The MacLamity

The News That Stays News, Reported Live

Friday, January 30, 2004

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Whose MASSACRE?
Apparently the Greek title of Texas Chainsaw Massacre is The Schizophrenic Murderer with the Chainsaw. Some Greek psychiatrists are demanding that a preface be added to the movie saying that Schizophrenics aren't always violent.

What does that say about their opinions of Texans?

They would have helped in me life considerably if they had also pointed out that:

Not all instincts are basic
Not all drivers drive taxis
That there is a lot more to about sex than just this, and a lot more that you're afraid to ask about it.
Alice does live here, still. She's just a different Alice.
Not yet apocalypse, actually.

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Names FOR HENRY JAMES
One can't read Brian Vickers's rant against Donald Foster in the recent TLS without associating Shakesperian attribution debates with a Charles Kinbote-ian swallowing of the author whole by the people studying him or her. I imagine that 20% -60% of the Uncollected Henry James will not be by Henry James 10 years by now, just as 'The Funerall Elegye' went from being by William Shakeseare to not by William Shakespeare in only 5 years. The arguments in literary attribution have not progressed much further beyond those used in identifying the Shakespeare and Ossian fakes in the 18th century. It is excellent at identifying statistical correlations, but has no real theory about why an author would have certain stylistic quirks, or why the correlation would occur. Which makes the use of these correlations as haphazard and subjective as saying "I don't think this poem is by Shakespeare because it's not as good as all of his other work."

However, I was interested in Henry James's supposed pseudonyms:
Mademoiselle Caprice
O. Chickweed

Even if these names aren't by a canonical author, they are great names and deserve to enter the canon. Which should be the whole point.

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How ABOUT NEVER? IS NEVER GOOD?
One of the worst legacy of 60s protests is the "What do we want?" chant. People are angry. They're excited about taking part in a grassroots expression of rage. It's spontaneous. It's lively. But what are they going to say to power? It's actually quite easy. There's a formula. It used to be about peace, and it used to make sense. But you can apply it to anything, even when it doesn't make sense. The only important thing is that people can guess the answer to the first question. They know the answer to the second. If you're angry about the
resignation of the General Director of the BBC you say
"'Who do we want? Greg? When do we want him? Now!' "
and poor Greg Dyke is thinking: "I've lost my job and gained an invitation to a BBC staff gang-bang. I pray to Shiva let me die."

Thursday, January 29, 2004

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Too LAZY AND TO BUSY TO POST
But why don't you do yourself a favor, and instead of reading me going on about my usual shit, just read Samuel Johnson's The Life of Savage. So powerful is Johnson's life of his friend that its publication practically marks the date when poets started to be understood as low-life, underappreciated rebels and stopped being appreciated as wage-earning wordsmiths or dilettante gentry.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

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A WEIRD CHANGE
James Lileks, who lovingly preserves forgotten and baffling pop culture, has a spiderman Big Little Book up.

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Scary, HULK-LIKE, YEAR-LONG TRANSFORMATION
One of the scrariest movies of the year. I think it's the boxer shorts and not the clearly effective exercise regime that make this. (Recommend opening this page, and then working in another window, then coming back to the page when it's finished loading and hit "Restart." Trust me you want to see it at full speed)

Monday, January 26, 2004

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As always, the annual Human Rights Watch report is fascinating, as the organization goes eyeball-to-eyeball with its own ideology. My favorite is the essay which tries to figure out to what extent wars in resource-rich countries are driven by ideology, and to what extent they're just a scrap over who gets the diamonds, oil, or gold. While, the Afghanistan piece makes for depressing reading, the Africa piece doesn't.

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That UH, IT WAS LIKE UH
Frank Zappa introduces the talking asshole before he reads from Naked Lunch
Hiya. How you doin' tonight? Alright, um, as you know, I'm not the kind of a person that reads books, I've said this before many times, I'm not fond of reading. But, I do, I have in the past made exceptions, and uh, one of these exceptions was this part of the, the book that, I'm sure you know, called Naked Lunch, and I've received permission to read the part about the talking asshole. So . . .
Before I do, uh, I've discussed with Mr. Burroughs before we came out here some of the details that led to the construction of this section of the book. I asked him where he got the idea for this part, and he said that it was derived from the ventriloquist scene in The Dead Of Night, if you know that film. And I had a little bit of trouble following that, for a moment there, until he made it all very clear to me by saying that uh, it was like uh, when you have a ventriloquist dummy and suddenly the dummy starts talking for you. And so, with that introduction, I start on page 132, and it goes like this (ahem.):
From ubu, edited by Kenneth Goldsmith who relishes and has the perfect ear for this kind of transcription. Such is his genius, that he transcribes all of Zappa's reading, which one imagines is the same as Burrough's book, and makes it feel different. He worked the same magic on a DH Lawrence short story in No. 111.

