The MacLamity

The News That Stays News, Reported Live

Friday, August 29, 2003

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So, comment hounds will have noticed the evil DVDANDMEDIA.COM hanging out and confessing. I finally visited the site. The Nugen company's mission statement is a classic of its kind. No matter how terrible their product, their sense of self is deliciously Wagnerian.
Nugen Mission StatementTo exceed your expectations.

Customer Commitment Unrivalled.

1st
Nugen: Pioneers of the world famous White Top CDR. The first to bring you 48x Grade A CDR media. We have been selling recordable media for over 5 years.
Others: Everyone and his dog is now selling White Top CDR. Imitation is the highest form of flattery. We agree.

Quality
Nugen: Have always manufactured Grade A media. Have used the same manufacturer since day one to ensure only the highest quality media reaches our customers.
Others: Change manufacturers frequently. They do this to get a better price but often compromise product quality, but still sell it to their customers under the same brand, hoping they won’t notice the difference.

Master
Nugen: Only sell CDR and DVD related products. We know everything there is to know about these products, so can sell with complete confidence, knowing that our customers are getting the best. We’d rather be a Master of One.
Others: Jack of All. Need we say more?
No you don't.

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Today's HARD-TO-FATHOM CARTOON:

"Ja ja ja," Fidel Castro must have said when he saw this in Granma.

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"Wise, compassionate, silent and with enormous breasts:” Kingsley Amis's ideal women. This is a great essay from the TLS, by Zachary Leader, who annotated Amis's collected letters as if he was arranging the Torah to make a picture of God. You like Amis less after reading this. You miss Movement poetry more.

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Le moins cher est toujours le plus cher. BackBlog is free but fickle. It's come and gone, as have some of your posts. If the comment feature is out and you're a MacLamity Friend, feel free to use your insider knowledge to email me and, if you're comment is great enough to satisfy Maclamity's Audience of Threes, then I'll add it to the bottom of the post, within the authorial zone.

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Last year when it was suggested that U.S. citizens be allowed to compete in the Booker prize, it was depressing how many U.K. authors said No, on the following basis: "What and compete with Roth and Updike and DeLillo? O God, we're screwed. That was the only prize we had." And yet it seems to upset some that there's a prize out there that Americans can't win, as unfair as if the U.S. weren't allowed to run any distance above 1,000 metres in the Olympics.

The strongest part of the Slate piece (written by a writer living in London -- (why do writers always want to tell you where they live?)) is that the Booker prize effectively celebrates the British empire when it should be celebrating the English language. The British empire is so dead though, surely, that the Booker prize has become more an anti-American zone than a club for 20th century Britishers.
But I'm a believer in free trade, and U.S. competition might just inspire the rest of the Anglophone world to write harder.

However, for it to be fair, the Booker prize should let U.S. citizens in only if the U.S. makes commonwealth writers eligible for a Pulitzer.
Such an astonishing sacrifice of America's literary sacred cow would also show the U.S. government the way, and lead to an end to steel and cotton subsidies, and the EU would drop theirs and African agriculture would rise again. Literature would once more become a force for change once again. (From Tom Stoppard's Coast of Utopia, which is not a play, but a collection of superb new-born quotations about the state of Russian literature in the 1700s: "In other countries, the advance of civilised behaviour is everybody's business. In Russia, there's no division of labour. Literature has to do it all.")

Thursday, August 28, 2003

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Today's HARD-TO-FATHOM CARTOON:
Special "Not a Cartoon" edition:

Scientists wanted to know (Link via Arts & Letters Daily) if old people laugh at a joke because they understand it or because old people are deranged idiots who don't want you to know they've last all grip on the outside world. The scientists gave the old people the following set up:
A neighbour approaching Mr Smith and saying: "Say, Smith, are you using your lawnmower this afternoon?" "Yes I am," replied Smith warily.
The scientists then asked the old folk which was the funny reply
A. "Fine, you won't be wanting your golf clubs, I'll just borrow them".
B. "Oops" as he treads on a rake which flies up and just misses his face.
C. "Oh, well, can I borrow it when you are done then?"
D. "The birds are always eating my grass seed"
This is what happens when scientists investigate comedy. This is like asking old people, "Which is funnier, Famine, Death, War, or AIDS?... NO, you senile old buffoon. Not famine. War." The scientists tell us that the correct, funny answer is A. They conducted one of the cruellest experiments ever on volunteer subjects.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

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Today's HARD-TO-FATHOM CARTOON:
WHAT explains WHAT?

