The MacLamity

The News That Stays News, Reported Live

Friday, April 23, 2004


This is by far the best piece: Michael Gambon stories.


About someone who is still with us.


"And here you can see a male bearing the distinctive false moustache, his penis semi-erect, attempting to deflower a schoolgirl in her mid-30s while a female dressed as a Carmelite nun pleasures herself with a Jack Russell terrier."Guardian


If there is such a thing as a Holocaust Industry then this would definitely be one of its bad industrial consequences: this Slate article. As long as the holocaust is genocide's equivalent of Coke, the one and only brand, it makes it hard to conceive of genocide without trains, Warsaw, gas chambers, stripy clothes, dogs on leashes, and Nazis in overcoats. Which is bad news for the Armenians, who were slaughtered in a hot country with swords. Why can't the Armenians get over it? Well, why can't the Jews? And why should they? And why should we?

P.S. I'm being completely hypocritical on this. I can't stand Americans who talk about the Irish potato famine as one of three things that define that country (the other two: Guinness and the irreproachability of the IRA's ethics). A national tragedy was left unspoken for as long as the English ran Dublin, which was outrageous. But few things get on my tits like an American who went to Ireland for one week of Spring break to visit the town which the great-grandparents left and who tell me that he or she can't forgive me for what a plague of weevils did to potatoes more than 150 years ago. Get over it! (And blame the Giffen good effect.)

P.P.S So, what then? I seem to want to insist that genocide is a tragedy for humanity. But that sounds like a Dukakis-like slogan ("I'd hope that if my daughter and wife were killed I wouldn't want their murderer dead" etc.") which ignores the emotional and blood-tie level where these acts exist. The genocide in Rwanda certainly didn't happen to me. So where do I get off saying that it's my tragedy too? Because if it's not, then, in a sense, the genocide has worked. The Nazi party in the 1930s is shocking not because it wanted to kill Jews, but because it wanted to kill Germans, for example. If you say, "The Germans always wanted to kill the Jews," then you're saying "The Jews weren't Germans," which is what the Nazis believed. What I want is the Turks to say "Yes, a slaughter happened and there is something seriously wrong with our self-definition as a country," and the Armenians to say, "Right, so, since we're all Turks together let's remember this so that it never happens again." I've probably made so many outrageous statements here. But fuck it, I'm going on vacation tomorrow, I'll clean up the rhetorical mess when I get back.

Thursday, April 22, 2004


Peter Porter on why he should get the Chair of Poetry at Oxford. openDemocracy


Reputation TARNISHED
Some letters from F Scott have arrived on the market and they show that
that "it corrects this distorted view of Fitzgerald's Hollywood years, the idea that he was just staggering around drunk all the time and not earning his salary." Unlike many screenwriters, Fitzgerald "didn't just take the money and run," Mr. Bruccoli added.
"He took screenwriting very seriously," he continued, "and it's heartbreaking to see how much effort he put into it."
What's upsetting is that Mr. Bruccoli seems to think he's protecting the reputation of F Scott by saying he wasn't staggering around drunk the whole time. But he's effectively halved the things that F. Scott is famous for. Remove staggering around Hollywood drunk all the time and all that's left is God-like master of prose. The New York Times

Wednesday, April 21, 2004


The horrid, horrid shame of being able to speak fluent French is hard to cover up, but John Kerry's trying: The New Yorker

Tuesday, April 20, 2004


Here's how to destroy Alice Walker in four paragraphs:
If this novel did not boast the name of Alice Walker, who won acclaim some two decades ago with 'The Color Purple,' it's hard to imagine how it could have been published.
'Now Is the Time to Open Your Heart' is a remarkably awful compendium of inanities. There are New Age inanities: 'She had an instinctive understanding, perhaps from birth, that people and plants were relatives.'
Feminist inanities: 'She had seemed to feel, and to wonder aloud, about the possibility that only women, these days, dreamed of rivers, and were alarmed that they were dry.'
Flower children inanities: 'What would happen if our foreign policy centered on the cultivation of joy rather than pain?'
And plain old bad writing: 'The moment I stood in front of any one of his paintings, she elaborated, my bird nature became activated. I felt I could fly!'
Really, there's nothing more to say. The
NY Times if it had any guts would have ended Michiko Kakatuni's review there.