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The JOYS OF ARCHIVE: IV

A review of the Marx brothers' stage act. The twentieth century was the first time that actors made a greater lasting impression on their culture than the characters they played. David Garrick's barn-storming performance of Shylock made Shylock a great character of the stage. Shylock survived. Garrick's performance didn't, except as notes. Without Humphrey Bogart, however, Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe and Rick What's-His-Name seem like shapeless spirits exorcised from a body (and in fact, in the case of Philip MArlowe, that's true. The other Marlowe mystery, "Lady in the Lake" has Philip Marlowe played by the camera's point of view. The character literally dissolves into the film stock after a brief introduction.) The Marx Brothers straddle that shift. They were the creation of theater but film was the stamp with which they made their indelible mark.

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When STARS WERE ENTERTAINING JUNE
"There has been a complication with my complication," is one of the best lines Tom Stoppard ever wrote, the last line of Jonathan Pryce's mother's friend in "Brazil." She's about to completely disappear under the dressings from a succession of botched plastic surgery operations. Instead of making her young and beautiful (which, in the case of Jonathan Pryce's mother, turns out to be an equally scary prospect) the surgeons take nine weeks to mummify her alive. Death (see the second item) stalks the theaters of plastic surgeons. The industry lives on the fear of death of decay. It dies by it as well. (And in his gossip piece, Lloyd Grove digs up a fantastically Brazil-like statement: "What I'm doing is what any thoughtful, caring attorney would do.")

Friday, January 23, 2004

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MacLAmity leaves NY, intellectual scene turns into festering economic misery.

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Do I HAVE A NAME? NO.
Andrew Sullivan mentioned this exchange from the New Hampshire primary and the transcript bears out his delight in it. Sharpton is a master of the pithy joke, which in this case he cracks at the expense of Dean's scream. But he falls to pieces when it comes to the basic tenets of conversation and thinking for himself. His confusion below suggests that he thinks almost entirely in cliches. He heard the word Monetary, and off he went. His originality comes in finding whip-smart slogans to give dead political cliches a semblance of life.

JENNINGS: Reverend Sharpton, I'd like to ask you a question about domestic policy, if you don't mind. If during your term as president, if you become the nominee, and you have the opportunity to nominate someone to be chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, what kind of person would you consider for the job? You can name someone in particular, if you have someone in mind. And maybe just take a minute or so to give us a little bit about your views on monetary policy.

SHARPTON: Well, first of all, let me say this. I wanted to say to Governor Dean, don't be hard on yourself about hooting and hollering. If I had spent the money you did and got 18 percent, I'd still be in Iowa hooting and hollering.
(LAUGHTER)
(APPLAUSE)
SHARPTON: So, don't worry about it, Howard.
(LAUGHTER)
DEAN: Thanks, Reverend.
SHARPTON: I think, first of all, we must have a person at the Monetary Fund that is concerned about growth of all, not setting standards that would, in my judgment, protect some and not elevate those that cannot, in my view, expand and come to the levels of development and the levels of where we need to be. I think part of my problem with how we're operating at this point is that the IMF and the policies that are emanating there do not lead to the expansion that is necessary for our country and our global village to rise to levels that underdeveloped countries and those businesses in this country can have the development policies necessary.

JENNINGS: Forgive me, Reverend Sharpton, but the question was actually about the Federal Reserve Board.

SHARPTON: I thought you said IMF, I'm sorry.

JENNINGS: No, I'm sorry, sir. And what you'd be looking for in a chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.

SHARPTON: Oh, in the Federal Reserve Board, I would be looking for someone that would set standards in this country, in terms of our banking, our -- in how government regulates the Federal Reserve as we see it under Greenspan, that we would not be protecting the big businesses; we would not be protecting banking interests in a way that would not, in my judgment, lead toward mass employment, mass development and mass production.

I think that -- would I replace Greenspan, probably. Do I have a name? No.

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The THIN END OF THE WEDGE
Great art belongs to everybody, and it belongs especially to the British Museum, especially when the art is Greek statues ripped from the Parthenon. This is just and the way it should always be and the way it has always been. I sense a slip in the national character when I read that the Ashes will be returned to Australia. It doesn't matter that the Australians made the fire from which the ashes sprang. Nor does it matter that the Australians have won them in every Test series since 1987. The Ashes are in England. This is what matters. This means that they do not belong to foreigners. The British empire was built by applying the principle of Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers on such a colossal scale that noone even dared point out that the Sudan had been found already, as had Cleopatra's obelisk, as had the Parthenon. Letting the Australians have the ashes is a grotesque concession to fairness that mocks the glorious unfairness on which Britain's empire was built. I quote sadly from memory (not really) Philip LArkin's Homage to a Governement:
Next year we are to bring all the soldiers home
For lack of money, and it is all right.
Places they guarded, or kept orderly,
We want the money for ourselves at home
Instead of working. And this is all right.