UPDATE: On the comment boards DVDANDMEDIA.CO.MARS (nee DVDANDMEDIA.CO.UK) explains:
It's simple. Ashcroft was brought over while Mars was experiencing an unprecendented economic boom. This time, however, their economy is in recession. In order to save money on gas they decided to wait until Earth and Mars were at their closest. Also Keynes never made it to Mars so they never learned that deficit spending can help to pull an economy out of a recession. Duh.
After some to-and-fro over Keynesian vs. Monetarist theory DAM.C.MARS contines:
There you go spouting off your economic "theory" again. Here on Mars we know that economics is best viewed not as a science (because its predictive ability is highly suspect) but as a branch of mathematics somewhere on the intersection between pure and applied axiomatic systems. Your very premises are based upon the false assumption that behavior can be explained by desires and beliefs.

That last comment eerily resembled those of a Martian who took over an earthling's body back in the 1920s, called Eros Urides. Mars really is a marvellous place, everyone agrees, Ashcroft or no. There's so much we on earth don't understand which out there they do.


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The BBC re-broadcast its Great Britons series on its World channel and then got the rest of the world to vote on it. The results were quite different.

U.K. voters
Winston Churchill - 28.1%
Isambard Kingdom Brunel - 24.6%
Diana, Princess of Wales - 13.9%
Charles Darwin - 6.9%
William Shakespeare - 6.8%
Isaac Newton - 5.2%
Queen Elizabeth I - 4.4%
John Lennon - 4.2%
Horatio Nelson - 3%
Oliver Cromwell - 2.8%

Rest of the World
Isaac Newton - 21.4%
Winston Churchill - 17.0%
Diana, Princess of Wales - 13.0%
William Shakespeare - 12.1%
Charles Darwin - 10.1%
John Lennon - 8.0%
Isambard Kingdom Brunel - 7.9%
Elizabeth I - 6.1%
Oliver Cromwell - 2.2%
Horatio Nelson - 2.1%
Some conclusions:
1. As in the U.K., more than a tenth of the world have a salivating enthusiasm for Diana's air-headed mix of celebrity and monarchy, which has ruined their sense of what counts in life. To consider Diana the greatest, you have to consider the following as transcendentally great: hanging out with Elton John, making poor people feel comfortable talking to you even though you live in a palace, fashion, good looks, Versace clothes, charity work (as distinguished from work that entails real sacrifice).

2. The world's votes are spread more evenly, perhaps suggesting to me that the votes in Britain came from a need to cluster the national self-image around a few defining men and women.

3. The voting campaign by time-wasting engineering students at Brunel University was entirely responsible for Brunel's success in getting U.K. votes.

4. Foreigners like gravity and calculus. The British like getting in boats, sailing to the Galapagos and destroying God.

5. Foreigners don't like people who kicked their ass, as Cromwell and Nelson did. But then the British didn't like those people either. However, Churchill probably didn't too well among German and Japanese voters, or De Gaullists in France.

6. Foreigners think John Lennon is a greater Briton than the British do, which I'm guessing shows how The Beatles really did save Britain from seeming to the rest of the world like a third-world power after Suez. No Lennon, no great achievement by the British in the 60s which a foreigner could name.

7. The British are idiots. The rest of the world is filled with idiots. It's Cromwell. Cromwell is number one.

(AND ONE MORE THING=8. Do foreigners prefer Shakespeare because they are more literary? Because Shakespeare is a genuine worldwide name brand? Because foreigners read him in modernish translations, making him slightly easier to understand for foreigners than for Anglohopones?)

