate" on Digby's site is pretty hilarious. Calm down with that word, friend.

She's talking about Rand Paul and all the tedious "Is he a racist?" nonsense that's going around. If we even accept that such a question makes any sense to ask of anyone (which I don't), IOZ repudiates the hell out of it in a post that makes a few questionable assertions but which overall I feel no need to repudiate whatsoever:
A libertarian who hates Black people, thinks they are racially and genetically inferior, and would, given the opportunity, refuse to serve racial minorities at his own business could nevertheless be better for Blacks than any cruise missile liberal. Ending the drug war and closing prisons and not sending poor Black people to die in crazy foreign adventures based on hazy "humanitarian" principles is more important than paying lip service to the Civil Rights office at the DOJ. For realz.
Although, I gotta say, in general the term "liberatarian" is pretty damned repudiatable. And come to think of it, I repudiate the phrase "For realz" with all the repudiation power in my body.

UPDATE: There's absolutely nothing to repudiate in IOZ's latest on the subject.

Easing back into it

About a week ago, the reprehensible monster Melissa McEwan (more on why I call her that in the coming days) linked, with appropriate disgust, to the reprehensible monster Christopher Hitchens (surely no explanation of why I call him that is required) in Vanity Fair filling out the "Proust questionnaire," apparently a Vanity Fair tradition which I, wisely never having read the magazine, was unaware of.

I saw it and thought "Hey! What better way to ease back into blogging my own words instead of other people's than filling out this imbecilic survey!" And now, a week later, I'm ready. So here goes. It is very long and stupid, so please feel free to not read it.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
In my experience, the state that any attempt to navigate contemporary society leaves one in. Outside of my experience, being poor in an oil-rich country.

Where would you like to live?
Rhode Island. (Yes, I know.)

What is your idea of earthly happiness?
Whatever would arise from the non-violent collapse of all the structures surrounding us.

To what faults do you feel most indulgent?
I feel certain that this question could have been phrased better. I'm thinking this means what bad thing do I indulge frequently? I would say ownership, or maybe allowing myself to unengagedly experience shitty television.

Who are your favorite heroes of fiction?
I utterly despise the concept of the "hero," so I'm taking this just to mean my favorite male characters from fiction (the arbitrary distinction of "male" I'm making based on a later question). So, very colored by recent reading and viewing, I'll say Walter M. Miller's Brother Francis, Kovac and Joe from Hitchcock's Lifeboat, Sherlock Holmes, the guy who didn't make coffee for John G. Miller in the convenience store, and Jean-Luc Picard.

Who are your favorite characters in history?
Guy Debord, Pocahontas as written about by Paula Gunn Allen, Rosalind Franklin, and Huey P. Newton.

Who are your favorite heroines in real life?
Assata Shakur, Angela Y. Davis, and Yoko Ono.

Who are your favorite heroines of fiction?
Again colored by recent reading and viewing, and again hating the "hero" concept: Mrs Richards at least from the first 300 pages of Dhalgren, Rosemary Woodhouse, Buffy Summers, Foxy Brown, Caroline from Muriel Spark's The Comforters, and Walter M. Miller's Mrs. Grales/Rachel.

Your favorite painter?
My brother, though he's largely abandoned painting in favor of sculpture and video, Egon Schiele.

Your favorite musician?
David Bowie, Brian Eno, The Stooges, The Supremes, Terry Riley, J.S. Bach, James Brown, Buffy Sainte-Marie, The Monks, Eliane Radigue, and far, far, far too many more to name.

The quality you most admire in a man?
Physically? Being somewhat smaller than me. Other than that? I don't know, but just being "nice" doesn't cut it. That and not making these foolish distinctions between male and female all the time.

The quality you most admire in a woman?
See above.

Your favorite virtue?
I was not aware that "virtues" were meant to be ranked. I don't know. Is true equality, as opposed to the kind we have, a virtue?

Your least favorite virtue, or nominee for the most overrated one?
Hard work.

Your proudest achievement?
Having created music, both on my own and in collaboration, that I think is good.

Your favorite occupation?
FIREMAN!!! I don't know, what?

Who would you have liked to be?
Someone who was in Paris in 1871 or 1968, maybe.

Your most marked characteristic?
A pervasive awkwardness.

What do you most value in your friends?
Stimulation of whatever kind they can provide.