It's hard to say who wanted it to happen,
But now it's been decided nobody minds.
The places are a long way off, not here,
Which is all right, and from what we hear
The soldiers there only made trouble happen.
Next year we shall be easier in our minds.

Next year we shall be living in a country
That brought its soldiers home for lack of money.
The statues will be standing in the same
Tree-muffled squares, and look nearly the same.
Our children will not know it's a different country.
All we can hope to leave them now is money.

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This IS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE
Now, given that the Spirit's disappeared while looking for life, don't you think scientists would have paid more attention
to this huge floating slab in Mars? These NASA guys know a lot about dirt, I'll give them that. They just don't see the big picture or the huge Martian-metal cube of electro-MArtian force.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

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Not MY KIND OF POST

But at some point I have to use this blog the way a lot of other people do: vent the pent. Here, the pent is me remaining calm while a 50-year-old man stages a bizarre coup in his small fiat of assigning paginators to pages, brutally stopping any attempt by the people beneath him to show initiative and to make the day ran smoother if it meant that in the process of doing so his page assignment order was countermanded and meanwhile lying to me about what he was doing and keeping me at work 2 hours over time and making things in general run behind. And this is the vent. I can see how this feels good. But it's not exactly interesting for you guys, is it?

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

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Doesn't ANYONE WATCH THE MOVIES ANYMORE?
We're looking for the holy grail but don't know what it is. What depresses me are the ridiculousness of these uneducated guesses as to what the Grail is like: "the chalice that stored his blood after he was wounded (Robert de Boron); a stone with youth-enhancing inscriptions (Wolfram von Eschenbach); a divine bottle (Rabelais); an ashtray in a Cairo club (Mary Betts); the casket that contains the Turin Shroud (Noel Currer-Briggs); a flying-saucer (John Michell)." Everyone knows that the grail is a wooden cup and that if you pour water from it onto Sean Connery a bullet wound will fizz and heal completely and that if you think the grail is made of gold your hair grows white and long in 4 seconds, your eyes pop into your skull, and you fall to the ground a skeleton. Come on people. This is basic stuff.

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Loving Renaissance art is just one way that Diana Hill keeps her "Christian eggs while eating my atheist omelette."

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

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Exciting SHORT STORIES
Before the age of ten I assumed that a short story worked like this: two to five people talked to each other for about four pages and then something incredibly unexpected happened or was revealed in the final sentence. Roald Dahl gave me this impression. A host offers his guest his daughter's hand if the guest can identify an intensely obscure wine from a blind tasting. The guest methodically sifts his knowledge and manages to guess the wine after four slow pages. The host is stunned, furious, and humiliated. The daughter is won. But then it turns out the guest had cheated all along. Science Fiction stories worked that way too. Aliens come to earth, prevent an impending war, and make everyone rich by offering to buy all of the earth's radioactive waste. But then, the aliens leave because they figure out they can let the humans fall into nuclear war and have all the nuclear waste an alien could possibly want.

I'll never forget the first Steinbeck short story I read, because it was the first short story I read which didn't finish. Nothing happened for four pages, which was fine. But then, shockingly, nothing happened. There was some innocuous sentence and then blankness.

Michael Chabon, he of the Pulitzer, has argued that this is a terrible thing, both in his introduction to a collection of M.R. James's stories and in his introduction to a special issue of McSweeney's.

"As late as about 1950, if I referred to "short fiction," I might have been talking about any one of the following kinds of stories: the ghost story; the horror story; the detective story; the story of suspense, terror, fantasy or the macabre; the sea, adventure, spy, war or historical story; the romance story," he writes. No more. Pick up The New Yorker and look at the first short story. Count the number of spies. Then count the number of submarines. Add the numbers together. Multiply the result by a thousand. Got it? That's the number of ghosts, werewolves, fights, and battles, isn't it?

The short story is a waste land where all you can find is what Chabon calls "the contemporary, quotidian, plotless, moment-of-truth revelatory story." This, he adds, is as absurd as if every novel written after 1950 had been a nurse romance. Classics such as Thomas Pynchon's "Blitz Nurse" and Chabon's own "Dr. Kavalier and Nurse Clay" couldn't possible compensate for the thin-ness of literature.

This strikes me as a very simple criticism, which is enormously clever and true. It doesn't make the Stephen Kingy, intensely-whiny argument that genre writers should be treated as literature is treated. It argues that literature should be allowed to have more genres.