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The Moko returns. Read "The Mating Rituals of Exotic Birds" to have your appettite whetted.

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WHEN JOHN ASHBERRY'S EYES AREN'T SMILING:
I want a modern poet to look like John Ashbery does in a photo taken in 1962. That Helen Vendler piece, the one I linked to the other day, sent me through my apartment last night looking for my three Ashbery books, while in my head I wondered, as I do quite often, how Ashbery made his eyes that intense. That intensity hasn't left him.



1962: I can see it and you can't.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

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Today's HARD-TO-FATHOM CARTOON:
Special "Antisemites Don't Know a Joke From a Hook-Nosed Man Wearing a Star of David" Edition!

Extra bonus comment: Not just hard-to-fathom, but obviously anti-semitic no matter how you feel about the road map! Wait, how do I know this is antisemitic? Because the wily, big-nosed Jew is the only thing the cartoonist, Mohammed Effat Esmail of Egypt's "Ahram Press," has drawn coherently. Everything else in the picture is, semiotically, a shambles. I'm guessing that the wily Jew is tricking Bush into thinking that the wily Jew is just like Bush, when in fact he's a wily Jew. But then, why are Bush's hands tied? What's the point of the thought bubble? The features don't cohere with any other feature in the picture to make a point, they're just sprinkled around to make it look like it's not all about the stereotype on the right-hand side.

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Those tabloid headlines in the James Fallows profile of Rupert Murdoch just nail modernity to the wall: verbal labels whose power far exceeds that of what they label.
DO DOGS COMMIT MURDER?
WHY JEWS DON'T RIDE BICYCLES
HEADLESS BODY IN TOPLESS BAR
IS TED NUTS? YOU DECIDE.
The force of their compression is set to Maximum... a Haiku would have broken up under the pressure (eg. "Ted Turner Compares/My Boss Murdoch To Hitler,/I Think of Madness"). Compare those with the only other headline in the profile. It's by the anti-media-consolidation group Common Cause.
"THIS MAN WANTS TO CONTROL THE NEWS IN AMERICA. THE FCC WANTS TO HELP HIM."
You have to know who the FCC is to half-way care about this statement, and even then, you feel the Jews-riding-bikes issue pressing harder. I despair for well-meaning people who care about important issues and art. Why are their headlines so boring? Why do they think that being right is a sufficient excuse for being dull?

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Sophisticated people come to The MacLamity to check out...

Monday, August 25, 2003

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Helen Vendler has found what connects John Ashberry's poetry
Something strange is creeping across me.
La Celestina has only to warble the first few bars
Of "I Thought about You" or something mellow from
Amadigi di Gaula for everything--a mint-condition can
Of Rumford's Baking Powder, a celluloid earring, Speedy
Gonzales, the latest from Helen Topping Miller's fertile
Escritoire, a sheaf of suggestive pix on greige, deckle-edged
Stock--to come clattering through the rainbow trellis
Where Pistachio Avenue rams the 2300 block of Highland
Fling Terrace. He promised he'd get me out of this one,
That mean old cartoonist, but just look what he's
Done to me now! I scarce dare approach me mug's attenuated
Reflection in yon hubcap, so jaundiced, so déconfit
Are its lineaments--fun, no doubt, for some quack phrenologist's
Fern-clogged waiting room, but hardly what you'd call
Companionable. But everything is getting choked to the point of
Silence. Just now a magnetic storm hung in the swatch of sky
Over the Fudds' garage, reducing it--drastically--
To the aura of a plumbago-blue log cabin on
A Gadsden Purchase commemorative cover. Suddenly all is
Loathing. I don't want to go back inside any more... (From "Daffy Duck in Hollywood"
to Ashbery's art criticism
Porter was, of course, only the latest of a series of brilliant know-nothings who at intervals have embodied the American genius, from Emerson and Thoreau to Whitman and Dickinson down to Wallace Stevens and Marianne Moore. . . . [Porter’s paintings] are intellectual in the classic American tradition of the writers mentioned above because they have no ideas in them, that is, no ideas that can be separated from the rest. They are idea, or consciousness, or light, or whatever. Ideas surround them, but do not and cannot extrude themselves into the being of the art

