Monday, August 30, 2010

Timely as ever

Marisacat put it well, Célinian ellipses, glorious [sic]s, and all:
I am supposed to be all whupset over Beck and Palin and dear neice Alveeda King just disporting themselves all over the Lincoln Monument, on today! of all days!… and I could not care less.

We have killed M L King off so many times, narrowed and tied him down to this one instance in his life, The March on Washington, the “I have a dream” speech, strangled him in his clerical collar… that if stupid over-paid white people (Beck makes 32 mil a year) want to do this… have at it.
As with Bush versus Obama, or Fox News in general versus CNN or MSNBC, the difference between Beck and any given "saner" media messenger is mostly just one of obviousness. Beck is obviously perverting King's "legacy," whatever that word means, which in its way is better than doing it subtly. I don't say not to get upset, if you feel that getting upset will be edifying for you or for others. I just suggest examining whether Beck upsets you more than anyone else who tries to place limits on radicalism, and if so, why. Then, get upset at everyone else.

If, as I see many people suggest, the teabaggers and the anti-mosquovites and so on end up inciting violence (and indeed they may already have, as with that taxi driver), it is a violence that was made available to be incited by the sickness of our cultural programming in general. If Beck is tapping into something, it's because someone put it there, the better to tap it later.

UPDATE: JRB says kind of the same thing as me, plus a lot more, better.

Friday, August 27, 2010

This makes no sense

Digby apparently thinks, all of a sudden, that the reason people started calling Obama a Muslim was so that other people would take their hatred of Obama and start applying it to all Muslims, who they had previously not had any problem with. Or something? I don't know, if anyone can make better sense of it, let me know.

Mehlman on man

When we say that something has "long [been] an open secret," what do we mean? Within a family, I guess it's the kind of thing people hint at, all the adults understand, the kids ask embarrassing questions about, no one actually talks about it, grandma might not know although she probably actually does; the drug addict uncle or whatever.

When you're talking about people in the public eye, though, it means something related but different in significant ways. There, it means that everyone in that person's peer group knows the "secret," and, whether explicitly or tacitly, accepts it, and they all collaborate in keeping knowledge of it from the public in whose eye they are*: Isherwood and Auden didn't run around outing each other, for example. And that's all just fine and dandy, though of course it takes on a somewhat different cast, as all things do, when you place it in a context of power--as with Mehlman.

My point in all this is to say, the only thing Ken Mehlman cares about less than Melissa McEwan's "pity" is the lives of gay people in general. Gay people in his own class have it set, so why should he care? It's good that McEwan "can't imagine the self-loathing, the discomfort in one's own skin, the profound disassociation of self that happens with the subjugation of authenticity behind thin façade, that exists within someone who had the professional life he did," because I can pretty much guarantee you that none of that did, in fact, exist for Mehlman. Neither he nor most of his fellow members of the ruling classes have a problem with his being gay, and for those who do, these problems are overridden by the more important commonalities they share as a result of being members of that class. If only we at the bottom could realize that they feel that way, we could stop telling fairy (ha!) stories about these people, and stop feeling "pity" for them, and start maybe feeling some of that class solidarity ourselves, down here.

Mehlman may be lying when he says that "over the past few months, I've told my family, friends, former colleagues, and current colleagues, and they've been wonderful and supportive," but the lie is contained only before the first comma.

In other Mehlman news, Zen Comix made me laugh for like an hour.

*Normally I don't give a shit about dangling prepositions, but that structure popped into my head and cracked me up, so allow me this small pleasure if you will.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

William Gibson, Spook Country, several excerpts

(Cross-posted from Commonplace)

You are, she told herself, crazy. But that seemed for the moment abundantly okay, even though she knew that this was not a salubrious stretch for any woman, particularly alone. Nor for any pedestrian, this time of the morning. Yet this weather, this moment of anomalous L.A. climate, seemed to have swept any usual sense of threat aside. The street was as empty as that moment in the film just prior to Godzilla's first footfall.
-page 4

...Bobby was himself a musician, though not in the old plays-a-physical-instrument-and/or-sings modality. He took things apart, sampled them, mashed them up. This was fine with her, though like General Bosquet watching the charge of the Light Brigade, she was inclined to think it wasn't war. Inchmale understood it, though, and indeed had championed it, as soon as it was digitally possible pulling guitar lines out of obscure garage chestnuts and stretching them, like a mad jeweler elongating sturdy Victorian tableware into something insectile, post-functionally fragile, and neurologically dangerous.
-page 71