Chabon then gets on the offensive and claims that M.R. James wrote "one of the finest short stories ever written." You can find it here and it's called "Casting the Runes." I haven't read the story, but intend to soon. When Chabon writes about the ghost story and M.R. James, he adopts the rhetoric of the stringent new critic of Eliot's age, measuring a work of art precisely against the qualities of its genre. Eliot could write in an essay on Marlowe something like "Every writer who has written any blank verse worth saving has produced particular tones which his verse and no other's is capable of rendering; and we should keep this in mind when we talk about 'influences' and 'indebtedness.'" So Chabon writes in his introduction to James, "A great ghost story is all psychology: in careful and accurate detail it presents 1) a state of perception, by no means rare in human experience, in which the impossible vies with the undeniable evidence of the senses; and 2) the range of emotions brought on by that perception" and "I don't think any writer has handled a narrator in quite the same way as James in 'Oh, Whistle.' For the narrator here is not merely a disembodied authorial voice in the classic nineteenth-century manner." And this is as it should be.

Chabon's treatment of genre fiction this way is a more productive approach than George Orwell's and Roland Barthes's approach to the popular. Both Orwell and Barthes treated suchthings as aboriginal customs of the tribes, something to be taken seriously as a token of hidden societal structures and attitudes. It's also a better approach than Martin Amis's, who is probably the best critic today of best-sellers. Amis cares too much about prose to merely dismiss Michael Crichton, Thomas Harris, and Tom Wolfe, as lazier critics do. He studies their every move like an assassin, and then, once he has selected his ground carefully, hits every vulnerable area with enough, and only enough, force to kill. Amis doesn't know what to do with genre writers whom he greatly admires, such as Elmore Leonard and early Thomas Harris. He praises them as excellent genre writers. He makes the common-sense observation that they don't waste words and they're enjoyable reads. But his gracious praise of the good genre novel doesn't balance his puritanical condemnation of the bad, and it should. Otherwise, there's not much point in taking all the time and effort to pull bad genre writers to pieces, as if they had tried to kill the King. You might as well leave them alone. Much better to, as Chabon proposes, assume that literature, like Switzerland, can survive a cantonization into many, perhaps incompatible, genres.

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Executive NASTY, BRUTISH, AND SHORT LIFE

Be thankful that you're not an executive. An executive despises other executives. An executive despises his or her boss. An executive is bitter as hell. This
survey shows why76% of executives want more satisfaction from their job. So they're miserable and bored. And the other 25% freely admit to wanting more power and money. This makes them honest and shallow, and it's probably thius 25% which ruins the job satisfaction of the other 25%. 51% of executives believe that their boss is competent. 33% believe that senior management is worse than competent, in fact 25% agree with the statement that senior management is "not too competent and I question the strategy."

It is a bleak vision of the world where all is political, based on favoritism, backstabbing, and posturing.

It is also the vision that 41% of executives have of their world.

Monday, January 19, 2004

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Britain's OLDEST PARROT
Winston Churchill's parrot celebrates its 104th birthday today, the Mirror reports in an astonishing
exclusive. As always, the story is much worse in French. The AFP version tells us that the Parrot says "Putain de Nazis." No it doesn't. It says Fuck the Nazis. There's a huge difference.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

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When I was 10 seeing this would have sent me adrift on waves of ecstasy. 16 years later i feel a deep sense of doom.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

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An American IN PARIS
A right-winger asks why America's amabassadors in Europe aren't doing a proper job of defending American foreign policy. He implies that it's because lefties in the state department itself have no desire to sell Bush's policies and that the ambassadors are non-political Bush business friends, with no media skills, no drive, no energy, no political drive. The one trait relevant to the job that the U.S. man in London seems to have, for example, is that he likes expensive, fast horses as much as the Queen of England does.

There's one more possible reason, based on an experience in Paris I had with Dave (the writer of the great and abandoned Reflections from Paris), which I think I've mentioned before. The Bush family and friends detest all foreigners and consider political opponents to be beyond salvation. Foreign political opponents are therefore so beyond the pale that it would be as useful to engage them as it would be to talk a bomb out of exploding. I understand that the ambassador of France doesn't speak French. Fine. Less fine is that he's proud of it. An embassy intern who did speak French used it to shamefacedly lie to a stranger that she didn't support the war, having spent the previous 2 hours over drinks damning Clinton, Democrats, France, and Germany for what she considered idiotic opposition to the One True Violent Way. You can't be an effective ambassador if you despise the country you live in and at the same time fear it enough to avoid speaking your truth to it.

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Mistakes JOURNALISTS MAKE
"Usually two minutes before the piece is shipped off to be printed, or some such gallingly late moment in the process, a question will suddenly surface from my unconscious. It may be the most minor of facts or dates or quotes, or perhaps a manner of phrasing that shifts the tone or meaning—and I’ll feel an almost electric shock of alarm. Often, when I hastily check or recheck what has alarmed me, I find there was no cause for alarm. But not always. Sometimes I’ll discover I made a mistake, and it will become a cliffhanger as I wait to learn whether it’s too late to do anything about it."
--Ron Rosenbaum on the mistakes journalists are cursed to make.

