The MacLamity

The News That Stays News, Reported Live

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

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Letters TO TIM ROBBINS
Authentic satire is never safe, and real polemicists do not have clean hands. Give us one line, one moment, one single fresh thought to equal "I love the smell of napalm in the morning .... " Instead you’ve utterly capitulated to nice, safe bourgeois theatrical taste, where no harm is possible and no outrage ever provoked... It is the moral duty of radical protest to goad and provoke and insult. But you have left me only in despair at the timid political bankruptcy of theater. I’m in despair that theater—mirror and eternal conscience of the world—will ever convey the spirit of true opposition in America, let alone outrage at the weary, unacceptable mess of the world. Which is why you leave me with such anger, burning. [O, and by the way it's you who can get the fuck out.] - says the NY Observer's theater critic.

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Sports commentary only occasionally gets it right, and it seems, from this FT roundup of classic comments, that when it does what it has got right is the insane joy that comes from sporting victory. I've organized these according to their level of comprehensibility. I don't understand the last one at all.
"They think it's all over... it is now." -- the classic.

"Lord Nelson! Lord Beaverbrook! Sir Winston Churchill! Sir Anthony Eden! Clement Atlee! Henry Cooper! Lady Diana! Maggie Thatcher! Can you hear me, Maggie Thatcher? Your boys took one hell of a beating! Your boys took one hell of a beating!" - Norwegian commentator on Norways 2-1 victory over England.

"He drops for World Cup glory . . . and there's no time for Australia to come back" - on England's world cup victory over Australia.

"Isn't it appropriate that a man named Buchan should climb the 39 steps at Wembley to receive the Cup?"

"That never got played again once. . . But that's the difference. This was Wilkinson and England; that was Stransky and South Africa." - on South Africa's victory over Europe.

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This is getting ugly, very ugly.

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a LOVELY SHADE OF CORAL
Mr. Jackson visits Washingon. "I am in town this week because I am being honored by the African Ambassadors' Spouses Association," he says. "While I am more humbled by this honor..." Stop right there! Damn! Prison has certainly taught him humility! Putting the complex into complexion.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

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They CAN DO THAT
You see a $35,000 art work and think "A school kid could do that. This is scandalous."

Schoolkids did do that.

The artist won't allow them to sell it.

This is scandalous.

Monday, March 29, 2004

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Today's HARD-TO-FATHOM AD
Why do defense companies insist on being so scary? This ad, it seems to me, is probably only comprehended by 500 people in the business of buying weapons. I assume they understand what this is all about, those who Lockheed Martin knows it's working for.

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Hound V. BOAR
Who wins?

Friday, March 19, 2004

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Passionate MARRIAGE
The Passion of the Christ sparks debate between a couple, then bruises, the scissor stabs, then the police getting called.

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Chapter 7 SOUNDS DIRTY
The contents to Helene Cixous's book on Derrida "Portrait of Jacques Derrida as a Young Jewish Saint:"
The Mark of the Prince
Namesakes-No! No's by the Bucketful
Of the Kleins and the Grosses
The Dream of Naivete
Remain/The Child That I Am
Point of Honor/Point Donor
Circumfictions of a Circumcision Objector
The Orchard and the Fishery
Second Skin
v
And I like Cixous. But just from reading the title and these Chapter headings I'm already, like Slider did when Mav said he saw the MiG while he was inverted, coughing out Bullshit. Mav was quite right about the Mig. And maybe Cixous isn't ridiculous when she talks about a second skin (where do you think that skin is, eh? eh? nudge!). Why, when she writes about aculturated Algerians in France using Derrida as her model, can't she talk about aculturated Algerians in France, instead of Circumfiction?

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The LAST PALM IN EASTER
Fantastic article on what happened to Easter Island. I've been fascinated by Easter Island thanks to a terrible film which I saw once in a London Heathrow hotel on the way to New York and then two years later in Brussels. It's the kind of movie that's forgettable in every sense except for the fact that you remember it forever.The title is the box-office slaughtering Rapa Nui. It sucked me in because it promises to answer the questions: The heads, what's up with them? No trees, what's up with that? The apparently massive civil war ten years before the Dutch arrived, what was that about? Diamond's article gels in fact quite close to the Rapa Nui thesis. All he leaves out is the inter-tribal romance, and the iceberg that arrives at the end, which the chieftains take for a ship to take them to heaven as reward for the final, resource-destroying head that the mad chieftain insisted they build ("This one will have a hat!" he exclaims at the beginning.) The chief and his advisors leave on the ice berg, leaving a power vacuum which sucks those left behind into civil war. Diamond's article has the inevitable depressing ending, where he makes the obvious comparison between the Easter Islanders' mad environmental destruction in the name of building heads with our mad environmental destruction in the name of whatever it is that we all apparently want so much, at such a high cost. What struck me, however, was how the noble savage here was as ignobly savage and as inventively savage as the modern, civilised, capitalist. They had no metal. No tools but rock. They show how technology isn't just to blame for the wrecking of the planet. Easter Islanders had none but they banished trees, birds, fish and marrow from their world. The only food they had to eat was each other. Jared explains near the end:
Oral traditions of the islanders are obsessed with cannibalism; the most inflammatory taunt that could be snarled at an enemy was 'The flesh of your mother sticks between my teeth.'