She afforded herself a quick scan of the rest of the clientele. Were a cruise missile just then to impact the corrugated roof of Skybar, she decided, there would be no great need for People to change its next cover.
-page 83

Customer service, part one of probably three

I have a customer service job. All day long (not all week, though; I'm only part time there, thank god) I take phone calls from people who, though they don't think of it this way, are trying to find the best way to give their money to the huge multinational corporation I work for. About half the time, they're irate because something has gone wrong in this system: either my owners have taken a bunch of the customer's money at once rather than over time like the customer expected, or there's been a breakdown in the service that the company I work for provides to cover for the fact that what they're really doing is taking the customer's money.

Due to the nature of my company I work for, the people I talk to are occasionally business owners, but more often they're people like me, low-level people with no power in their organizations just working to make a living. Even when I do talk to the business owners, the businesses they own are small, and usually struggling, and always local; it may be that I would agree or disagree with their "politics" or whatever to greater or lesser extents, but in general, they are people who are trying to make a living while simultaneously at least attempting to provide something of value to the communities they live in, rather than just sucking money out of those communities and investing it internationally so as to fill their own pockets.

The people on the phone aren't my enemy, in other words. But the structure of the job sure makes it hard to keep that in mind.

For their part, when they call angry, they're occasionally angry specifically with someone-or-other in specific who messed something up, but more often they're angry with the company. The company, of course (and this and all that follows applies to all corporations, not just the one I work for), is not a person no matter what legal hoo-ha's been worked up over the decades saying it is. It is instead an emergent property of a bunch of wealthy assholes making decisions in their own self-interest, which obviously is going to result in a whole bunch of policies that run counter to the interests of the customers, who will as a result have to be tricked into thinking that these policies actually favor them. This leads inevitably to a lot of anger.

When the time comes for them to unleash this anger, though, they don't have any method of expressing it to the people it should be targeting (i.e., the wealthy assholes I mentioned above, the ones who make my hourly wage almost every minute of their entire life, waking or sleeping. But they do have the phone number for where I work. So they call me, and yell at me, and I have to take it and act like I like it and convince them that not helping them is helping them. Because if I don't do those things--if I lash back at them, or explain to them why they shouldn't be mad at me but at my owners, or if I explain to them that yeah, what the company does is shitty, or if I actually try to help them, I'll get fired. And I'm lucky to have a job! So I'm not going to do that.

So all this tension has no resolution: the customers flip out at me because they hate the company, and I end up hating the customers because they're flipping out at me. In this way, members of the same class who should be allies become enemies.

In part two, I plan to go further into my side of the conflict, the customer service side. Most likely the phrase "Stockholm syndrome" will be invoked, or at least evoked.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Nota bene

The word uniformed is easily misread as uninformed. Significant, though not as significant as I'd like. I'd rather a word like fatheaded crapface be that close to uniformed, but I'll make do.

Work is hell. Blugginess to resume tomorrow.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Hahaha, I just suddenly remembered that, late on election night 2008, over an image of the whole Obama family, Brian Williams said, "Well, it looks like they'll be moving into government housing now." What calls this to mind at quarter to nine on a beautiful summer Saturday morning? I have no idea.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Who wants a cat, honey, anyhow?

The great Florence Ballard didn't record much on her own, and none of it ever came anywhere close to touching the quality of her work with the Supremes (even at its best, her solo work succumbs too much to that Vegasy quality that Motown* so often, for some reason, found itself slipping into). But this song is entertaining me right now, so here you go:

*And yes I know her solo stuff wasn't on Motown.

I tried to come up with a witty title but the best I can do is "Shut Up, Jacob Davies"

It's funny that Jacob Davies kicks off his summary of the 20th century with a mention of Africa, because he then proceeds as if the continent doesn't exist. Of course, the mention ("The twentieth century kicks off with the wizard invention of the concentration camp by the British in South Africa"), in addition to using a really weird noun as an adjective in a just completely strange way that I hate, doesn't have anything to do with Africans themselves directly, and really just serves as a background (factually incorrect background, but background nonetheless) for an element of European history. After all, as Davies tells us in his next paragraph, it's "just a warm up." European colonialism in Africa, just a warm up--because then Europeans started being violent to each other in Europe. I say wow.