DPM: I think in diagrams. I am an analytic man. For example: there are three elements to the personality just as there are three elements to light: red, yellow, blue [Writes these words on a beer mat]. Yellow is the analytic element... Blue is the emotional element... Red is the [whatever red was]. Now you can create a pie chart that precisely shows how a person's personality is composed. [Draws a pie chart and writes red, yellow, and blue in the three slices]. With this you can see, for example, if they are or aren't a leader.

ME: And you could do this with anyone, say Hitler?

IMM: Yes! [draws a Hitler's pie chart]

Me: And Ghandi?

IMM: O, yes. [thoughtfully draws another pie chart, i remember that yellow was at 5%]

Me: But... they were both leaders... so....

IMM: Obviously it's not scientific

Monday, April 19, 2004


Does Jimmy Breslin have a formula for bringing life to his columns? "'Yeah,' he said with a growl more ebullient than menacing. 'Writing!'"New York Observer


Is this The Wal-Mart Journal?


This critique of Michael Moore is as hysterical (not hysterical ha ha -- hysterical Aaaaaaaaaaa!) as Michael Moore himself. After nine paragraphs of Moore smirk-shouting and the blogger smirk-shouting back it gets irritating. I link (via Andrew Sullivan) only because I was struck by how Moore made the routine accusation of Bush using Orwellian euphemistic speak, when Bush in fact pretty much used the non-Orwellian language that Moore demands. I was stunned that Bush was clear-headed enough to, while discussing contractors, point out their role as "hired guns."

Rather than credit Bush, however, I'd like to use this to discredit people who swing the term Orwellian around like a drunk Viking swings his axe: without thought and at everything. At a certain point, everything your enemy says can seem like a perversion of language. Even Orwell fell into this trap.

In his essay on Auden's Spain Orwell got angry at Auden's lines "But to-day the struggle./ To-day the deliberate increase in the chances of death,/ The conscious acceptance of guilt in the necessary murder." Orwell accused Auden of taking the word murder too lightly, using a homophobic slur to suggest that, as a pansy poet, Auden used the word murder because he had no idea what it was to kill. But Auden's vision doesn't blink. "Necessary murder" is the most non-euphemistic term I can think of for deaths in war. I suspect that Orwell was more pissed off that Auden was taking credit for summing up Orwell's experience in Spain, without being Orwell and without having been to Spain. He wanted to discredit Auden's right to write about Spain, rather than the poem's merits. And so Orwell accused Auden of being Orwellian.

There's no doubt that language is constantly perverted and that showing how this happens is one of the most valuable weapons in the fight for clarity. It has also become, however, an easy accusations to launch at your opponent when you don't want to, or can't, answer his or her arguments.

Friday, April 16, 2004


The British Library is going to put its sound collection online. This is fantastic news, although I'm a little angry since I paid 20 punds for recordings they're now giving the world for free. If you have Realplayer, then whet your appetite with these gems:
Paul Robeson as Othello.
Memories of Whitsuntide.
Thatcher announcing the invasion of the Falklands.
A piano waltz written by Tolstoy.
Let's have a song on the gramaphone.
War! It's good for war!
You just can't get stuff this great with money.


I'd give up wearing trousers and underpants before I'd give up this.


I am honored that Yahoo would find MacLamity when conducting this particular search.

Thursday, April 15, 2004


In this fantastic interview in Slate Oliver Stone has a great habit of making sweeping, wise man generalizations and at the same time admitting or revealing a huge ignorance with dumb-fuck questions.
You can always find horrible prisons if you go to any country in Central America.

ALB: Did you go to the prisons in Cuba?

OS: No, I didn't. [...]

OS: But Bush would have shot these people [prisoners], is what Castro said. … I don't know what the parole system is.

ALB: There is none unless Fidel Castro decides to give you clemency. [...]

ALB: Do you really think that anything happens in Cuba without his approval?

OS: I don't know. [...]

ALB: Now, when you were talking to the prisoners who tried to hijack a plane, one told you he was a fisherman, and you said, "Why then didn't you take a boat?" Why did you ask that?

OS: Well, it seemed to me that if they were familiar with boats, it seemed to be the best way.

