The MacLamity

The News That Stays News, Reported Live

Thursday, July 31, 2003

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The future of The New York Times, is The Wall Street Journal. Both Jill Abramson and Bill Geddes spent long hours and years at the Journal and thus don't have the usual Times-editor quote for the papers: "My first job here was spitting in the ink to make it wet enough for the presses and now look at me. I was just a kid and hungry for scoops." Sources close to MacLamity, who weren't exactly close to Abramson at the Journal, were all the same close enough to be enormously irritated by Abramson when she worked there, in the same way that everyone within 5 miles of a nuclear bomb is close enough to be irritated by it. Apparently, when she dumped the Journal for the Times, few at the Journal cared what kind of journalist they'd lost. They were too focused on the smaller percentage of their day they were going to spend being extremely aggravated.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

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When I was 10 I imagined that my 'Beano' collection, 5 piles of 2,000 soggy comics bound with string, would come as a pleasant surprise to my future adult self, who would congratulate with pleasant surprise the young MacLamity on his foresight. Now, I can't remember when I threw the comics away. It was an undramatic event with none of the significance it would have in a novel. The 65th anniversary of the comic has me brooding over things disappearing. When I thought about my relationship with the 'Beano' 15 years ago I was surprised to find I didn't know the subject at all. I felt like someone who'd read a few newspaper reports about it but would be embarrassed to discuss it with an expert, even though the subject was me.

1. The biggest surprise was discovering how much of the Beano I didn't like and didn't understand.

I didn't understand what 'Minx' meant in 'Minnie the Minx.' I still don't.

A character called Roger the Dodger, who compulsively developed scams and tricks, called everything he did "Dodges," and this puzzled me. "Great Dodge! Yuk yuk," he'd say, and I'd think of a jump to the side of a fast tennis ball, not a way to steal 5 pounds.

A Beano convention showed a character looking daggers at someone by drawing a long, thick dotted line going from their eyes, with a dagger at the end of the line, and the hated person at the end of the dagger. It looked like they could blast knives out of their eyes. I knew that it was a shorthand for hatred, but didn't understand how knives and lines could be that. The same confusion gives me a thrill now. What's going on here? We slowly and consciously decode what the 15th century didn't even realize were symbols.

I didn't understand why Gnasher and Gnipper, Dennis the Menace's dogs, said things like "Gnice!" or O gno!" I also didn't know if the G should be silent or not. Now I relish the arbitrary consistency of a character putting a g in front of every n just because it happens in his or her name.

2. I didn't particularly like Dennis the Menace. (American readers, please note that this Dennis the Menace is far crueller than the pale American imitation) The comic had already chosen him as its favorite by making him the cover star. I can't even imagine a child who's favorite Disney character is Mickey. Or rather, if I do, I imagine the child as so dull that it couldn't exist.

3. I didn't really like the Beano. I half-admitted this at the time. Now I'm astonished that I was so in love and eager to read something I only half-liked. The only strip I really looked forward to was The Bash Street Kids, which was printed on the two center pages, and which made me laugh.

4. I can't give any examples, but the Beano had a great habit of arbitrarily pointing things out in a picture, like someone's knee with an arrow by it and labelled "Knee."

5. The occasional free gifts, like a plastic boomerang, were bound to the comic in film, and were like pennies falling from heaven. After 2 minutes they were boring and useless.

6. You were either a Dandy reader or a Beano reader. Friends who liked Dandy seemed to me weak and peculiar. I only occasionally bought a Dandy summer special.

7. The best U.K. strip for 8-year-olds was The Numbskulls, which ran in The Beezer. I always wished that it would run in the Beano, since The Beezer was a failing comic with nothing good in it except The Numbskulls. That wish come true some time in the 90s, when I was too old to care.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

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THINGS TO LOVE ABOUT HARMONYCRYOCARE: ... the revolution ... the struggle to be 'kinder' to sperm ... the logo with lovey-dovey horses kissing ... the lilting final rhythms of the pitch 'freezing and thawing ... quicker and easier' and finally... "click here to get in touch."