There's a lot of use of the words "everybody" and "everyone," for example,
Everybody learns a Valuable Lesson about the Importance of Peace, which they all put into action in the same way: a determined effort to ensure that this time they will be the ones with the biggest guns, goddammit.
And you know, I think it would come as a surprise to the vast majority of the population of the fucking Earth that they "all" were trying to get the biggest guns. Seems to me that was an activity of the elite of the elite, the richest, most powerful members of the richest, most powerful countries. As always, by definition, I mean duh.

"There's a brief period of glorious economic euphoria and excitement in the rest of the world" again, would come as a surprise to most of the rest of the world, especially that continent that I vaguely remember discussing at some point recently. I can't quite remember the name of it. Does anybody live there? I don't think so, so never mind.

The grossest thing about the whole essay is that you can feel this kind of self-satisfied I'm-brilliant air dripping off of the words. Davies clearly thinks he's approaching the 20th century from a perspective never seen before, when really he's just regurgitating the eurocentric racist vision of it that's jammed down all American and European throats from birth.

"I think our children are going to think we are nuts," he says, towards the end if you can make it that far. I sure hope yours do, Jacob.

PS Ha ha ha, read the second comment on the post.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Where it's due, part whatever part two

Probably digby's most genuinely good post ever.

Being civilized means not being able to see anything else as a possibility

A Guardian article about the rise and spread of multi-drug resistant bacteria features a list of scary things that will become commonplace in a post-antibiotic world. And you know, I'm not going to lie, I don't want to live in that world, but there are worse things, you know? And this one is just silly:
Pneumonia becomes once more "the old man's friend". Antibiotics have stopped it being the mass-killer it once was, particularly among the old and frail, who would lapse into unconsciousness and often slip away in their sleep. Other diseases of old age, such as cancer, have taken over.
OK, picture this:

You're old. You're frail. You're near the end of your life. You're going to die sooner rather than later. You're magically given the option of two different ways this death can come:

1. You will lapse into unconsciousness and slip away in your sleep.
2. You will linger painfully for months or even years as your own body turns on itself and grows a poisonous devouring mass that destroys you from the inside out.

I know which one I prefer.

PS I should also point out that although the article is vaguely about a real problem, it's also deeply inaccurate and scaremongering. In case that wasn't obvious.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Robert Musil, The Confusions of Young Törless, page 72

(Cross-posted from Commonplace)

It struck him that he had once, standing with his father before one of those landscapes, cried out unexpectedly, "Oh, how beautiful that is" -- and had been embarrassed by his father's pleasure. On that occasion he might just as easily have said: "How terribly said it is." It was a failure of words that tormented him then, a half-awareness that the words were merely random excuses for what he had felt.

And today he remembered the picture, he remembered the words, and he clearly recalled lying about that feeling even though he did not know why. His eye ran through everything again in his memory. But it returned unassuaged, again and again. A smile of delight at the wealth of ideas that he still clutched as though distractedly, slowly assumed a barely perceptible, painful trait...

He felt the need to persist in his search for a bridge, a context, a comparison -- between himself and that which stood silently before his mind.

But however often he had calmed himself with a thought, that incomprehensible objection remained: you're lying. It was as though he had to pass through an unstoppable division of soldiers, a stubborn remnant forever leaping out at him, or as though he was wearing his feverish fingers raw trying to undo an endless knot.

And finally he gave up. The room closed in around him, and his memories burgeoned in unnatural distortions.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Shit sucks

So, the problem is, one group of people comes in and destroys another group of people's way of life by demolishing the forests they live in, and then when the vampire bats decide to strike back, they strike back at the wrong people.

Shit sucks.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

All the cool kids do it

So I need to make fun of Matt Yglesias too:
I don’t really have an opinion on whether genetically engineered sugar beets should be allowed. I do know that this whole thing would probably be irrelevant if we allowed Americans who want to buy sugar cane from Latin America do so freely. That would be a more delicious outcome as well as a more economically efficient one. And it would make Latin Americans more prosperous, giving them the income they need to buy goods and services from the United States."
First sentence: You don't? Really? Even in the wake of the whole rapeseed thing?

Second sentence: Or, maybe, it would be irrelevant if "we allowed" people to eat what was grown in the areas they live, despite the fact that maybe people wouldn't be able to eat as many strawberries in midwinter or whatever the fuck.