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POLITBURO: Maclamity receives the following from a worker like himself. Can you see anything wrong in this?
A good friend of mine, a sports writer, has a knack for coming up with wild yet somehow sensible theories. One of them (I may have mentioned it) is the one-free-murder theory. It allows each of us to have one free killing, for which we could not be prosecuted. Any beyond that, then they throw the book at you. It might have some benefits. Since pushing anyone too far could quickly result in one’s own demise, it might encourage us to be a little more restrained with each other. And, knowing we each have one free one, maybe we’d cherish that killing is and be less likely to waste it on a drug-store robbery or some other silly thing. Oh, but there would sure be a temptation to use it

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Today's HARD-TO-FATHOM CARTOON:

'It is all very excusable for the fairer sex to bewail the prosaic nature of modern masculine attire, & to wish to a return to more romantic fashions. Let them, however, not forget that - with the smooth, they would also have to take - the rough!'

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I KNOW HOW IT FEELS, part II:
pumpkin

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Orange's doesn't rhyme with oranges. The more email I write the more I mispell its and it's. The apostrophe embarasses me. But I would never burn it, as Keith Waterhouse does, when they appear in grocers' signs: "Pear's 30p." Nor would I say that, because it takes time to use it correctly, we should give in and drop it altogether. The apostrophe makes a useful distinction which we shouldn't rely on context alone to make.
(P.S. As always Marc Roche of Le Monde fucks everything up:
1. He misrepresents the OED, which is in no way the equivalent of the Academie Francaise. It has no interest in standard English; it is so large precisely because its mandate is to record every word used in English and to refuse to choose between them.
2. (This is not Marc Roche's fault, but a copy editor's.) The headline uses the it's/its confusion as the example, which confuses a verbal phrase with a genetive noun. The article is actually about the Pear's/Pears confusion of a plural noun with a genetive.
3. While the universities are rivalrous, the publishing houses of Cambridge and Oxford have become essentially corporations trading off academic brands. So being clever enough to identify an ancient grudge as the motivator in a grammatical debate is in fact being utterly stupid and confusing the press and the university in precisely the way the marketers of both presses want.)

Friday, August 22, 2003

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Guns 'n' Roses died this afternoon, when "November Rain" played in the pasta restaurant where I ate my lunch. "I Got You, Babe" followed "Novemeber Rain," as easily and as unsurprisingly as credits follow a movie.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

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DVD special features are so sad. The Two Towers -- Platinum Edition's extras are so pointless and endless. Amazon might even have made them seem more dull than they are (exclamation marks added to the amazon description by me in a desperate attempt to make them seem loud and energetic):

Principal photography: Stories from the set !
Sending the actors into battle: sword fighting !
Storyboards to pre-visualization !
Weta Workshop visit: See sculptors in action as they create weapons, armor, creatures, and miniatures from the film !
Sound design demonstration !
And, best of all:
An interactive map of New Zealand !

It's the desperation that's upsetting. Not just "principal photography," but "Stories from prinicpal photography," as if they need to reassure you that there are stories there. Can watching sculptors "in action" be so different from simply watching sculptors? Is "action" even the right word?

It took me a while to realise where else I feel entertainment get swallowed whole by despair. It's in airplanes, when I look at the cover of the magazine and see (as you would if you flew Virgin this month):

Belgian Icons
Laid Back Copenhagen
Balancing Act - Leadership Coaching
Events in June
Events in July
Events in August
Island Hopping In Greece
Travelling Without Wires
Virgin News
Welcome Aboard from our MD

This is a list which drains away hope and leaves you staring out of the plane window contemplating the void.