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Fond memories of a youth spent beating people, from Chelsea fans.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

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Khamez KHOYTHAY
So what are you going to do about James Joyce dying 58 years ago today, huh? Might I suggest that instead of settling for The Dead, you trat yourself to at a chapter of Ulysses. I always like:

Stephen Dedalus improvising a proof, under pressure, at a library, among skeptical arrogant elders, of his theory that Shakespeare's work is a coded version of Shakespeare's life. (Start with "Urbane, to comfort them, the quaker librarian purred")

Leopold Bloom getting into an argument with a one-eyed butch Irish nationalist about where Jews can go. (Start with "I was just passing the time of day with old Troy." If you don't know Ulysses, you should probably know that the "I" narrating this chapter narrates only this chapter and is never identified in the rest of the book.)

The Q&A on random details of Stephen Dedalus's and Leopold Bloom's stagger home after meeting at a brothel and Stephen's fight with a British soldier. Bloom knows Stephen's father and has decided to take him under his wing and to bed safe and sound. (Start with "What parallel courses did Bloom and Stephen follow returning?")

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The GLASS IS HALF-FULL OF SHIT
I can never decide if Charles Bernstein is half full of shit or half empty of shit. Every time I give up on a poem of his it calls out (with lines like "Poetry is like a swoon, with this difference: / it brings you to your senses"), I turn around, am astonished, and go running back like Woody Allen trying to reach Mariel Hemingway before her plane leaves. His poem in tribute to John Ashbery, for example, seems interested only in getting a passing grade, getting As for humor and for evasion of sense and letting the rest slide, but then suddenly explodes into this:
But
Are there really babies or just baby-
Behavior?" -For the purpose
Of your request I'm including this
Sentence about the influence of John
Ashbery.
While the packet
Boat sunk I can still imagine I am
Crawling into it; at the same time the ice
Is too thin to
Pretend to fall through.

The emphasis is mine, of course. I just wanted to show how this brilliant tribute was included as a passing thought. Whimsical, accurate, and wonderful.

Monday, January 12, 2004

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Modern SNAKE OIL: NOT LIKE OLD SNAKE OIL!
Jonathan Lebed was the perfect symbol of the rich seam of Fool's Gold struck in the late 1990s: nerdy teenager uses Internet to manipulate idiots into buying volatile, small-cap stock which he didn't reveal he owned. The Journal reports toay that he's still around and still responsible for bizarre and stupid movements in the market. Visit his website to see a talented huckster at work. You can't bust him for lying. But just watch him stuff the important truth at the bottom and the magnificent way he mentions that he was on the cover of BusinessWeek, and not mentioning why. It's like Stalin arguing that you should hire him: after all, hey, he once was Time's Man of the Year!

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My KIND OF EXEGESIS
"And in that I think [Peter Pan's] oddly similar to Kill Bill, though it plays the lurking expectation of violence for maximum shock and dread, rather than turning the display of violence into affectless kinesis. Am I making any sense? Did I just say 'affectless kinesis'? I meant 'ass-kicking balls-out tedium.' Sorry. It's been that kind of day." -- AO Soctt, in Slate.,

Friday, January 09, 2004

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Don't JUST READ KAFKA...
...live him.

"A Washington lawyer of a certain age .. went to his doctor a few months ago for a routine heart checkup... The exam included a stress test with injection of a radioactive isotope -- most likely technetium or thallium -- which helps illuminate the heart muscle during exercise. The doctor told him he passed. The lawyer says he left work several hours later and was driving along I Street NW between 16th and 17th when a police car with lights flashing zipped up behind him. An officer on a bicycle pulled alongside. "Sir," the officer explained, "you were not pulled over because of a traffic violation.

You were pulled over because you are radioactive."

From the WaPo. How radioactive are you after one of those shots? As radioactive as an unexploded dirty bomb? Or are the U.S. security forces stunningly alert to any possible radioactive danger?

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Words OF 2003
The BBC has made a great list of words which we all suddenly used in the U.K. but which are already beginning to sound strange now that we've stopped. Like embed, like dodgy dossier, like freedom fries, like governator, like old Europe, like sexed-up, and like spider hole.

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When Orson Welles found out that Judy Holliday had been in the glitzy opening night audience (along with Marlene Dietrich), he told her: 'If I'd known you were watching my big fish job, I'd have hammed it up even more.