Third sentence: It really pisses me off how everyone on the internet writes in exactly the same way. Ha ha unexpected use of "delicious" as a modifier for something it wouldn't usually modify!

Fourth sentence: And why the fuck do Latin Americans need to buy goods and services from the United States? What is wrong with Latin American goods and services??? In case someone's gearing up to answer this question: I know. It's covered in sentence two.

Yesterday was a good day

Yesterday was Foo Fest here in Providence, the annual birthday block party for AS220, the open gallery/performance/artist's/living space downtown. The Baronette and I went down a couple of times, first in the early afternoon to visit the Anarchist Book Fair, where we bought a few things from the AK Press booth (I got this and this, she got this and this, if you're wondering). I had a nice, admittedly sort of vapid (my fault) short conversation with the woman working the booth about how all the best writers are anarchists. Then we kind of meandered home and shelved the books and relaxed for a while.

Then, later on in the evening, we walked back downtown, an extremely pleasant three mile walk through about seven different types of city environments, to see fucking ESG, who played to a packed, blocked off street full of people enjoying the hell out of it. From the moment I heard, a few months ago, that ESG was going to be playing Foo Fest, to the moment the sisters got on stage, I had a hard time believing I was going to actually see them. And then I saw them. And they were phenomenal.

The bands I'm used to seeing around here are all kind of the same, and I'm sick of it. It's usually a bunch of self-consciously scruffy 20 or 30-ish white guys* playing an update on either stoner metal or no wave, to my ears adding very little to either field. So in contrast it was refreshing to see a bunch of ordinary women who looked like no one so much as the people I ride the bus with every day creating extraordinary music with nothing but a standard drumset, a hand drum set, a bass, some other various hand percussion objects picked up from time to time, and vocals (and, for one beautiful song, one note on a guitar, over and over).

It didn't sound like their records, and I didn't expect it to. It's thirty years later now, and, obviously, Martin Hannett wasn't there. And he didn't need to be, of course. ESG was there. And they were obviously thrilled to be there, or anywhere, playing to an audience of people who are loving it, who are calling out the names of songs they want to hear, thirty years later, twenty years after releasing an EP titled Sample Credits Don't Pay Our Bills**.

It may seem strange for me to say this while idolizing this one particular band, but: we can all create beautiful things. We don't need to rely on other people to do it for us. I don't mean to say to stop listening to other people's music or looking at other people's paintings or reading other people's books or anything; there should be dialogue, always, and dialogue involves at least two parties, not just one. But one of those parties should always be us.

The best shows I've been to in recent years (The Homosexuals, ESG, the Girls Rock RI show last month that I meant to write about but didn't but which was fucking amazing) have all reminded me of this. Art that only dazzles, that only makes you want to applaud the artist, is shitty art. Art that makes you want to live and create is good art. This was good art.

*Which unfortunately describes me as well.
**Not to say that playing Foo Fest means they're financially set now or anything. But it must feel so wonderful to be recognized for the brilliant people they are.

UPDATE This post of Richard's applies, and I wish I had read it before writing this instead of right after!

Douglas Adams, So Long and Thanks for All the Fish, page 594 (in omnibus edition)

(Cross-posted from Commonplace)

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, in a moment of reasoned lucidity which is almost unique among is current tally of five million, nine hundred and seventy-three thousand, five hundred and nine pages, says of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation products that "it is very easy to be blinded to the essential uselessness of them by the sense of achievement you get from getting them to work at all.

"In other words--and this is the rock-solid principle on which the whole of the Corporation's Galaxywide success is founded--their fundamental design flaws are completely hidden by their superficial design flaws."

Friday, August 13, 2010

Authoritarianism the economy democracy! crystals stability star ancestors roll a saving throw v. recession

Well, this article (which I come to via Matt Yglesias, who I finally just added to my reading list after a few years of getting him only via the mockery of those like IOZ and the praise of those like digby, which if you think about it is kind of the same thing...but anyway) is a delightful example of contemporary fantasy literature. Sometimes (actually a lot more often than sometimes), I'll read an analysis of some aspect of politics or economics or whatever and it will be so dramatically unrelated to reality that it's hard to even describe it as wrong, really, any more than you could say that, oh, J.R.R. Tolkien's portrayal of Sauron is factually incorrect.