ALB: Did you know that in Cuba there are virtually no boats? The boats that are used for fishermen are tightly controlled. One of the more surreal aspects of Cuba, being the largest island in the Caribbean, is that there are no visible boats.

OS: I see. [...]

ALB: Did you ask him about his relationship with Juanita in Miami?

OS: God, I don't remember. There were so many women.

ALB: Juanita is his sister.

OS: Juanita's his sister? [...]

ALB: Did you ever think to bring up why he doesn't hold a presidential election?

OS: I did. He said something to the effect, "We have elections."

ALB: Local representative elections. But what about a presidential election?

OS: We didn't talk about it

Wednesday, April 14, 2004


Intimations of MORTALITY
By the time she reached the age of 26 in 1994 Claribel had had 6 kids, got addicted to crack, plunged her 4-year-old boy's hands into boiling water as a punishment and become the national symbol for welfare's systemic failures. With all that it's no wonder she didn't have time to work a regular job and needed assistance from the government. And what have I achieved by the same age? Nothing. And if not that, hardly anything. I wouldn't even know where to start to look for crack. Claribel 10 years on, The Boston Globe


The TLS's stunning article on a story called Lolita, about a man's obsession with a younger girl, which was written in 1916 and not by Vladimir Nabokov inspired me to write about whether Nabokov had ripped it off... and if he hadn't how this helps our diagnosis of the possible death of an author. Clearly the 20th century had some deep obsession which bubbled to the surface in two similar works. So the culture did supply the materials. But only Nabokov could make art of it. Blogger swallowed my post. Should a German scholar in 2135 discover my post while going through the hard drive of the computer I'm writing on he should probably draw attention to how Ron Rosenbaum blatantly ripped me off a week later. (NY Observer)


After the humiliating years of being an unpublished unknown come the humiliating years of being ignored and published . Robin Robertson* has compiled an anthology of all the debasements that writers are heirs to. The poet Simon Armitage discovered a signed book of his in the garbage. "`Under the signature, in my own handwriting, are the words `To Mum and Dad.' " Robertson received this contribution from Geoff Dyer:
I hear that you are publishing an anthology. Well, I have to say that I was very disappointed — mortified, actually — not to be asked. No doubt you have forgotten that I once specifically asked my agent to offer the manuscript of one of my novels to you, even though she wanted to send it to a more established `literary' imprint.' " [Mr. Robertson did not publish it.]One thing you can be sure about: if I ever edit an anthology of great literary triumphs, I won't be asking you to contribute. If you decide that the anthology would benefit from some serious writing, do get in touch with me directly. (I don't have an agent anymore.)
(The NewYork Times)

*Surely not his real name.


Taking a stand against gossip is not much fun. You're taking a stand against something that's not that serious. You seem like a kill joy too. I read this Washington Post gossip item with my eyebrow appropriately arched and a smirk. Interesting, I thought. Hat's off to Andrew Sullivan for showing how gossip is destructive, uncommitted, easy and, usually, followed by spurious excuses for its importance. (The New Republic)

Tuesday, April 13, 2004



Nothing shows how Oedipal the Democrat's struggle for identity has become than the rampant Fear of Clinton's Memoir. He's too famous, too hated, too interesting, too dynamic. Kerry seems to suffer both from his similarities and by differences. "If it comes out any time before the election, it's not particularly good for us because he takes up a lot of oxygen," says a Kerry aide. (The New York Times)


Finally, Ingmar Bergman suffers like the rest of us from his films. (But, damn, the man has a goatie to die for! And as for that gigantic black spot... it's like the 18th century is back, even if it got there thanks to a melanoma.)


The two most intense experiences of MacLamity's past six months were watching 28 Days Later and Dawn of the Dead. 28 Days Later was a far better movie and Dawn of the Dead obviously owed it a lot, especially for using 28 Days Later's central insight of making the zombies hate-filled, on-speed, ballistic maniacs instead of category-busting half-dead half-walking half-immobile zombies. Both movies ruined MacLamity's unconscious for a night. In silent, mentally idle moments in London this weekend MacLamity saw the crowd around him in Picadilly turn on each other with their teeth and nails. This style of zombie definitely speaks for our times. The BBC points out that the old horrors of the 80s, like The Fly and Coppola's Dracula, were obsessed with disease and corruption of the body, which we could take as a Reaganite fear of losing control of the one thing that comes you individual. The Romero zombie movies scared us with their dull conformity, just as the Body Snatchers made it impossible for a town to realise that it was being overtaken by communists and turned the town against the only true Americans left to save it. But these zombie movies are all about how society's on a knife edge. How we're all ready to tip into chaos. How society can crumble so quickly. And, finally, how anyone can be a threat. Being normal is no longer a guarantee of safety. In these zombie movies people can become hate-filled monsters, without you at first recognising it. They bite your flesh. Or fly planes into buildings. Or leave backpacks on Madrid train stations. And their numbers increase before anyone realizes the problem.