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So, Mel Gibson's movie about Jesus's last hours has upset those who have found some antisemitism in it. Like the frenzy caused by Christian missionaries, like Daniel Goldhagen's book charging the Vatican with antisemitism I fail to be surprised or see the problem. Why the thrill of discovery? Why the detailed charges and complicated proofs? It's there for all to see, and it's not necessarily a problem. If you're Christian, you are in a very fundamental sense antisemitic, no matter what. You believe that all Jews believe in the wrong God, ignore the right one, are oblivious to an obvious truth, are going to hell for it, and should go to hell for it. Ditto most other religions vis-a-vis most other religions. The Vatican's possible complicity in the holocaust is a very worthy subject of study. But if religions aren't allowed to say that other religions are wrong, then they might as well not be there. If a magazine sees fit to pay a writer to tell readers that Christianity has an animus against Judaism, then it should also pay a writer to tell readers that people who voted against George W. Bush in an election did not support him. Antisemitism or anti-Muslim (or anti-Christian) prejudice is real and evil. But it needs to be distinguished from whatever it is that makes religions possible. Don't ask me what the distinction is, however. I haven't bothered to think about that yet.

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Conrad Black managed to raise the terror peculiar to memos from the boss to a new plane of angst on Friday. Nothing says power like writing a letter to a newspaper you own (The Daily Telegraph) to say how much you disagree with an editor at another publication you own (Boris Johnson, The Spectator). It's bad enough to stop a minion in the corridor and say, "Johnson, that article, a little much, don't you think? Not our style at all. Still, early days for you yet, eh? I suppose so. Alright." But when you wrap your memo in a million-circulation newspaper and have it delivered it to his breakfast table ... well ... it makes a curt, cryptic email seem like a warm handshake and promotion. Johnson must have felt like one of Stalin's generals reading in Pravda that he is a traitor thirty minutes before a gloved hand knocks on the door.

Monday, July 28, 2003

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As always when governments go on really heavy censorship binges the question changes from the usual "Why did they cut what they cut?" to "Why did they bother to leave in what they left in?" Here are the 28 pages of Chapter 4 of the congressional investigation into Sept. 11 in their entirety:

Finding: ... Discussion: [2 pages later] ; And ..., including: [3 pages later] NARRATIVE [two pages later] ; and .... [6 pages later] The joint inquiry also found, [2 pages later] In testimony before the Joint Inquiry, [3 pages later] A U.S. government official also testified about [1 page later] Finally, [3 pages later] A U.S. Government official testified to the Joint Inquiry on this issue]: [1 page later] A U.S. Government official testified at the ... hearing about [1 page later] Mr. Bereuter: ... U.S. Government official: ... [3 pages later] In the October 10, 2002 closed hearing, FBI Director Mueller acknowledged that he became aware of the facts regarding the issue only as a result of the investigative work of the Joint Inquiry Staff: I'm saying the sequence of events here, I think the staff probed and, as a result if the probing, some facts came to light here and to me, frankly, that had not come to light before, and perhaps would not have come to light had the staff not probed. That's what I'm telling you. So I'm agreeing wih you that the staff probing brought out facts that may not have come to this Committee. Senator DeWine: But what you're also saying, though, is that that probing then brought facts to your attention. Director Mueller: Yes.

All this to express a nothing. It's like the anecdote from the "Life of Johnson:"

Johnson had said that he could repeat a complete chapter of The Natural History of Iceland, from the Danish of Horrebow, the whole of which was exactly thus:--

'CHAP. LXXII. Concerning snakes.
'There are no snakes to be met with throughout the whole isand.'

Chapter 4 of the Joint Inquiry has at its core the same massive absence as CHAP. LXXII. But Chapter 4 intensifies the absence with shards of being. There's the probing, for instance. Something's going on with Testify, Official, and Inquiry. Where are the links? There's the Joycean ending, "Mueller: Yes." The two fragments of dialogue perform a reverse echo: the silences ("...") and vagueness ("government official") burst into words, names, and clarity. The mumbled, half-heard "Mr. Bereuter" becomes the plain "Director Mueller."

The "and"s and "including"s, the "Officials" and "Testifies," the reprtitions and tautologies, spread over 27 pages, are the final paragraph, exploded backwards. The clarity that follows the confusion shows how the Joint Inquiry's probing works. It is saying: the Universe is written by Gertrude Stein. We turn it into plain speech. We finish with Yes.