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I champion themoko. This blog stopped right after it started. All too soon.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

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I think Andrew Sullivan can take credit for teaching the right-wing in the U.S. to hate the BBC for it's news. And it's sort of nice that all those people across about the Atlantic are worried about news they don't even have to watch. Someone cares about the U.K. out there. But two things about this article from the Weekly Standard:

1. The main question raised by the BBC these days is "Is this a different program about home improvement/gardening/buying antiques or have they just changed the title of the one I saw yesterday?" The answer is always, YES they have made another show about how to cheaply brighten your living room, while sloping your garden, and finding hidden treasures in your attic. YES, they have hired the host from the other program to do it. YES, there is no discernible difference. Also, it doesn't seem to occur to the right-wingers that U.K. television already has private news programs. There is already choice.

2. The Weekly Standard is a Murdoch paper. Murdoch would love to buy the BBC. He'd turn it into FOX. The Weekly Standard should therefore say, "The citizens of the U.K. aere subsidizing beautiful nature documentaries and broadcasts of classical music when they should be watching Great Plane Wrecks Caught On Camera."

(P.S. It's a real slur to say that the BBC mispronounces Wolfowitz to make him sound more Jewish. It actually sounds to British ears more German. That's because the U.K. is near Germany. Also. the Jews in the U.K. aren't descended from the Mitteleuropan emigrants who left for the states, but instead the Jews who got bounced from around Spain, France and the Netherlands: the Cohens (as in Sacha Baron-), Pinters (as in Harold), Goldsmiths (as in Jimy), the Woolfs (as in Virginia's husband) and, of course, the Rothschilds. These names don't sound like Volfervitz at all. I have sophisticated friends in England who take the trouble to call the beer BudVeiser, because that's what it's called in Czechoslovakia, and they want to show that they know that. They're not trying to tell me that the beer is Jewish.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

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Read all of this email exchange with the man who sent the following spam.
Hello,
I’m a time traveler stuck here in 2003. Upon arriving here my dimensional warp generator stopped working. I trusted a company here by the name of LLC Lasers to repair my Generation 3 52 4350A watch unit, and they fled on me. I am going to need a new DWG unit, prefereably the rechargeable AMD wrist watch model with the GRC79 induction motor, four I80200 warp stabilizers, 512GB of SRAM and the menu driven GUI with front panel XID display. I will take whatever model you have in stock, as long as its received certification for being safe on carbon based life forms.
In terms of payment: I dont have any Galactic Credits left. Payment can be made in platinum gold or 2003 currency upon safe delivery of unit. Please transport unit in either a large brown paper bag or box to below coordinates on Monday July 28th at (exactly 3:00pm) Eastern Standard Time on the dot. A few minutes prior will be ok, but it cannot be after. If you miss this timeframe please email me.
Twenty-three inches in from the outside edge of the corner at the South West Corner of Cummings Ave. & Village Street in Woburn, Mass. is at Latitude 42.4845467 & Longitude -71.1576157 and the ground is 101.3’ above sea level.
WARNING: DO NOT ATTEMPT TO TRANSPORT ITEM BY REGULAR MEANS OF TELEPORTATION. THEY ARE MONITORING AND WILL REDIRECT THE SIGNAL!! (NOBODY HAS BEEN ABLE TO TRANSPORT ANYTHING SO FAR WITHOUT THE TRANSFER BEING DEFLECTED). I DO NOT CARE HOW YOU HAVE TO GET IT HERE, JUST DO IT IN A WAY THAT NO SPYING EYES WILL POSSIBLY BE ABLE TO REDIRECT THE TRANSFERENCE. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT THAT YOU BE ABLE TO MONITOR THE TRANSFER.
Although those coordinates are a secure guarded area, these channels through email are never secure. Unfortunately it is the only form of communication I have right now. After unit has been sent please email me at: info@federalfundingprogram.com with payment instructions.
Do not reply directly back to this email.
Thank You

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That friend from yesterday, the one in Paris, has started a blog called Reflections from Paris. If the blog's anything like him it should be a damn good time.

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The world's economy since 0 is a rare OECD publication which is fun to scim through. Check out how much we're working compared to those guys in 1870. Look at Western Europe fall into a pile of Middle Age shit in 1000 but come roaring back to trounce china in 2000 (although -- wait -- it looks like China's gaining on W. Europe. Faster, Europe, faster!)