The gist of the article is that in general "democracies" fare economically better than "authoritarian regimes." Most readers of this blog have probably already come up with a lengthy list of objections just to this premise: how do you decide what country is which, what definition of economic success are we using, etc etc blah blah blah.

It's one of those charmingly formulaic articles that starts with a little "I wasn't there but let's write like I was" scene-setting, which then leads into The Point:
On a recent Saturday morning, several hundred pro-democracy activists congregated in a Moscow square to protest government restrictions on freedom of assembly. They held up signs reading “31,” in reference to Article 31 of the Russian constitution, which guarantees freedom of assembly. They were promptly surrounded by policemen, who tried to break up the demonstration. A leading critic of the Kremlin and several others were hastily dragged into a police car and driven away.

Events like this are an almost daily occurrence in Russia, where Prime Minister Vladimir Putin rules the country with a strong hand, and persecution of the government’s opponents, human-rights violations, and judicial abuses have become routine. At a time when democracy and human rights have become global norms, such transgressions do little to enhance Russia’s global reputation. Authoritarian leaders like Putin understand this, but apparently they see it as price worth paying in order to exercise unbridled power at home.

What leaders like Putin understand less well is that their politics also compromise their countries’ economic future and global economic standing.
From this, we're meant to see that Russia falls into the "authoritarian" column, which, you know, I wouldn't necessarily dispute, I guess. I don't know much about Russia, honestly, but the takeaway here is that countries, like Russia, where people aren't even allowed to peacefully protest in freedom, are authoritarian baddies.

Oh, oops, I linked to an event in the wrong country. WELL I'M SURE THAT WAS AN EXCEPTION, RIGHT, AND NOT A PARTICULARLY TAME EXAMPLE OF THE NORM HERE RIGHT. I mean, it's not like the US has ever murdered or in any other way violently impeded dissidents, right?

Attempting to analyze the rest of the article makes my head hurt. Beyond his weirdo little anecdote about the Russian protest, he never defines the difference between authoritarianism and democracy. He explicitly excludes countries "that owe their riches to natural resources alone" from his theorizing, so we can continue to hate mozzies even if they're rich--what a relief!
When we look at systematic historical evidence, instead of individual cases, we find that authoritarianism buys little in terms of economic growth. For every authoritarian country that has managed to grow rapidly, there are several that have floundered. For every Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, there are many like Mobutu Sese Seko of the Congo.
Ha ha! Mobutu, whadda kidder! And I suppose the fact that for every [insert name of universally prosperous democracy here if you can think of one] there's an Iceland or a burning banker in Greece is...what, statistical outliers or something? OK then.
Democracies not only out-perform dictatorships when it comes to long-term economic growth, but also outdo them in several other important respects. They provide much greater economic stability, measured by the ups and downs of the business cycle. They are better at adjusting to external economic shocks (such as terms-of-trade declines or sudden stops in capital inflows). They generate more investment in human capital – health and education. And they produce more equitable societies.
Ha ha ha, what the fuck is this economic stability? I'd like to get some of that for myself!!! Too bad then that it's "measured by the ups and downs of the business cycle," rather than by whether or not ordinary people have what they need to live. And "investment in human capital," aside from being one of those terrifying terms that economists like to throw around as if it were some kind of a good thing, is another laugh and a half, for reasons I doubt I have to provide any links to. The "equitable societies" thing pushes it all over the edge for me, because, well, Indians weren't US citizens until 1924 and even now they don't even have to bother stepping out of line for this to happen, Black people here are still legally enslaved to this day, and women, we all agree, aren't even human. To name three examples.
For the true up-and-coming economic superpowers, we should turn instead to countries like Brazil, India, and South Africa, which have already accomplished their democratic transitions and are unlikely to regress. None of these countries is without problems, of course. Brazil has yet to recover fully its economic dynamism and find a path to rapid growth. India’s democracy can be maddening in its resistance to economic change. And South Africa suffers from a shockingly high level of unemployment.
And waddaya know, that South African unemployment just happens to plague primarily the population that was the victim of the authoritarianism there before that magical "democratic transition" they accomplished. It's almost like it didn't actually happen--or, maybe, it's almost like democracy is a fucking crock, a hoax, a distraction.