Thursday, March 18, 2004

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Ads FOR OIL
This account of PR companies happily advising both the Saddam and the U.S. before the war reminds me of the Kruschev quote that goes something like: If you wanted to hang capitalism, it would sell you the rope..

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Aren't YOU A LITTLE SUCCESSFUL TO BE WRITING COMICS
Time was, comic writers were on the outside looking in at cultural cache. Now succesful, no-picture, no-speechbubble authors want to join them looking... well looking somewhere I suppose. Probably at the ubersized crotches and breasts all their comic ubercharacters have.

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Finally IT'S BEEN WRITTEN
Rosenbaum finally writes the piece: what it means that America now has know choice but to elect Skull & Bones president. That's twelve years out of twenty of them at the top. (Dan Brown, a question for you: why is this not your next novel? Skull & Bones are like Opus Dei but older!)

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Rock'n'ROLL ISN'T DEAD
it just has grandchildren.

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Small, SMALL WUR-RULD
In his fisking of a Guardian editorial on the bombs in Spain, Andrew Sullivan somehow missed the sentence which struck me as the most egregious.
Europe too needs to mould a different response to its September 11. Spain has a history which places it at the crossroads of the European and Arab worlds. It understands both traditions. It is a country where once Jew, Muslim and Christian lived together.
It's the way that these sentences are linked that I find incredible. The third sentence doesn't strike me as stue at all. But let's start with the last: "It is a country where once Jew, Muslim and Christian lived together." Well that sounds fantastic, all those people living together, like the Disney ride. It would be a Garden of Eden if it wasn't for the serpent of "Once" lurking there. After all the difference between "once lived" and "now lived" is:
A three-hundred year war in the Iberian peninsula which sucked in everyone from France to Barbary, all aimed at getting the technologically sophisticated Muslims out, and the Gothic, cathedral-building Christians in.

Followed by an Inquisition against the Muslims

Followed by the Othello period, where a Moor had rights but was driven to violent, paranoid rages of self destruction by creepy manipulative Spaniards.

Followed by forced expulsion

The Jews lived in Spain with the moors for a while too. Then in 1492, they were all given three months to leave. So they moved to Portugal.

Luckily Portugal became a separate country from Spain over the next 200 years. So that, by 1755, when Portugal thought of ways to prevent an earthquake like the one that destroyed Lisbon that year, they were sufficiently tolerant to only burn alive only two Jews. The rest of them could stay! Progress! And ... no more earthquakes!
So that "once lived" also includes "once opressed," "once slaughtered," "once occupied," "once demeaned," and "finally expelled." I'd say that the country where muslims Jews and Christians live together in relative peace, in fact, is ... the U.S. Obviously it's not paradise. All sorts of prejudice lurk there. But the Guardian can't cut out such a huge part of the story to create the impression that Spain shows more cultural understanding than the U.s. If a country bases it foreign policy on its record for tolerance between Jews, Muslims and Christians then expect Spanish bombs to fall on Casablanca, Damascus, and Istanbul soon, as a form of pre-emptive expulsion.

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That DOG WON'T HUNT
There's nothing like an attack on your opponent from your opponent's own side to cheer you up. You might not like Kerry. You might think he's an outrageous opportunist, as principled and hollow as the crater in Krakatoa. But the Journal's Albert Hunt reminds us that Bush is just as bad. Mind you Hunt bashes Bush so often that Bush apparently ducked the Gridiron dinner simply because Hunt was hosting it. Sometimes a political side loses a Hitch and gains a Hunt. Life is like that.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

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Manual EFFECTS
Arun Patil is the president of India's Movie Action and Dummy Effects Association. Computers are destroying his job.

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The 2,000-year-old man called Shakespeare "A terrible writer. His 'p's looked like an 'o', his 'r's like an 'n'." He's right. Check out the will.