Finding discussion and including narrative, and the joint. Inquiry also found in testimony. Before the Joint Inquiry a U.S. government official also testified about finally. A U.S. Government official testified to the Joint Inquiry on this issue. A U.S. Government official testified at the hearing. About.
Mr. Bereuter: ...
Government official: ...

In the October 10, 2002 closed hearing, FBI Director Mueller acknowledged that he became aware of the facts regarding the issue only as a result of the investigative work of the Joint Inquiry Staff: I'm saying the sequence of events here, I think the staff probed and, as a result of the probing, some facts came to light here and to me, frankly, that had not come to light before, and perhaps would not have come to light had the staff not probed. That's what I'm telling you. So I'm agreeing with you that the staff probing brought out facts that may not have come to this Committee.
Senator DeWine: But what you're also saying, though, is that that probing then brought facts to your attention.?
Director Mueller: Yes?

The Joint Inquiry, finally, wants you to know that it probes and probes. "That is what [it is] saying." All else disappears in between the fragments which the Joint Inquiry has shored up aginst its ruins.

Friday, July 25, 2003

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Do i find this so funny because of the "American" in the title? Or the Vanity Fair-style treatment of its unwitting cover stars? Look at this and this and this

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John Dotson was robbed! His entry is far worse than the supposedly worst opening for a novel picked in the Bulwer-Lytton contest. Give the runner-up the prize he deserves:

The flock of geese flew overhead in a "V" formation - not in an old-fashioned-looking Times New Roman kind of a "V", branched out slightly at the two opposite arms at the top of the "V", nor in a more modern-looking, straight and crisp, linear Arial sort of "V" (although since they were flying, Arial might have been appropriate), but in a slightly asymmetric, tilting off-to-one-side sort of italicized Courier New-like "V" - and LaFonte knew that he was just the type of man to know the difference.

But Benjamin Disraeli beats them all. No other novel has continued for 600 pages as tediously as it started, or started so tediously as Congingsby.

It was a bright May morning some twelve years ago, when a youth of still tender age, for he had certainly not entered his teens by more than two years, was ushered into the waiting-room of a house in the vicinity of St. James's Square, which, though with the general appearance of a private residence, and that too of no very ambitious character, exhibited at this period symptoms of being occupied for some public purpose.

As a Zen exercise, I recommend that you search Disraeli's sentence for a meaning . After looking for five minutes you will find yourself staring into the heart of the infinite. Reality will seem like something you dreamt of once, but no longer remember.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

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The Ketchup Song has been playing religiously at 2am at every sweaty, shoddy bar I've been to in Europe for the past year. So why didn't I realise that the chorus is Spanish people imitating the lyrics to Rappers' Delight until someone told me?

Rappers' Delight: I said a hip hop the hippie the hippie/ to the hip hip hop, a you dont stop/ the rock it to the bang bang boogie say up jumped the boogie/ to the rhythm of the boogie, the beat.
Ketchup Song: Asereje, ja deje tejebe tude jebere sebiunouba majabi an de bugui an de buididipe. (Folks, remember that these Js are Spanish. They're sound like Hs.)

Rappers' Delight gets cited in a hysterical article in The Hudson Review which has a section on the metrics of rap. Hysterical because the essay is tedious, while its quotations are dazzling. It's like the biology textbook when you were twelve. Your eyes glazed during the passages about gametes and hormones. You thought you'd never make it to the bell for break. And suddenly on the next page there's a picture of a cock or vagina. but a really big picture. And you turn to your friend with wide eyes that say "Check it out! Big penis!"