Monday, August 18, 2003

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I KNOW HOW HE FEELS: part one of an occasional series.

Although in this case I don't know if I feel more empathy for the monkey or the man.

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Reading this tirade against rap's influence on the youth, I couldn't help thinking about how all the supposedly scary white music never really corrupted the kids. Maybe punk for one year and Altamont. Aside from those two things, it's parents freaking out over their kid wearing hex-laden T-shirts and dyeing their hair, but who nevertheless goes to college wearing that T-shirt or wears it behind the counter at the comics store , despite Ozzy telling him or her to worship Satan, or Marilyn Manson's fearsome invitation to his modern irony-drenched version of Black Sabbath's devil-sex cult. Time has turned Ozzy Osborne's biting of the bat head into a childhood ghost story. It used to be frightening. Now it seems quaint. "Cop Killer" on the other hand, is about brutally killing cops for no reason. Which doesn't seem quaint.

Reading the chorus, however, and wondering about why McWhorter changed "Da" to "The" I smiled at the memory of a graffito on a Belgian wall which I saw a fortnight ago: "Fuck La Police."

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Lies, damned lies: Both Kausfiles and Arts & Letters Daily quote a scene from Total Recall as they link to this great summary of Ahnuld's prospects for getting votes from women:
In the movie "Total Recall," Schwarzenegger puts a bullet through the head of his on-screen wife, who is trying to kill him as well, and says without remorse: "Consider that a divorce."
It's not enough to say that his on-screen wife is trying to kill him. To be balanced when presenting his attitudes vis-a-vis women you should also mention that his onscreen wife is not his wife, but an agent which he had planted to fool himself into believing that he was a resistance fighter working against the despotism on Mars who'd had his memory erased and replaced with the memory of an ordinary construction worker. So his "divorce" isn't even that. In politics, it's crucial to give context to these seemingly damning incidents.

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Tha Kysa Braswell advice on erotic fiction, which I naively linked to last month, is one part of a half-sad, half-strange, only-on-the-Internet story.

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It's no joke. Lots of yucks to be had in this article about friendster (via Delilah). You would think that fake profiles on a dating web site would be just a lark. But, no! It should be taken very seriously, says the company. It should be taken very seriously, say the people with fake profiles. It is a matter of crucial importance, they add in unison. And it is! This is not a fraud without victims. A good, single friend of mine in Paris has just spent all morning messaging innuendos to a British girl who lives in France. But:
FRIEND: what does cheeky mean? Like in the context of I wrote something provocative to someone by email and she's british and responds "cheeky!"
MACLAMITY: It's like saying "You bad boy for suggesting such a thing" and then winking
FRIEND: Excellent. I love friendster.
MACLAMITY: Who is it this time?
FRIEND: Very sketchy chick called siouxie. I can't tell if she's hot or repugnant from the pics.
MACLAMITY: er, dude. that would be siouxie as in siouxie sue and the banshees... they're a famous band (in england).
ETERNALLY OPTIMISTIC FRIEND: So would it be good for me to get in there or not seeing as you seem to know her?

Thursday, August 14, 2003

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Le Monde Diplomatique reckons that the data-collection on foreigners who go to the U.S. is more Minority Report than 1984 ("1984 est declasse"). The conclusion strikes harder since the start lovingly obeys the 40-year-old ritual of an Orwell quote before talk of surveillance or lying politicians. It would be stange if that Orwell ritual died and we changed the future that we choose to fear most. But I feel more Minority Report than 1984 when it's drug use, constant advertising, sealed cars with NavSat systems, and when I'm able to watch a TV show like '24' which makes me process 4 different moving images simultaneously, which we can all do easily.

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An oldy-by-now but still-now-a-goody from the Daily Telegraph via Arts and Letters Daily. Tibor Fischer's sadness at Martin Amis's blindness to stupidity is pure joy.