Monday, March 15, 2004

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Spam's TRENDS

Faster than language, faster than fasion, Spam innovates. It's not even worth identifying trends, because what trends seem to be growing over four days disappear on the fifth. But, in particular, I like that recently I've got Spam from people with great names, and not just alpanumerical hotmal accounts. (Now the question is: can you figure out which of these people is in fact not a spammer but a L/A/N/G/U/A/G/E poet?)

Klein, just Klein, writes to say "Depressed need to feel happy?" Klein sounds dignified, old-school, concerned, and in a rush.

Alfonso Horton tells me to "Stay hard for the weekend," adding helpfully "gxwha sp jnfrj rab ftwtumrlaqgncjwvrhxx y flngwuejxe."

Dorothea King asks "What Can You Do?" and then replies "This site is for everyone women and men looking to help there sex life out." before helpfully adding "by many The publications also prefix Sir Statement aid many Over Committee Acts proposals party, documents: Financial definition. described these great range principal Select following Majesty's (for public following from Lawrence) Pre-Budget Statutory health, papers many Statement"

Nickole says "You are as qualified as anyone...show it." I was excited by this. Nickole sounds pretty supportive. Nickole also understands all the shit I go through. "We will break down the wall that has held your earning power back." Right on, Nickole, right on.

Howard Fried writes "I am my pores" and goes on with "I reel. I woo myself. I shame myself. I cop goat entrails."

Ulysses Marsh uses the cryptic subject line "Aspersion." The rest of his spam is fairly normal prescription drug stuff. But then he lives up to the S.-Grant-ness of his name by signing off with a hyperlinked "Grab it now!"

Yong Bowman just sends a link. I would like to think this is a spelling error, that he distinguishes himself from his father, Old Bowman, by calling himself Young Bowman. He adds "rockbound aviate lash whitaker maier janus magnify bran lethargic abe occlusion agway australis beam box secondary anyplace reykjavik shaggy bingham jules astronomer bondsman prognosis digitalis convulsion draftsman health efficacious fantasy arpa restaurateur antipodean demolition exalt loki classificatory tyranny antagonism chain hansel dropout."

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THe SIGN OF FOUR
A strange coda to this Telegraph obituary assumes that because Norah Jones (the only significant artist, as far as the piece reckons) lives in Williamsburg that's a sign that New York is dead, the point being, of course, that Williamsburg's not Manhattan and so not really New York. But it is. It's Manhattan that's priced itself out of being interesting.

Friday, March 12, 2004

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Frritt-FLACC
My Perec obsession has left the poor dead writer near complete dessication and me near utter exhaustion. So, it's on to my obsession's obsession: Jules Verne. I haven't bothered with the Sci Fi books yet. But check out the short story of Dr. Trifulgas (In stilted English, in calm, drole French). A mystery novel is wrongly named, since the mystery novel's mystery is usual solved. Like Gogol, however, Verne writes a story that's mysterious and realizes that the heart of mystery is motivelessness, purposelessness. What happened? Where? "En tout cas, ne cherchez pas Luktrop sur la carte, même dans l'atlas de Stieler."

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A novel BY A.B.

of which neither the title nor the content is certain. Certain? Do I say certain? The fact is that I have no idea whatsoever what the damned thing is to be about. All I know is that the work has to be written & that I have to write it soon. Time is terribly short. Time is shortly terrible. Terror is short and timeable. -- a note in Anthony Burgess's hand, written shortly before his death.

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Actually, NOW THAT I THINK ABOUT IT
I only just noticed this paragraph in that same Spectator article. A proof, if ever, of the Pythagorus's fourth theorem Ill-informed speculation + pompous prose style + prediction = the exact opposite happens tomorrow
"Since 9/11 constant worldwide attacks — though not in Western Europe or the USA — have demonstrated the resilience of al-Qa’eda. It is only a matter of time before spectaculars are repeated in London or the USA[," writes Resilience's editor.]Is it, now? Are we sure about that? By Mr Moorcraft’s own admission, Western Europe and the USA have been spared any such ‘spectaculars’ for the best part of three years. Perhaps he and Nick Raynsford would have us believe that this is down to our resilience and our preparedness and our ‘eternal vigilance’, and perhaps it is, but it may also be down to the fact that we have greatly overestimated the power and effectiveness of our adversaries, al-Qa’eda.
QED (assuming, er, that Madrid wasn't bombed by ETA)


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Bring IT ON, BUT AT MY CONVENIENCE
I'm with Geraldo Rivera on this: just let the terrorists try something on me. When Geraldo went to shoot Iraq for the news he made it quite clear he was packing and ready to shoot while he was shooting. I'm ready. Any time. The Spectator reviews a U.K. magazine called Resilience, a must-have for any man who take the Inspector Clouseau approach to personal safety by training themselves for Cato-like attacks from terrorists.
It's tagline: Predicting the threat, ensuring continuity. London on the front line.