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"Don't flush your fish down the toilet," said the U.S. sewage company JWC last month, "because our company will kill it." Kids had a month to digest this horrible clarification of Finding Nemo before the Australian government added "And by the way we hope JWC does grind the fish to bits. Because kids, that cute clown fish, the one who sings the songs ... he's a killer, a vicious killer." The Queensland government and sewage handlers say: Reality must be defended. We will kill your childrens' dreams if necessary.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

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Hey, you're the person with the guitar at the party. You're playing the nine chords to "Closer I am to Fine" (If born 1975-1980) or "Hotel California" (if born 1970-1975) or "Imagine" (if born 1965-1970). Consider playing John Cage's 0'00" instead. The score:

In a situation provided with maximum amplification (no feedback), perform a disciplined action, with any interruptions, fulfilling in whole, or in part, an obligation to others. No two performances are to be of the same action, nor may any action be the performance of a 'musical composition.' No attention is to be given to the situation (electronic, musical theatrical).

In other words, go where noone can see you or hear you and do something we won't notice at full volume. People will like you more, if that's the same as hating you less. (From Craig Dworkin's great summary of silent music, which sadly ignores a compilation of the U.K.'s armistice one-minute silences throughout the century, probably because those silences are deliberately affective.)

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Even when he's in a coma, Idi Amin's Carnival of the Pathological goes on. His sons ask the press to respect their father's privacy, which is a strange new thing for them to worry about now. Check out the marvellous excuse from Saudi Arabia for not extraditing him: Amin is in a bedouin tent. and not even a real one. A metaphorical one.Why didn't Pinochet think of that? There is no hell bad enough for Amin. I'd miss him more if Kim Jong-Il wasn't equally astonishing.

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Nick Walton in some academic talkfest notices that recent productions of Timon of Athens are using Beckett's icons to make the play's pessimism and misanthropy more decipherable. Bad news for Shakespeare if he needs Beckett's help. Amazing news if Beckett's plays now make audiences comfortable. Or perhaps this has more to do with directors who don't want to scare people with togas and stockings, and use Chaplin-esque imagery , and not Beckettian icons, to make the play seem modern and also not quite of our time.

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SAD INSIGHT INTO ME: Last night I was looking in a dream at a top-ten list for The Most Pretentious Albums Ever. No. 1 was a Blur album from 1991 with a purple-bluish cover which had the ghostly waifs from Led Zep's Houses of the Holy cover in classic 60s symmetrical poses. There was an album by The Drums of New York, which had a big colorful face on a white background. I noted that I'd heard track 3 at a record store. It was called "John Dabre" and I had mentally filed it under "Folk Pastiche by Otherwise Techno Group." Finally there was a Morissey album. The first track was titled "I'm so Bored." None of these songs exist. The Drums of New York don't exist. Still, in the solitude of my subconscious, with noone else in the dream to impress, I pretended that I'd heard these tracks and knew about these albums.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

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Had Orwell never said of Ghandi "Saints should always be judged guilty until proven innocent" the lede to a thousand articles on Orwell would have to be invented. In her review of Clive James's U.S. collection of essays Michiko K. obeys a prime law of hackery: When reviewing a book of criticism, open by quoting an observation from the book and say it could equally apply to its author. This relieves the hack of coming up with his or her own thoughts on the book, or quoting from a critic who isn't the author under review. It seems tricksy and astute, making the words rebound on their speaker. It's a bit like after the murderer drives to the scene of the crime and the detective says, "But I didn't tell you where the murder happened." (Kakatuni didn't even need to do this. She already had the excellent insight that James is a blend of Philip Rhav's paleface and redskin writers.)

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Ron Rosenbum gets an automatic link, no matter what he writes, no matter where.
1. Noone writes better and longer about things you only need a few words to describe.
2. If I forget to link to him, remind me.
3. If you don't know how to contact me, find out who I am and track me down.
4. The same firstname-lastname RoRo alliteration makes my name clownlike too, except his ends in BAUM, which makes his name turn thundery, while mine ends in EE, which makes it sound like juvenile laughter.
5. If you're Ron Rosenbaum do 3. Use that information to find my apartment and break into it. Find "The Secret Parts of Fortune" on my shelves. Sign it like this, "R., You rock Time. in profound admiration, Ron"

That said, this week's column is weak, for all the strength of its convictions. Rosenbaum is passionate about more than justice when it comes to Israel, with good reason. I certainly don't mean that Israel and justice contradict each other. For instance, Rosenbaum's passion for Israel, as a homeland, as an ultimate refuge, leaves only pro forma sympathy for the Palestinians, and when he expresses it his words shiver with weakness.