I also saw Gothika. It reminded me how nice it must have been pre-Sept. 11, when, the scary things in horror movies - What Lies Beneath, The Sixth Sense - were a form of benign shock therapy.


For me, Ernst Welteke serves as a classic lesson of how self importance can stop a dull bureaucrat from recognising a bribe. He probably still believes that for the good of Germany he had to stay in a decadently luxurious Berlin hotel as the euro was introduced (it's not as if he was handing out the coins) but that he deserved it too, that it was a proper token of respect from the world beneath him, rather than a blatant buttering-up from a bank whose business he regulated. Trust the Telegraph to add an anti-euro angle: Welteke's self-importance was only a microcsmic instance of the macrocosmic preposterous self-importance of the euro zone itself.

Thursday, April 08, 2004


The Pakistani media sense an Indian conspiracy to undermine Pakistan cricket. How else can you explain a defeat? (The Telegraph) It all comes down to the William Boot-like Andy Atkinson.


County CLARE
The countryside, like totalitarianism, is where the political right and left look the same. John Clare wrote some of the saddest poems about loss when he saw fences appear on England's fields. (The Spectator) We call him conservative, because he hated change. But he's also exactly like the rural workers you meet in the left-wing histories of Christopher Hill and EP Thompson, fighting via class warfare the same system of enclosure that Clare fought via poetry. Neither won.

John Clare was famous in his day for being a poet without education, which struck the literate of the 1800s much as a woman's preaching or a dog's walking struck Dr. Johnson the century before. After reading at least 8 articles arising from a recent biography, Clare now seems chiefly known for being unknown. All the reviewers remember and remind the reader that John Clare was forgotten.

Some decent poems: Dewdrops, Idle Fame, Meet Me by The Green Glen (corny-strange enough to be one of Joyce's 'chamber Music' poems), House or Window Flies, I am.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004


"If you want perfect demonstrations of how good contemporary art can get, and how awful and dumb-arsed it can be, there is no better place than London right now. Lucien Freud's work is younger than the Britart dreck: younger than Damien Hirst's slowly rotting shark; weirder than David Falconer's Vermin Death Star; sexier than Tracey Emin's stale icon of sluttish housekeeping. His work is tough, ruthless minus the emotional posturing that appeals to the adman, the bratty cynicism and quick-fix sensationalism that pervades the Saatchi collection." (Robert Hughes The Guardian)


Intelligence services seem to fuck things up massively every 20 years and fuck things up slightly every two. When a Berlin wall falls, they're the last to tell you. To make up for it, they say that the chances of Saddam invading Kuwait are slim. MI6 has made it quite clear that now they want to be not just useless in the sense of not doing their job well. They also want to be useless in the sense that they don't want people using them or their work. (The Guardian) They resent, apparently, their insights being used in the arguments for the invasion of Iraq. Whose insights were people meant to use, exactly? The have "concerns that politicians misunderstand the vocabulary, language and ambiguities when interpreting intelligence assessments." The point out that "politicians have little or no training in interpreting intelligence." "Tony Blair made the intelligence assessments provided by MI6 a central tenet of his case for war against Saddam Hussein," The Guardian points out. Where did the government get the idea of using information from an organization paid millions to give information to the government? Am I being stupid and am I needlessly swearing when I ask, "What the fuck else MI6 is meant to do but tell us what is going on?" MI6 giving MI6 information is nice for MI6, i suppose. But they'd resemble Keynesian Worker to be digging holes and filling them in. Please, MI6, share your stuff.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004


You ... ARE... SO... WONDERFUL
The Female superheroes ofthe 1970s, were tough, but not feminist. They lacked heroic feminism -- an antagonistic relation to patriarchy -- and civic feminism, based on the notion of equal participation in society. Born in the Second World War, Wonder Woman remains the one true feminist superhero. Boston Globe


One of the great spurious celebrity endorsements of our time: My Favorite Books. These endorsements are subliminally anti-literature. You'll notice that celebrities of every field- film, stage, song, sport - are asked to endorse books... except those who make books: writers. from The Boston Globe) How revealing are the choices?