Our purpose is to provide a worthwhile tool to help you prepare and survive any attack on your business

The first line of protection against terrorism is an effective deterrence and governmental deterrence can only come from draconian laws.

Could you really handle several al-Qa’eda attacks or a single dirty bomb?

Resilience is a task that continues 24 hours a day, 12 months a year, year on year. There is no let up; it’s continuing hard work to ensure that we are as well prepared as we can be.
If only terrorists did attack like Cato instead of making attacks so impersonal that the victims disappear (literally: in Madrid we still don't know who 30 of the corpses once were), for a time, to be replaced by whatever depraved message the violence is meant to convey.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

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But OF COURSE, THAT'S IT! Part I
Who'll win the presidential election this year?

Kerry due to his Fourth Order Complexity of Mental Processing.

Kerry, because he's descended from James I (In four words: buggery; Scottish; Buckingham, bible), while Bush is descended from Charles II (In four words: Screwing actresses, cocker spaniel).

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Writing IS A STRUGGLE
What's wrong (again) with Martin Amis in one sentence:
Andrew Wylie, Mr. Amis's agent, said Mr. Amis, who declined to be interviewed, is spending the year in Uruguay.
From the NY Times's sober assessment of Amis's prospects for employment.

Friday, March 05, 2004

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This stuff absolutely rocks.

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Four is A CHARM

Was reading the Book of Job yesterday. Maybe something gets lost in the translation, but isn't this opening so stupid that it's funny?
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them. And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.

And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.

And there was a day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house:

And there came a messenger unto Job, and said, The oxen were plowing, and the asses feeding beside them: And the Sabeans fell upon them, and took them away; yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.

While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The Chaldeans made out three bands, and fell upon the camels, and have carried them away, yea, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house: And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped,
And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.

In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.
The big comedy tip-off of course is that Job comes from a place called Uz.

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Thursday, March 04, 2004

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The Original Sin of Haitian democracy:

no single person

is synonymous with democracy

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Anti-Globalization LATEST
Globlization has ruined French prostitution with cheap foreign imports. This is terrible. I fear that a dam has broken. All is swept away -- GONE, the the ancient tradition of murdering -- GONE, the old French practice of robbing -- GONE, the Gallic art of rape. Anything that open borders changes the French - from left or right - will mourn.

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It TAKES GUTS TO BE GENTLE AND KIND... O ... MUTH-AHHH

I was born in Manchester Central Library. The crime section.

A boy in the bush is worth two in the hand.

I am only attracted to the things I can never become or get. My pop career would be finished if I found total harmony.
Two new books on Morrissey and the Smiths, excellently reviewed in the LRB: I remember Alan Bennett phoning the London Review in 1992 to ask if any of us knew about this singer called Morrissey, who'd just been round to his house and dropped a CD through the letterbox with a note suggesting tea. We told him Morrissey was just the bee's knees. 'Oh,' said Bennett. 'Is that right?' And when they finally got the teapot out Morrissey wanted to spend the afternoon talking about the forgotten British comedian Jimmy Clitheroe and a host of old Ealing actresses whom Bennett had barely heard of. Alan liked Morrissey and got the point of him and soon the singer was saying in interviews that he could retire happy because he'd had tea with Alan Bennett.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

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I LOVE THE BRITISH PRESS
In the hunt for pigs a british hack will show no mercy to his or her own.

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The MONOPOD OF MONOLINGUALISM
is a title i think of a book by Derrida

A rather charming letter to the Guardian. I come from a place which dug up its dead language 40 years ago and put it on street signs and at the end of the flight attendant's farewell speech. So I'm sympathetic to the sadness of someone seeing English signs in their Welsh festival. It's one of the last remaining powers that the vanquished have over the conquerors: to baffle them with their Klingon. At the same time, I live in a country where one half of the nation actively unlearns the language of the other half, making mutual incomprehension a token of misplaced pride. Without signs in English the Festival is effectively declaring: Fuck Off All The World You Get No Help From The Welsh Until You Learn Welsh, or in other words If It's a Choice Between Progress And Cultural Extinction Thanks to a Fascist Belief In Cultural Purity, We Choose B.