Listen for fuse being lit with the first words of these sentences. "Make no mistake of it, the Palestinians are victims of history as well as the Jews." "I feel bad for the plight of the Palestinians; I believe they deserve a state." Can you hear the fuzes fizzing? They're leading to large explosive barrels of BUT and HOWEVER: "But they had a state."

Attacks on European complacency are something i like to see, but not attacks which use weapons of gross generalization. When someone describes things at "some deep level" be sure that nothing on the surface level (eg. facts or people) will appear. Stereotypes are more precisely featured than these Europeans. They and Rosenbaum's thoughts are at their ugliest in this sentence: "And now it's so much easier for the Europeans to persecute the Jews, because they can just allow their own Arab populations to burn synagogues and beat Jews on the street for them." I'm thinking of the Nazi in The Blues Brothers who announces "The Jew is using the negro for muscle." I'm thinking of Le Pen who says that Arabs are not a part of Europe. And why the "own" followed by the "their?" Is it just me who's thinking of beaglers in tweed unleashing their dogs? It won't do. It's a horrible mistake to use anti-semitism's imagery to fight anti-semites.

However, buried in all that muck are the following truffles:
1. "Someone remarked recently at the astonishing hypocrisy of European diplomats and politicians in supporting the Palestinian "right of return" when so many Europeans are still living in homes stolen from Jews they helped murder." This is not quite right. The elision of the truth and angry slander is in the "many." For instance, not many WWII veterans are still alive. Many homes in Europe, eg. in Czechoslovakia, have been returned to the ancestors of holocaust victims. "Many" is not an answer to the crucial question "How many?" But it's close enough to a very powerful point to send shivers down the spine of this European.
2. "And I also thought that Jews flourished best where they were no longer under the thumb of Orthodox rabbis and could bring to the whole world” indeed, the whole universe”the exegetical skills that are the glory of the people: reading the universe as the Torah, as Einstein and Spinoza did, rather than the Torah as the universe, as the Orthodox do."
3. "Isn't it interesting that you didn't see any "European peace activists" volunteering to "put their bodies on the line" by announcing that they would place themselves in real danger -- in the Tel Aviv cafes and pizza parlors, favorite targets of the suicide bombers. Why no "European peace activists" at the Seders of Netanya or the streets of Jerusalem? Instead, "European peace activists" do their best to protect the brave sponsors of the suicide bombers in Ramallah."

Almost worth everything for that last identification of a gross hypocrisy which is real and proveable.

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English is good as English, but better as a foreign language (unless, for some reason, that language is French, vide the catastrophic "Les bleujeans," vide the aging hippy "Les rockers," vide the inexpressive "Un grand waste of time," vide the long moan of "le shoowingomm").

All the English words that have gone into South-West Pacific pidgin come back to us revivified, refreshed, young again.

No Parking: NOKEN PARK LONG HIA
When things are broked: Bugerap
When you don't like something: Shithaus

(All these from this week's TLS)

NOKEN PARK LONG HIA is what No Parking used to mean, but doesn't anymore.

Monday, July 21, 2003

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Ornament doesn't distract. It expresses what it ornaments. It embodies our philosophical enquiries as to the nature of nature. Tom Phillips breaks his argument about ornament into parts. Now you can make it whole again.

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A friend, who's bored at work, sends me this. As she sits at a computer, with nothing to do for a European subsidiary of a U.S. multinational, she thinks of darkness, emptiness, the invisible Other and creaking. Capitalism takes another brain!

... I heard the door open but everything was so dark that I couldn't know where it was. I turned around, looking for light or any feature of the three rooms I had been in a couple of hours earlier. Nothing. Extending my hands in front of me, I tried to reach any object, touch any shape, but the only thing I could touch was a cold and infinite emptiness.
How is this possible? I thought.

Hours ago, these rooms where filled with people and things, and suddenly, everything disappeared?...

The door slammed. In the middle of the darkness, I could hear a distant and soft breathing...

"Who is there?" I asked.

No one responded. The steps were approaching me and I moved, trying to find a way out of the room, but all I touched was the hard, cold stone of the walls.

"Who is there?" I asked again, this time louder.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

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Starting here