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Loving dogs ... it's like being a child ... it's like choosing between homo- or heterosexuality ... it's like identifying yourself as a member of a nation-state ... it's something we're sure we've done forever, but then we read in the paper that an intrepid academic has discovered a lost time in a lost land when and where there were only sexuals, and no children, and no nations, and no love for dogs. Usually the time is the eighteenth century, and the land is Europe. But is it really a new thing to go crazy about your dog? Both the dog articles Arts & Letters Daily links to shock us with the thought of our grandparents laughing at what we do for our dogs. Really?
What about the old army captain I know, whose dog, Dodger, was supposedly just there to fetch birds which the Captain had slaughtered. The dog slept in a cold room at the bottom of the house. He shouted at it constantly. But the things he did with his dog seem to me to express the same affection that whacky LA types are lavishing on their dogs with fulfillment camps. There was the lavish meat rewards that Dodger got for finding a particularly hidden bird. There was its little coat, which looked a lot like the Captain's wife's Barbour, which Dodger got to wear when the weather was cold.

Is this blog just going to become a Samuel Johnson quotathon? I hope not and so clutch at the way out. I can pretend I'm making a Nabokov reference, since Nabokov used the glorious section of the Life as the epigraph to Pale Fire. In fact, tooling around the web, I find Ron Rosenbaum cites the epigraph in an old column: A TRIPLE WHAMMY for MACLAMITY which raises the question: where's Samuel Beckett citing Ron Rosenbaum citing Nabokov quoting Boswell remebering Johnson talk about cats? Answer: I don't know, but it's out there. The cat-owner relationship apparently ties and tangles Maclamity's literary heros into knots.

Finally, there's the Michel de Montaigne quote: "When I play with my cat, who knows whether she isn't amusing herself with me more than I am with her?" Four centuries ago the love of pets couldn't escape the fear that the love isn't real, the paranoia of loving something that could never tell you if it loves you back, even if it did. Just as it can't escape now.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

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These pictures of football managers in their youth, before they were managers, are so rad. The photos range from the period when short shorts were not gay to the period when moustaches were not gay. I ask: why should they all part their hair from left to right? What makes their eyes so hypnotic? They're massive, English, surface-ugly combinations of Belle and Sebastian's beautiful stars of track and field and Lou Reed's charismatic, domineering coach from his Coney Island days. I would do anything for number 5, but i don't know why. Anything.

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There's a famous poll in which something like 40% of U.S. citizens think they are among the richest 2% of the country. Monaco is a bomb to that attitude.
After a reasonably priced dinner, at a small restaurant, which had no pretensions, we ask for a taxi. The waiter replies, "But we have a car you can use. I'll warn the driver you want to go." The car is a Rolls Royce. The driver's first question: "So, do you prefer Rolls Royces, or do you prefer Bentleys."

The driver's next line: "That woman [oh, that would be the dyed-blond 50-year-old woman with pearls and ballgown banging on our window], she's crazy. Rich people are crazy. She drives in this car a lot. I think she saw you guys and wanted to ride in a car with you."

Public elevators everywhere, with long marble corridors, all airconditioned.

The yachts. I have never seen anything as consistently shiny as the railings on the yachts. I've never seen boats so clean or metal so shiny.

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Back in the office after four days of vacation and one of sickness. My boss asks, "Aren't you a little old to spend your birthday with your parents?" I crack a weak joke about me not being organised enough to arrange for the clowns and jelly myself. It only occurs to me now that he thought that he wasn't joking. Which means that he thought I wasn't joking. I want to send a memo: NOT WITH RENTS ON BDAY STOP ON BDAY ON BEACH WITH TOPLESS FRENCH AND ITALIAN WOMEN AND THEN MONACO STOP I AM A MAN NOT A BOY.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

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A bad reason to be against the war, when there have been many good ones. "In passing, an ancient civilization has been casually decimated by a very recent, casually brutal nation." -- Arundhati Roy 1. Iraq is not a civilization and is not ancient. It's a country. It's as fictitious and real a nation as Great Britain. Nations barely even exist in the present. 2. The preference for the ancient over the new is usually just a matter of not liking what you already don't like. The Nazis preferred ancient civilizations to new ones, but were purely modern (see 4). 3. I don't mind people using decimation to mean destruction, and not a reduction by 90%. But since I hate Arundhati Roy I'm going to ask if she has any clue what 10% of a civilization looks like. 4. Saddam Hussein's government in no way represented ancient civilization. It was pure 20th century socialist (see 2) and then pure twentieth century totalitarian, which was as brutal to ancient civilization (if Shia Islam is that) as you can be.