As some of my smarter readers may have gathered, I actually know less than jack shit about "economics." And you know what? I don't care. I know a hell of a lot more about the meaning of "democracy" and "authoritarianism," of "wealth" and "poverty," than this hack's article demonstrates. Economics is magical bullshit. It's remarkably successful in convincing large numbers of people that the suffering of the vast hoard of humanity for the profit of a tiny little segment of the population is good, just, scientific, rational, and best for everyone, but beyond that it's about as "true" as the notion that if I put on a magical ring I'll turn invisible.

PS I'm not actually a fan of Tolkien if you were wondering.
PPS My point, which I never actually made, is that economic interests in the US have a vested interest in defining "democracy" and "economic success" the same way, and that definition is of course that both are any country which submits itself to the rules laid out by those economic interests.

Search terms

Utterly trivial (not fairly, but utterly trivial), this, but here's a list of some search terms that have apparently recently brought people here:
sexy lactation
a 14 year old boy fucks goats
catholic morality on exploiting animals
fairly trivial
from the mountains to the prairies
lactation sexy
lesb grannys
man fucks goat
we need a lesbian's opinion
why can't i stand up
While that last one is a bit unsettling, I like to think that it was the same person as the second to last one. We need a lesbian's opinion: why can't I stand up?

I have to think most of these people were disappointed. And also that they went through a lot of pages of search results to get to me.

Pretty much all of the other search terms that led people here were related to white people stealing various aspects of black culture, the QBQ (which I really, really should get back to), infra thin, or various songs and musicians I've mentioned on here. It really warms my heart when I see that someone searched for, say, "qbq book chapters" and stayed here for over fifteen minutes. Hope they got some use out of the place!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

RIP Chris Dedrick

I'm six days late hearing about this, but the Baronette just passed the news on to me that Chris Dedrick of the Free Design has died. Or, in the lovelier way his wife Moira put it in a post to his blog, "Chris, after a week of increasing radiance, yet with rapid physical decline, passed away peacefully at home."

The person who first introduced me to the Free Design, years ago, described them as "making the Carpenters sound abrasive." And it's true. These harmonies are sweet almost to the point of sickliness, as are the arrangements. The lyrics are the same: "I like flying kites. Kites are fun." But it can be truly exhilarating to watch them dance on that particular precipice.

Their best songs are about how little we need all the trappings of our society that feel so essential. In "Kites Are Fun," they sing (the "we" referring to the narrator of the song, who is an individual despite the multitude of voices singing his or her narrative, and to the kite itself) "We'd like to be a zillion miles away from everyone," and it's like their manifesto. They don't want to be so far away out of a desire for solitude, but rather because "Mom and Dad and and Uncle Bill" (authority figures, teaching the child narrator the rules of the society he or she must live in) "don't realize/Kites are fun." In a way that, I find, seldom works, they use not the innocence (which is nonsense, and what makes this sort of thing usually fail) but the unburdened freedom of childhood to remind us: things don't have to be this way. You can just take pleasure in simple things and let the repressions we layer upon ourselves fall away.

Later on on the same album, "Umbrellas" moves this message explicitly into the world of adults, in a joyful ode to that enemy of the workday commuter--heavy rain. In this context, if you come at it from the right angle, even the simple love songs that make up the bulk of their catalog can feel revolutionary.

Probably my favorite songs of theirs are "The Proper Ornaments," also from Kites are Fun, and "2002 - A Hit Song" (from Heaven/Earth). "The Proper Ornaments" is the message I've been talking about at its most explicit: "your brand new car," "your pretty wife whom you almost love," "your color TV set and your impressive pad," "your little baby girl you're almost glad you had," all these and more are the proper ornaments of life. But "What is in your mind and heart/That's hidden by your face/Behind the ornaments of your life?"

"2002 - A Hit Song" is pretty obviously about Dedrick's bitterness at making some of the loveliest music ever recorded and never (as of 1969, anyway) getting any real recognition for it. Maybe by 2002, they're saying, we'll have a hit. The lyrics here are clever and funny ("Hello, teenybopper/Hello, DJ/We're gonna sing a whopper/And you're gonna make it pay for us"), though admittedly not as significant to me as in some of their other songs. Still, it's fascinating to hear such bitterness sung in such a bubbly fashion, to hear the anger that results when those who attempt to live real lives and experience real joy try to play by the rules of a culture that squashes these attempts.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Two questions

for whoever feels like answering them.