What is your principal defect?
A tendency to overanalyze my defects, so I'm going to skip this one.

What to your mind would be the greatest of misfortunes?
Any number of things that are happening in the world currently.

What would you like to be?
A backup singer in a girl group in the 60s, but that'll probably never happen.

What is your favorite color?
For what?

What is your favorite flower?

What is your favorite bird?
God, all of them. I love birds.

What word or expression do you most overuse?
Anything that can be put in between commas.

Who are your favorite poets?
I've honestly never been able to get into any poetry. It's a failing.

What are your favorite names?
I've liked Sophie ever since I read The BFG as a child.

What is it you most dislike?

Which historical figures do you most despise?
Every head of state or person of any power involved in any way on any side of World War II.

Which contemporary figures do you most despise?
Barack Obama and every single fucker in his entire administration.

Which events in military history do you most admire?
Until they day they give a war and nobody comes, none.

Which natural gift would you most like to possess?
The ability to understand basic human mating rituals.

How would you like to die?
While I'm sleeping, that's for damn sure.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?
Let's skip this one.

What is your motto?
"Motto"? Gross. But I think "Never work" is a great aspiration.

Samuel R. Delany, Dhalgren, several more excerpts

(Cross-posted from Commonplace)

"Say, has this ever happened to you? You're walking along a street, or sitting in a room, or lying down on the leaves, or even talking to people, and suddenly the thought comes--and when it comes, it comes all through you like a stop-action film of a crystal forming or an opening bud: 'I am going to die.' Someday, somewhere, I will be dying, and five seconds after that, I will be dead. And when it comes it comes like--" he smashed cupped palms together in the air so sharply she jumped-- "that! And you know it, know your own death for a whole second, three seconds, maybe five or ten...before the thought goes and you only remember the words you were mumbling, like 'Someday I will die,' which isn't the thought at all, just its ashes."

"Yes...yes, that's happened to me."

"Well, I think all the buildings and the bridges and the planes and the books and the symphonies and the paintings and the spaceships and the submarines and...and the poems: they're just to keep people's minds occupied so it doesn't happen--again."
-page 218

"Do you think a city can control the way people live inside it? I mean, just the geography, the way the streets are laid out, the way the buildings are placed?"

"Of course it does," she said. "San Francisco and Rome are both built on hills. I've spent time in both and I'm sure the amount of energy you have to spend to get from one place to the other in either city has more to do with the tenor of life in each one than whoever happens to be mayor. New York and Istanbul are both cut through by large bodies of water, and even out of sight of it, the feel on the streets in either is more alike than either one is to, say, Paris or Munich, which are only crossed by swimmable rivers. And London, whose river is an entirely different width, has a different feel entirely." She waited.

So at last he said. "Yeah...But thinking that live streets and windows are plotting and conniving to make you into something you're not, that's crazy, isn't it?"

"Yes," she said, "that's crazy--in a word."
-pages 249-250

"After all, they were nice in a useless sort of way, which is, after all, the only way to be truly nice."
-page 260

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

30 years ago today...

...Ian Curtis listened to Iggy Pop's The Idiot.

To bring this back to me, I have nothing but time tomorrow and the day after, and several things I want to write, so this blugg may become a bit more active. Here's hoping.

CORRECTION Of course it was thirty years ago yesterday. I'm a mess.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Happy birthday Brian Eno!

(thanks to BDR for reminding me and also for posting another of Eno's best, which has a very very different mood than this one.)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What in the...

If anyone can explain to me what the devil John G. Miller is on about, you will win the prize of me eventually actually writing another QBQ post.

Much of my confusion stems from the fact that, to my understanding, the whole concept of the QBQ would be in opposition to the act of giving a homeless man food. He has to take personal accountability for his hunger!

Monday, May 10, 2010


Melissa McEwan wants you to write to Lipton to thank them for, um, advertising Lipton.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

a mother's love

my mom has sent me this tape every mother's day since 1992:

have a good one, mom!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Footstompin'/Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate

via Zamboni

Is there a DVD collection of musical guests from the Dick Cavett show? There are some amazing performances to be had there.

I had heard this 1974 performance before (on the poorly put together but indispensable RarestOneBowie comp), but never seen it. The obviously exciting thing about this recording is that the opening guitar riff (which is pretty much completely unrelated to The Flares' original version of the song) ended up being used, almost identically, for "Fame" the following year. As the Baronette has frequently pointed out to me, Carlos Alomar is one of the best, most inventive rhythm guitarists of all time, despite the fact that no one ever really talks about him.