A picture of Mao shows how propaganda can be powerful and beautiful. He looks like your favorite perma-bachelor-uncle, who's a creepily joyous around children, but not too creepily. Telegraph


This WaPo story on background (there's also 'deep background') tells you more about how the press works and can go awry than a kilo of Chomsky. These background briefings, which journalists aren't allowed to quote from, but which are meant to give them useful information to build stories on, have become as bad as official briefings. Deep Throat would be spinning in his grave. Worse, he'd just be spinning - telling Woodward that the President is concerned about the break-ins and is making every possible attempt to crack the case. Take this background information the capture of the terrorist Hambali:
This is a significant victory. . . . What I'm trying to tell you is that this is a significant victory. . . . I wanted to put this in perspective, the importance of this, the importance of the capture of Hambali. . . . This is a significant announcement. This is a significant victory in our global war on terrorism. . . . This is such an important victory.
O members of the public, this is the inside information of which you can only dream of in your ignorance!

Friday, April 02, 2004


Tracey Emin comes to her senses, says the school can keep the quilt, and she'll pay expenses. The Guardian


Banksy seems like the sanest artist in Britain. See how measured and bemused his response is to the kidnapping of his work, compared to Tracy Emin's upset freak-out I posted a few days ago.


if he had any balls

"So I sent a shout out to this guy saying, 'Hey, man, don't use my lyrics. Use your own lyrics.' This guy heard what I said and must have taken offence. He took it upon himself to wait outside my house in his car with a friend and a gun. I arrived home and parked - I was with my girlfriend Natalie and my son Shayon at the time - and as I got out of the car he pulls up and calls my name: 'Asher!' I looked round to see him sitting in the passenger seat, pointing the gun at me. He says to me that he's taken the lyric now, that it's his lyric. He gave me an ugly smile and said, 'What are you going to do about it?' I shrugged. "What do you think I'm going to do about it? You've got a gun pointed at me. Take the lyric, it's yours. I'll write another one." -- rap plagiarism for you.


Who I AM
Google's working on a new toy. You give it a few things in a category (Like Hemingway and Fitzgerald), it guesses the other things in that set (in this case, a list of mostly American literary greats). Google completes the set "MacLamity, Jesus..." perfectly. I feel fine and look good next to King David and Who I Am. (I have been playing with this all day. Try typing in some random numbers. Or Charlie Brown, Adolf Hitler, ...; George Bush, John Kerry... start a set which includes None of the Above. The next item in Short shorts, perm, .... is Moscow. Maclamity, sexy... really does evoke what it's like for a lady to spend a night with yours truly: Dance 80s, cool music, tight fitting rubber, nascar, very nice design.)

Thursday, April 01, 2004


Somehow i missed the Ron Rosenbaum column on The Passion so I'm linking to it late now. But what I'm really doing is giving a hat tip to RR for turning up this interview with Hutton Gibson, Mel's father. I hadn't realized what a nasty piece of work Hutton is, although he's cropped up in all the articles about The Passion I've obssessively read over the past ten months. More than anything, I am revolted by how he revels in his nastiness. Who can enjoy criticizing their father? Butm when you tell a TV interviewer that your father has never lied, when your father says these things without shame, then you have sacrificed your integrity entirely, no matter how important family ties are.

UPDATE: The link, which I'd cocked up, is now working.


This is the post which Blogger swallowed and yet which I am regurgitating.