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Stoopid VOTUHZ
I don't like John Kerry, which is nobody's problem, but neither apparently does any reporter. Reading the analyses of Kerry's victory is to collect every explanation of an election victory, except the one which involves voters liking the candidate. The press simply can't understand Kerry's vivtory. Just look at all these despites which appeared in the following stories, all of which say But Can't You Understand The Horror of This Man?
despite the fact that most Democratic voters know little about him and don't like him very much

Democratic strategists who like the way this year's nominating contest has been organized and are pleased that Kerry has benefited acknowledge the strikingly random quality of the result. A shift of a few thousand votes into Edwards's column from Kerry's in Iowa -- which Kerry won with 38 percent to 32 percent for Edwards -- would have given the senator from North Carolina a victory. That almost certainly would have radically altered the trajectory of the year, giving Edwards a front-runner's surge that instead went to Kerry.

African Americans who say they will vote for Kerry explain their support in pragmatic terms, displaying little emotional attachment to the candidate.
all of them appearing in these stories:
Voters vote in mindless response to stimuli. Voters want the right thing but are going the wrong way about it. Voters like his electability (a tautology this, no?). The Primary is too short to be fair to Edwards (even though Edwards had a New Yorker profile of him two years ago).

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

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Two POEMS FOR SIDNEY BECHET
One from now by Stanley Moss and one from then by Philip Larkin. Philip Larkin has false notes in his poem. He couldn't have known what New Orleans is like reflected in water. I don't. Larkin strained too hard to make every simile connect with Bechet. Larkin does express, however, supreme gratitude to Bechet. Moss doesn't. His poem's wild associational riff is for Moss to show what he can do in front of Bechet. It is showing off. Nothing in Moss's poem comes close to Larkin's
On me your voice falls as they say love should,
Like an enormous yes.
Along with Beckett's tribute to James Joyce, which I can't find right now or remember well enough to quote, this is my favorite token of appreciation and devotion from one artist to another. By contrast, Moss is dropping Bechet's name to get in to a mediocre party.

Monday, March 01, 2004

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Feelmaa HANNAA TPEELAW!
The Guardian is surrounded by a thick field of unfunnium. Any very funny ideas bthat passes through the field comes out smug and smirking. There is an atmosphere of holiday-season skits by office employees where it's enough for men to dress as women. Their aramaic phrase book tries too hard to be funny while at the same time not trying hard enough to be funny to people who don't work in the Guardian offices. But anyway there are some funny highlights:
Ktaabaa taab hwaa meneyh.
It's not as good as the book.

Puuee men Preeshey, puuee!
Boo, Pharisees! Boo!

Feelmaa haanaa tpeelaw! Proo' lee ksef dmaa!
This film is terrible. I want my blood-money back.

Peletaa kuullaah da-Qraabay Kawkbey.
It's all an allegory of Star Wars.

Saabar naa da-mhaymen beh, ellaa la haymneth b-haw meemsaa d-beh.
I suppose I believe in Him, but I didn't believe him in it.
And just so you don't think I'm making it up about the unfunny ones: Da'ek teleyfoon methta'naanaak, pquud. Guudaapaw! Please turn off your mobile phone. It is blasphemous. Laa baakey naa-eeth gelaa b-'ayna deel. I'm not crying; I've just got a mote in my eye.

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Unfortunate NAME, GOOD WRITER
I read my first Philip K. Dick book in three hours last night. The ease and suspense of the book dragged me stunned across its plot as quickly as if I was lashed to wild horses. On the whole yesterday evening, I refused to speak to my girlfriend. Literary puritans like myself are as bad as sexual puritans when they encounter what they condemn. Being unable to see and think well is usually why I go to sleep. Seeing or thinking were not important for as long as I read this book, however. I needed to know what the drifters were up to and why the mutants in the Refuge could only breathe ammonia and freon. I slept only when I did know.

The book I read was an early one - The World That Jones Made - and it promised stuff that I guess was delievered in later books. One promise and failure comes with the main character, a government agent who busts anyone making unproveable statements (such as "People love freedom") as if the statements were true. So we laugh and cock our heads at seeing how relativism's weak ideals turn into a dictatorship of the uncertain. However, the book is not relativist and so it breeds complacency. Whatever ideological ambiguities it has are not that mind-bending it doesn't force us to resolve them.

But Dick did something equivalent with another of the book's cool inventions: a man who remembers everything that will happen one year from now. With this, Dick does what genre writers don't: he turns his idea into his style. An opening series of flashbacks makes it hard for the reader to remember what has already happened and what hasn't. The omniscient narrator who says things like "But that hadn't happened yet" doesn't help (the reader figure out shit) and does help (create a sense of confusion and terror). We have grown used to novels that assume a communal time spread over different places. Thanks to the train timetable and the station clock we know it's 2pm in Bristol and it's 2 pm in London and so the novel can say "Meanwhile, back in Bristol...". In The World That Jones Made time drives people apart and deprives their decisions of meaning.