1.) Is Marshall McLuhan worth reading?
2.) If so, where does one start?

Rhode Island is back in my good graces

So, yeah, we still celebrate Nuke the Japs Day around here, but my city tried to take out Antonin Scalia the other day, you guys:
Justice Antonin Scalia is unhurt after he tripped getting into a car outside a restaurant on Federal Hill in Providence on Sunday.

A court spokeswoman said the justice is fine after the mishap.

The incident happened just after the Supreme Court justice had eaten at an Italian cafe.

Christopher Spertini, a restaurant worker, says he escorted Scalia to the door. A few moments later there was a commotion in a cobblestone plaza immediately outside.

Spertini says he was told that someone had fallen and that it turned out to be Scalia.

Scalia did not need medical assistance.
Ha ha! I hope it was this tacky place.

OK, he wasn't hurt or anything, which kind of ruins the fun. I'm sure Federal Hill could have tried harder, but I'm sure there was some residual Italian thug solidarity going on keeping it from going all out. Still: good job, streets of Providence!

UPDATE Some investigatory googling has revealed to me that it wasn't Zooma that Scalia was leaving when he had his brush with death, but rather Venda, which is actually a wonderful, wonderful place. Still funny, but less funny! Also, I may feel dirty next time I go in there.


In anticipation of the upcoming release of Zero History, I'm re-reading William Gibson's Pattern Recognition. This passage, from the beginning of chapter 23 (page 194 in my edition), just struck me and reminded me of an observation I made the first time I read it, about five years ago, and in the meantime had forgotten:
(S)he tries to become just another lost tourist, though she knows she'll never be one.... Cayce knows that she is, and has long been, complicit. Though in what, exactly, is harder to say. Complicit in whatever it is that makes London and New York feel more like each other, that dissolves the membranes between mirror-worlds.
You know how in Star Trek whole planets share one culture, one worldview, one way of dressing, even? The Klingons are all honor-obsessed and warlike, the Vulcans are logical and unemotional, the Romulans all wear shoulder pads.

Pattern Recognition is (and if my memory and clairvoyance, respectively, are correct, Spook Country and Zero History are as well) about a planet, ours, in the process of developing itself into one of these monocultures. One thing Gibson captures admirably is the terror of being caught in the middle of this, and the unwilling ambivalence many of us feel about it all--wanting to find the whole thing atrocious, wanting to oppose it with every fiber, but being unable to resist the appeal of the fripperies of globalized consumerism, and unsure of what to do about any of it, anyway.

The next sentence, incidentally, is this: "She knows too much about the processes responsible for the way product is positioned, in the world, and sometimes she finds herself doubting that there is much else going on."

Monday, August 9, 2010

The reason for the season

The buses are running a reduced schedule. Those of us who are working are getting time and a half. Many of us are not working--and that includes those of us who have jobs! Only in Rhode Island. Somehow, the insane murderous bloodthirstily nationalistic holiday that was a step too far for the rest of this insane murderous bloodthirstily nationalistic country is just fine for Rogue's Island, the lively experiment.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Meanwhile over on Hardball, Matthews had both David Gregory and Chuck Todd shaking their heads over why the Republicans would be doing this sort of thing. After all, they agreed, the Tea Party doesn't care about issues like gay rights or race or any of these unpleasant culture war issues --- they care about economics. So why on earth would the GOP think it's a good idea to talk about these divisive culture war issues at a time like this?

They really are clueless aren't they?
No, Digby, they're keeping you clueless. And it's funny, because they're doing it by being right--the GOP doesn't care about "culture war" issues--but doing it in a distracting way.


Alexander Trevi has a concept for a "conflict zoo." Interesting hypothetical for thinking about depressing shit.


Rob Payne writes well about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Tomorrow is Nuke the Japs Day in Rhode Island. I don't have it off, but I am getting time an a half! Thanks, Truman!


This is a picture of a rich old Newport lady. She's crazy looking. I don't have anything to say about her except for that.

Oh come on

Hey, Duncan. I like you, but this
Personally, I don't seem to have a "gender identity": I know that I'm male, but subjectively, inside myself, I don't feel that I'm either male or female
just means that you're not trans. Also: don't assume your experience is universal, because when people do that, they become tiresome.