I could count on one thumbless hand the number of decent live shows I have seen, one of those being a U2 concert in Wembley which my 16-year-old self couldn't possibly have disliked (i mean, if you see GOD do you complain that God's ironic devil outfit didn't really suit him? No. You saw God! Good enough!). Try splitting an adolescence between boarding school and a small island and you'll see how live shows become mythic, impossible incarnations of the albums and bands you love. I still assume, even after living near San Francisco and in New York and the capital of motherfucking Belgium that concerts are a long plane ride away, or too expensive, or require someone's permission to be attended. It doesn't help that I lost my passion for music a few years ago, by which I mean that if I buy a new album and like it then I listen to the album quite a lot, either at the gym, or before my girlfriend gets back home. I don't any more buy the band's other albums the next day, listen to them on my belly and study the lyrics on the inlay card, proselytize for the band on the streets and at parties as if I was Jews For This Album, storm into Scott Brooksbank's room and say "Scott, you have to listen to this now," write furious paragraphs about the band in school or college papers, or glance through the index of every Melody Maker, Select, Vox or Q to see where in England the band is playing, and noting the date and on that day imagining what it would be like to be in that city and being able to see the band as they are in human form.

So when I saw Belle and Sebastian two nights ago, I was stuck between extreme familiarity with the music and the still-unfamiliar feelings of going to see a live show. I was doing the equivalent of fumbling excitedly with a bra. "Why is it that one tall man fifteen yards away can tilt his head and the entire band will disappear out of view?" I wondered. I looked around me at the 30-year-old Belgians taking in the music and transmitting an air of cool, graceful acceptance of what was going on. I looked just in front of me. "Ah, two young B&S fans at their first concert, dancing in tandem at the moderately fast beats usually by bending their bodies at the hips from the left to the right on every second moderately quick beat, or else facing each other with eyes and mouths opened wide with excitement, Ah, YOUTH, so fragile, so wonderful, so excited!" I condescendingly reflected as I watched the two girls dance in front of me. One pulled out a water bottle, drank from it, and luxuriously splashed liquid over her eyes while rocking herself, mouth open, smile quietly wide. "No," I thought and looked again. "Two girls on drugs, actually!" I reflected on this. "Or not! Maybe AH, YOUTH neverthless, but YOUTH DRINKING WATER! Thirsty youth." I panicked. "O who knows what the fuck is up with kids today?" I asked and left the matter there. I clearly didn't know anything about what was going on.

I soon realized I was instinctively against any song I didn't know. Too many times Belle and Sebastian were not playing the slow, tuneful, comfortable ballads of urban whimsy and melancholy which sustained me through relationship or professional difficulties more effectively than a Prozac and tears cocktail. They were playing fast tunes, from an album that was so new it practically didn't exist. I turned this into a Saul Bellow moment. Something unfamiliar, probably bad, yet unmistakably popular to the room at large was proof that society had crumbled into stupidity. How could people like that fast pop tune from "Fold Your Hands?" Couldn't they hear that the drums on the Supremes-esque chorus were loud enough to punch through concrete, never mind the reed-thin, delicate voices of B&S's charming, manly but undeniably fey leading men?

But then when they did play the songs I liked (such gratitude can only be expressed in Tiny Tim cockney: Gawd bless yoo Belle fer play-in sow much Tigamilk!) I got pissed off because, obviously, I had to admit that the band weren't playing these songs just for me, like they did on the album. these songs were not the products of some private deal struck between MacLamity and Stuart Murdoch after all. I tried to keep control of this appaling situation by telling my girlfriend, whose English is not as good as Belle and Sebastiens's, the gyst of each song. I can be a real prick that way.

But then, there were good things as well. Seeing what these people actually looked like (charming, laconic, generous, thin) and sounded like (Scottish). We all loved the request for Elvis which prompted an argument over which Elvis (Presley? Costello?) which was compromised by Presley's Love Me Tender as sung by Costello, which was so well done, with all of Costello's weird downward inflections at the end of a long note, and the cracks in his voice at the start of a high one, that the audience laughed with surprise, gratitude, and awe. They played incredibly tightly. They recreated the razor-edge balance between melody and harmony that exist in their albums and added urgency to it.

Stuart Murdoch said something nasty about the Scandinavians and later about Parisians and all the Belgians (or Bruselettes, as he called us) cheered.

I wondered what he was going to say about Belgium when he played San Francisco.



"Iraqi security forces fired on protesters demanding jobs as policemen in the southern city of Basra on Thursday, killing one demonstrator and wounding two others," the AP reports. The sadness in those five words is overwhelming.