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Repressed MEMORY UNFAIRLY REPRESSED
Because of my utter devition to Arts & Letters Daily, I've become convinced that repressed memory syndrome is a sack of shit made up by PC lunatics who want fight pedophilia by inseminating 7 year old girls with fake pasts. However, scientists have found a neurological
basis for it so I don't know what to think. I am beginning to feel the same despair about science and politics. Both seem run by bad-faith morons who spend more time screaming at their enemies than can be natural in people dedicated to truth or justice. I can't say whether repressed memory exists or not, or how bad global warming will be. But trying to answer these questions on my own is hard. All I find is people viciously finding ways to accuse other people of practising bad science. The search for lies in both politics and some areas of science (mostly those that has a social impact on society) has become separate from the search for truth, almost replaced it in fact.

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See THE MCDIARMIND POEM PASSIM
A russian student applies to learn English in Scotland. The U.K. foreign ministry replies that that's an incredibly stupid idea.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

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Hello DALI
AB: Is it easy for you to live with the idea that you are going to join another Dali, an eternal one, to live with this idea that you're still a man of flesh, whio thinks, who acts?
S. D[ali]:I've hit upon the solution. Every day, I kill the image of my poor brother, with my hands, with kicks, and with dandyism. Today, I make him take flowers to the cemetry. He is my dark God, for he and I are Pollux and Castor; I am Pollux, the immortal twin, and he is the mortal one. I assassinate him regularly, for the Divine Dali cannot have anything in common with this former terrestrial being.

Chatting with Dali was so easy.

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Annals OF ATHEISM
The Far Eastern Economic Review has a great article on a resurgence of Christianity in Pailin in Cambodia. The word Pailin, as the Khmer Rouge's former base, scares Buddhist monks, leaving the guilt-ridden Khmer Rouge members open to the persuasion of Christian missionaries. Here's the money quote:
"Today is a good feeling. I believe it will help for all the things I have done in my life," [says a recent convert Uk Sarith], alluding to his former job as a bodyguard to Pol Pot, the infamous Khmer Rouge leader who died in 1998. Sarith explains his conversion to Christianity within his frame of reference: "In the end, the Khmer Rouge is just like Christ. The Khmer Rouge taught us to avoid bad things like robbery and cheating. The Khmer Rouge had lots of rules. Christ is the same -- like having a leader you respect and obey."
Neither Jesus nor Pol Pot comes out of such of a comparison intact.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

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Today's other HARD-TO-FATHOM CARTOON

I could mirror Bill Keane's site and never have to hunt for a hard to fathom cartoon again. So I'll put this corker up and try to resist mining him for the next few months. But really, what is going on here? What the fuck is going on here?

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Today's HARD-TO-FATHOM CARTOON

This is an early work of Bill Keane, who produces Family Circus. It's incredible that even then his cartoons had everything in them except meaning.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

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Henry FIELDING LINKS
Chapter I.
The Booker and Goncourt race for the bottom. Their variety of blemishes are synthesized by analogy with Hillary and Bill Clinton.

Chapter II
The reader meets the Michael Jackson School of Parenting's latest graduate cum laude. The Sun provides corrective advice that is not unsensible.

Chapter III
In which the author cracks lots of jokes about Joyce's blindness. His letters to Stanislaus are shortened to letters to Stan.

Chapter IV
In which Lichtenstein (Roy, that is) flattens the world.

Monday, January 05, 2004

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Joys OF ARCHIVE: IV
Fred Kaplan on whatever circle of hell it is where you write a biography of a Gore Vidal who is alive. VIDAL: I have become fond of you, in your megalomaniacal way, I shall not rub it in anymore.
KAPLAN: I'm also fond of you and your megalomaniacal ways. Alas, your fax of yesterday is mean and meretricious. And it's filled with false statements. Also, it's an attempt to go back on your word.

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Henry FIELDING LINKS

In which William and Lucy arrive late to the Rossetti family only to discover that all the genius has been handed to their siblings te Ganriel and Christina. Unfair

In which a poem by Mr. Hugh McDiarmid is rediscovered. "Bairns arena frightened when they first/ See the haill world transformed by snow/Tho' they canna foresee it will not last forever/And the status quo ante come buldering through." Haill is Scots for whole.

The Spectator loves its pets so much they publish an idiotic article on psychic cats dogs. A bush man claims that "The wire is in our bellies." Woof.


In which a glass is filled with water and called an oak tree in the name of art. Australian customs officials, guarding against alien flora, stop a box marked oak tree at the border and send it back home. Has conceptual art been so succesfully interpreted! Crikey

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Inaugural Counter-INTUITION IS OUR GOD AWARD
This award will probably always go to Slate, and just to Slate, but in principal it goes to whatever story blatantly says the exact opposite of what everyone says so as to appear fresh, insightful, daring, bold etc.