And a blurg note: non-bad family stuff has been distracting me recently. Regular posting should resume shortly.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Mark Clifton and Frank Riley, They'd Rather Be Right page 43

(Cross-posted from Commonplace)

More than knowledge or enlightenment or understanding, man values his ascendancy over something or someone. The fate of mankind is of little consequence to him if he must lose his command in the process.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Two things

1. A blog note: is the comment form giving anyone else trouble? When I submit my comments it gives me an error message. The comment still shows up, but it's damned weird.

2. A McEwan/CNN note: So, yes, the female condom headline is really weird, but frankly I'm more bothered by the one that says "Opinion: are we killing all the sharks?" because a) it's not an opinion, and b) it's not a question.

Mark Clifton and Frank Riley, They'd Rather Be Right pages 23-24

(Cross-posted from Commonplace)

Although, in a narrow sense, his field was far from the dangerous social sciences, early in his career Hoskins had realized that no field of science is remote from the affairs of men, that there is a sociological implication inherent even in the simple act of screwing a nut on a bolt.

If you don't feel like reading all this the upshot is I'm a hypocrite

Last night before going to bed I finished reading China Miéville's The City & the City, which is a novel with a wonderful concept (actually it's a pretty great application of infrathin, whether Miéville was aware of it or not), albeit only a pretty-good execution--I wish he had chosen a different plot to explore this concept, really, but still: good book, overall.

Anyway, I finished it and then went to bed. I actually managed to fall into a pretty deep sleep, and was having some interesting dreams, inspired by the novel, when the sound of somebody outside trying to open my bedroom window woke me up at about a quarter to three in the morning. This is, to me, a fairly surreal thing to wake up to, and coming out of a dream as I was it was hard to figure out if it was real or not. Coming out of the specific dream I was having made it even more difficult, because, thinking I might still be somewhere in Miéville's Besźel and Ul Qoma I wasn't sure how to tell if I was allowed to hear the noise. After a moment or two, though, I managed to shake it and realize that, no, I was awake, and no, I wasn't in a fictional split city, and yes, there really were people outside my window trying to get it open.

I sat up. What with the angles and the lighting I don't think they could see me do it, but my bed is very creaky, and when I sat up it made a lot of noise. They must have heard it, because the noises I could hear immediately changed from fiddling with my window to running the fuck away. I heard them hop the fence, and by the time I was out of bed they were long gone.

I'm not going to pretend like this is some sort of big traumatic deal, because it definitely, definitely isn't. But I admit that I immediately reacted like it was. I turned into a quivering granny, scared of every sound, scared that the scary intruders would come back and do something scary. Far, far more shameful than this (I can deal, personally, with being a wuss) is that I thought, "If I call 911 now, maybe the cops can catch them." Catch them.

Anyone who's going to try to break into my house and steal something probably, frankly, needs it more than I do. Either that, or they're going to be thrill-seeking kids. Actually, that second in this case seems more likely to me, judging both by the size of the footprints I can see outside today and by the ineptness of the attempt--trying to break in in the middle of the night, when people are pretty much guaranteed to be home, and considering also that the Baronette and her car--the only car at this house--just got back from being away for almost a week, which means that for the first time in several days the house is displaying what most people consider a definite sign of occupancy.

So: either desperately poor, or young, dumb and bored, or both. And my immediate reaction was to send pigs with guns and electric torture devices after them so that they could be locked up. And I know what the cops are, and I know what the prison system is. There is no excuse.

In my own defense, I didn't consider it for very long before I decided that given a choice between people trying to break in in the middle of the night on the one hand, and fucking pigs on the other, I know who I more trust in my home. And hell, if I'm going to have potentially violent thugs trying to get into my house at quarter to three in the morning, the least I can do is not invite them.

But oh man. Nothing like an attempted break in to bring me face to face with my attachment to my property, and my own instinctive hypocrisy. Stuff to work on.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Arthur Silber is right

As usual. Read him. You should be doing that regularly, anyway.

Donate to Bradley Manning's legal defense fund.

If you can, donate to WikiLeaks while you're at it.


It's too nice a day for me to write any of my own thoughts, so for all of my adoring fans, here are two sterling examples of blugginz that I endorse 100%:

ms_xeno on not being nice to the ruling class in spite of the royal wedding. Shocking I know.

IOZ on intellectual property and the evils of declaring a shoe that is demonstrably a shoe "counterfeit."

Now I think I'm going to go sit in the sun (and, once I've had enough of that, the shade!) and read.