A few other things I'd like to mention:

This is by far the roughest I've ever heard Bowie's voice sound, and I've heard his voice sound a lot of different ways in different recordings dating from anywhere in the past forty-six years. It sounds amazing, and it's a very different kind of amazing than the usual Bowie amazing.

Check out Ava Cherry's wonderful dancing (and skirt! and jacket! and hair! and beauty!), first seen at about 1:39 and then visible again (first only as a shadow) starting at 2:38. (If you want to see her do more, like, say, sing, there's also the performance of "Young Americans" from the same episode.)

And finally, it's just a little minor accidental detail, but: I am absolutely in love with how the very first clap from the audience at the end is perfectly in rhythm with the foot stompin' that ends the song.

And now that I've discussed how damned enjoyable the music is, let's have some dull social analysis.

The whole Young Americans period (and the fantastic* album itself) is an interesting chapter in the white people stealing Black music story. Judging from interviews at the time** (or actually just after), Bowie was consciously, explicitly toying with the narrative; he seems to take a perverse joy in pointing out that just a few years prior this album could never have been considered "soul" and talking about how "dangerous" disco is--and yet how much he loves it--less than a year after "Fame" was his biggest hit. Young Americans, he says, is "the squashed remains of ethnic music as it survives in the age of Muzak*** rock, written and sung by a white limey." And it's true. And yet many seriously respectable "ethnic" musicians--Luther Vandross, for example--took part in its creation. And yet, again, it is fantastic music. The best possible reaction to this music, if we're being responsible, is ambivalence, but I am incapable of doing anything other than embracing it wholeheartedly.

With Young Americans, Bowie secured the complicity of Black and white alike on both the side of performer (Lennon and Vandross, remember; and Carlos Alomar was poached from the house band at The Apollo) and audience, all the while reminding everyone that what he was doing was in fact racist theft. I honestly can't decide if this is reprehensible or admirable. It's definitely impressive.

That it all happened right around the same time as his notorious obsession with fascism and Nazi mysticism makes it all the more fascinating.

*Barring the inexplicably awful cover of "Across the Universe" in which John Lennon himself participated and which is nonetheless unlistenable.
**Though of course you can never rely too much on Bowie interviews; there's another more recent one where he says the primary thing his fans pay him to do is lie to them. Speaking as an embarrassingly huge fan, I can't say he's wrong.
***The mention of Muzak, incidentally, is interesting, coming as it does in this period just a few months before he begins working intensively with Brian Eno, who is, essentially, the inventor of ambient music. Ambient and Muzak are of course not the same thing, but there is a very strong relationship.

Samuel R. Delany, Dhalgren, several excerpts

(cross-posted from Commonplace)

"Why do you stay?"

"Stay?" Loufer's voice neared that other, upsetting tone. "Well, actually, I've thought about that one a lot. I think it has to do with--I got a theory now--freedom. You know, here (...) you're free. No laws: to break, or to follow. Do anything you want. Which does funny things to you. Very quickly, surprisingly quickly, you become (...) exactly who you are."
-page 20

"It's funny," Tak said; they passed between. "You show me a place where they tell women to stay out of at night because of all the nasty, evil men lurking there to do nasty, evil things; and you know what you'll find?"

-page 21

Equipped with contradictory visions, an ugly hand caged in pretty metal, I observe a new mechanics. I am the wild machinist, past destroyed, reconstructing the present.
-page 24

Friday, May 7, 2010

Monday, May 3, 2010

Tracings and trajectories of consumerist boredom

If you're not reading Pruned, you should be. Take this post, whose subject is essentially the psychogeography of IKEA:

Next door, meanwhile, a fellow employee is also busy crunching numbers. This rogue among rogues has been tasked to weaponize the work of his colleagues, to design an IKEA store as simulant city in which one could trap would-be occupiers and confuse them with self-knotting streams of generic spaces, a labyrinth within labyrinths, until they can be neutralized.
I've often thought I could write whole shelves of books about IKEA, but aside from the bit about the sense of false accomplishment ("I made something!") conferred by putting together one of their prefab units, this short post by Alexander Trevi pretty much covers it all.