For Slate: for saying Mad Cow disease has lots of good things about it! But doesn't mad cow disease turn peoples' brains into soft, empty corral? Yes. But. "Cattle-tracking technology will improve." Hooray!

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Honor ME
I don't get honored with a $250-a-plate gala dinner for talking openly about my depression like Art Buchwald does and I can't understand why. Maybe I've never wanted to " to check into the Plaza Hotel and jump from the 16th floor" like Buchwald said he did. But that's because they wouldn't let me up to the 16th floor. The Plaza won't even let me take a piss there. They do allow me to stand behind a silk rope and watch the rich and famous head for the toilets.

The more I reflect on this I see that I deserve honors from many people for talking openly about many things:

from the drinks industry, for talking so openly at 3am the other night about how fucked up I was.

from the cigarette industry, for talking openly about how I need another cigarette and if you don't have one I'm going out into the snow to get one and would you like me to bring you back some?

from my mother, for talking openly about how that's probably her calling me yet again and how I'll let this call slide and call her back when I'm sober.

from influenza, for talking openly about how it ruins my new year by triggering a thermonuclear chain-reaction of tiny thoughts in my head, so I feel my brain burning and can't think of any process more complicated than recognizing that the television is on and that the couch is comfy.

from life, for talking openly about how it is a bitch

from death, for talking openly about how then we die.

Friday, January 02, 2004

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Wisden excellently summarizes the India-Pakistan cricket rivalry: only 47 games (so few because they usually refuse to play each other), but they have "a 19th-century smell: blood debts, blood lust and revanchism." It guesses that the one-day game became crucial to these matches because a 5-day test, with its subtle shades and uncertaintanties, didn't give the simple victory necessary for nationalist catharsis.

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A decent half-defense of the Prince of Wales: the things he does (Prince's Trust, his organic farm produce) are great; his thoughts about them, however, are embarrassing, and he doesn't realize quite how.

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Today's HARD-TO-FATHOM CARTOON

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The JOY OF ARCHIVE: III
Edmund Wilson's sad destruction of Nabokov's translation of Eugene Onegin. Keep on clicking on the links below to see how this began the end of a stellar literary friendship. (Note: All those dollar signs were once russian characters: symbolic no?)

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Joys of ARCHIVE: II
Alan Wolfe's liberal critique of Empire by Negri and Hardt. Common sense is usually useless against High Theory. Here it shows that calmness and reason still have fangs behind their lips, starting with: "Analysts committed to falsifiable ways of developing theories about the world, when faced with a gap between what was expected to happen and what actually happened, would likely reason along these lines: Marx predicted frequent crises in the capitalist mode of production that would eventually lead to socialism, but in reality capitalism succeeded and socialism failed, and so something must be wrong with Marxism. But the argumentation in this book cares as little for logic as it does for empirical reality."

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Joys OF ARCHIVE: I
When MacLamity figured out a way to link to that old Lingua Franca it occurred to him that he'd never fully exploited the Internet Archive. Some of MacLAmity's favorite reading on the web is no longer free. Either the publication has disappeared, or else its decided that it's not so keen on giving up its articles for free. But, the archive remembers all. First up:

Lingua Franca's hysterical account of what Philip K. Dick did when the academy complimented him with its attention. Starring: Fredric Jameson and Richard Pinhas as members of The Fitting Group: shadowy Marxist spies aiming to use Dick to infiltrate and destroy American science fiction. Luckily, the FBI was there for Dick to send the following dispatch: "You will be glad to know that in fierce debate we routed the Peter Fitting group, which consisted of four people from four different countries. Their purpose in coming to see me was to get an endorsement from me, recorded on tape, of a Marxist interpretation of my writings. With them, besides a lot of good liquor and a pretty girl, they brought at least three complex Marxist philosophical theses on my novels, one of which they translated from the French aloud, onto tape, for me to agree with. I told them this French doctoral thesis was entirely wrong. We had then a one-hour furious polemical debate in three languages, plus assorted Greek and Latin technical terms, after which they accused my tastes of being 'in favor of God' as well as 'right-wing fascist propaganda' and then departed, leaving their liquor behind (they did take the girl with them, though)."

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Kill THEM ALL
If you liked Kill Bill, you'll love Harvard's moral intuition test . In the space of 4 questions I killed 9 people, mostly by running them over with a train. I particularly liked the doctor who butchered and hacked up the patient in Room 306 so that he could give the organs to five dying patients. Dr. Brown was his name. I can't decide if you were morally justified, Dr. Brown. But you scare the shit out of me, Dr. Brown. You make me hope that I never have a doctor like you.