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"Books are a load of crap," is how a Philip Larkin poem ends. Some books are even worse, according to meddlingkids.

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Steven Landsburg has a ton of reasons why a gay man's more likely to smoke than a straight one. Except, the obvious ones: peer pressure and cigarettes look cool in the movies (the only time I've seen a cigarette not look cool is the one flopping out of Dan Ackroyd's mouth in "Ghostbusters," becuse it's meant to make him look beat-up and tired). My favorite non-explanation explanation for smoking is Jonathan Franzen's. "At a time when a likely theater of war was my own living room, smoking became a symbol of my helpless civilian participation in the Cold War." Jonathan Franzen clearly needed a girlfriend, as well as a first-class semiotician to sort out his confused understanding of what things stand for other things.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

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Trying to give up smoking has me reading Italo Svevo's Zeno's Conscience, which has three cigarette stubs on the cover. Every time George Orwell lighted up in Gordon Bowker's biography, which I read on the Eurostar back to Brussels, I wanted to have one with him. The withdrawal also has me mentally reciting Wendy Cope's poem, which I came across this weekend. Not really trying to give up smoking. Just trying to smoke less, which never happens in this world. The trick is not to see anyone who smokes. The moment they light up, I'll be rushing to a machine and cursing Belgium for only taking the exact change and refusing the superior amount of money trembling in my pocket.

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"Perhaps we’re lucky he's only claimed he’s found Jesus; it wouldn’t be totally surprising if he claimed he was Jesus," Ron Rosenbaum once wrote of Bob Dylan. Dylan's new movie, however, has Rosenbaum thinking that maybe our luck has run out.

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Two things from my weekend in England.
Edward Johnston's font for the tube signs really is beautiful. It was all over the screens of Waterloo, then of course the signs in the Underground. When the restaurant I went to on Saturday night used it in the menu, however, I felt intense admiration. It described food as well as it described trains. It is one of those artefacts from the modern era which has survived and become old. It combines Ezra Pound's yearning to be new with Orwell's fight for clarity and simplicity. I love it.

The other thing is the cardboard wrapper around my sandwich from Waterloo which reads:
Freshly baked
THE BRITISH SANDWICH ASSOCIATION
HIGHLY COMMENDED IN THE EUROPEAN SANDWICH BUSINESS OF THE YEAR AWARD 1999
Freshly baked all day long.

Friday, August 01, 2003

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A very earnest-seeming Kysa Braswel has written strict guidelines for writing erotic fiction. The eager pupil will get from Kysa admonishments like "concision is brevity relative to purpose;" exciting-sounding stylistic tricks like "your phrases should remain supple but not overworked;" and tautologies like "Concretion is using definite, specific, concrete language." All this moralising from the author of "Rape and Roll," "Gaga over Mom," and "Keep her Cumming." To make things easier for you she has handy lists of word groups like "COCK: Huge, giant, enormous..." "BREASTS: melons, hooters, titflesh..." and the puzzling "EXCLAMATIONS: ooooooh ooooooo unnnngh aaaaagh aaaargh mmmmm jeezus ohmygod nnnnnnn nnnnnhh nnnggghhh uuuggghhh uuuuhhh mmpphhh hhmmpphh ummmmm noooooo schwack owwww oouch aaiiiiieee eeeee! aanuugghh mmffh gm-mmh hhrrrff g-ahhh eewww mmmmph glmphmmh mmhffmh oh-oh." Only a master like Kysa could know that "nnnnnnn" and "nnnnnhh" are two different things. We all have a lot to learn.