[P.S.] As always, it's quite a shock to come up against the U.S. habit of asking about your race and religion long before asking which country you're from. And the good old classification of "White, non-hispanic" still amazes me. But best of all is the great example of a social science disclaimer warning, which we were told about once in Journalism School to our amusement. Political correctness means that in most social sciences no interview can be conducted without the kind of warning you'd expect if you were about to stick your head in an MRI, except that instead of saying, "Now you realise that whenever we inject hormones into people we can't guarantee that something won't go really wrong. I mean like something dropping off," they say things like "OK, some of these questions might be a little tough, dear. Are you sitting down?" (Here's an old Lingua Franca article about it): "In taking the MST, you are personally prepared to accept the answers you give even if, upon completion, you find your answers puzzling or disturbing. If you do not accept this responsibility, please do not proceed. Further, in our reporting to you results of any MST test that you take, we will mention possible interpretations that have a basis in research done at Harvard University with more elaborate versions of these tests. However, Harvard University, as well as the individual researchers who have contributed to this site, make no claim for the validity of these suggested interpretations. If you are unprepared to encounter interpretations that you might find objectionable, please do not proceed further. I am aware of the possibility of encountering personal challenges with my answers to the MST, as well as possible disagreements with the interpretations of my MST by the researchers responsible for this web site. Knowing this, I wish to proceed."

Thursday, January 01, 2004

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The MEDIA
Often people say to MacLamity, "Maclamity, you know what's wrong with the media? They don't report enough on" and then they mention something that is very important to them and pretty much only to them. A man who's interested in India will not understand how no paper dedicated more than an inch to a very important regional election in India. Or else, they will argue that it's a sign of incredible bias that we don't run the headline US CAPITALISM KILLS FOREIGN BABIES FOR GOLD on every story, since that's what every story pretty much shows. "I read a study on this," they'll add. "It was very interesting." Well, now MacLamity knows how they feel. The Weekly World News reports stuff that the Belgian press hasn't touched. It's outrageous that a U.S. paper has brokenb this story wide open:
BELGIUM DESTROYED BY ROGUE ASTEROID! And no one notices!

The obscure nation of Belgium, often called "Europe's forgotten country," was virtually destroyed by the impact of an asteroid -- but incredibly, outsiders didn't notice for three weeks.

And even after they found out, newspapers and TV stations in the United States didn't bother to report it!

A concerned media critic is calling this the "most underreported story of 2003."

"I conducted an Internet search and I found only two references in the American media to the catastrophe in Belgium. Yet for the same time period I found more than 6,500 stories about Kobe Bryant," blasts media critic John Blancing of New York.

"We have to start getting our priorities straight as journalists. Belgium is a country of more than 10 million people, with a very rich history. To let its destruction go unreported is appalling and unforgivable."

The oversight has been blamed on a number of factors, among them the fact that the asteroid struck on September 12, when media attention was largely focused on the deaths of singer Johnny Cash and actor John Ritter.

There's also the sad reality that no one, either in the United States or the rest of Europe, is particularly interested in what happens in Belgium.

"Belgium hasn't made a major contribution to world history since the days of Flemish artists like Pieter Rubens in the 17th century," notes an expert.

"No American vacations there -- why would you, when there's London, Paris and Rome? To most outsiders, it's as if Belgium doesn't exist. And of course now it doesn't."

When astronomers first spotted the tiny, 460-square-foot "mini-asteroid," dubbed Appler 3710, late last year, it generated quite a stir, but interest died down after experts determined it would probably not hit Earth.

That turned out to be a big miscalculation, however.

"No one was keeping an eye on Appler 3710. Against all expectations, it landed in the heart of Europe," Blancing says.

The careening space rock spawned earthquakes across Belgium, which is about they size of Maryland, damaging concrete dikes and creating massive flooding in coastal areas. The death toll is believed to be at least 8,000, with millions more left homeless and hundreds of historical sites destroyed.

Extensive damage occurred in nine of the 10 provinces, with Antwerpen, Brabant and Wallon especially hard hit.

Fiercely proud, King Albert II has refused to allow Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt to reach out to fellow European nations for aid. And appealing to America for help was "out of the question," given Belgium's stubborn refusal to back Operation Iraqi Freedom earlier this year, Blancing notes.

In neighboring Luxembourg, which experienced minor quake damage, reports of the disaster in Belgium first began to surface in early October. But newspapers in France and Germany, which also border the tiny country, ignored rumors of a catastrophe.

"To put it bluntly, the Germans and French are concerned only with themselves," Blancing says.

It was only when the media critic happened to interview the Belgian ambassador to the U.N. that he himself learned what had happened.

"The ambassador didn't know about the asteroid until he phoned relatives back home," Blancing notes.

A trickle of reports on the deepimpact tragedy are finally beginning to crop up in the U.S., but it's too little, too late.

"CNN and FOX News should have been on top of this," the expert says, "but apparently Britney Spears' bare midriff or Eminem's latest antics are more important."