The MacLamity

The News That Stays News, Reported Live

Monday, June 28, 2004


I have throughout my life met many remarkable people, and, as I approach the end, aim here to record my impressions of those famous people to whom I sucked up so thoroughly that they died dry. And why stop there, after all these years? The true hack treats a celebrity like a Haitian treats a pig: all the parts are used. Even the dessicated corpse of Diana is worth flattering one more time, 7 years later, should it mean I can put off until after drinks the horrible search for new material. (P.S. does such a thing exist, I ask sometimes) Almost WF Deedes in The Telegraph.


It's all about Amnerica's isolation from the world. Boston Globe
It's all about the industrial revolution wharping the values of England's lumpenproletariat. The Spectator
It's all about identity and the discontent, uncertainty, boredom and disillusion of English culture. The Guardian

Friday, June 25, 2004


But this passage from the Clinton memoir is astonishingly good, isn't it? And yet you can imagine how boring the thing is just by looking at the title and the cover photo.
I was grateful to Daddy for coming to rescue me when I broke my leg. He also came home from work a time or two to try to talk Mother out of spanking me when I did something wrong. . . . I remember once he even took me on the train to St. Louis to see the Cardinals, then our nearest major-league baseball team. We stayed overnight and came home the next day. I loved it. Sadly, it was the only trip the two of us ever took together. Like the only time we ever went fishing together. The only time we ever went out into the woods to cut our own Christmas tree together. The only time our whole family took an out-of-state vacation together. There were so many things that meant a lot to me but were never to occur again.
Larry McMurty quotes like a champ in the NY Times


Dumb ass or Dumas?

Tuesday, June 22, 2004


Before and after the fortieth minute of last night's match
Before:Those over-paid incompetents at the front of the England game couldn't kick candy from a baby.
After:A new glorioius sun of competence rises over the new empire that is England. It shall never set.
England are so bad because they are losing to a team as bad as Croatia.
After:Croatia are a worthy adversary and it's not as if anyone can beat them.
Before:Rooney is a boy.
After:Rooney is our alpha and omega.

Sunday, June 20, 2004


Thursday, June 17, 2004



And a spice currently valued at 3% of U.S. GDP. The New York Times


It began with "Oh God, then, let's pull off the legs and put them underneath." IT goes on with "But it's only £8." "But we don't need it." "But it's only £8!" "But we don't ... OK. Whatever. Whatever." (Guardian) Can it really be true that 10% of Europe was conceived on an Ikea bed?


Gruber THE RED
Silvio Berlusconi is the most entertaing European politician. Most countries treat presidency of the EU like a Bergman movie. Berlusconi (see comments below) made it Spielbergian. Sadly, he's also corrupt, nasty, and insincere so I have to want to see him gone. Gruber the Red sounds like a worthy successor, however, to a former cruise-ship crooner who now lives in a Bond-style mansion equipped with a bat-cave-style tunnel and elevator. (Guardian)

Wednesday, June 16, 2004


No I didn't. But I will in October. Ron Rosenbaum's article on the new Philip Roth doesn't dig deep. It hardly says anything specific about the book. But I'm jazzed, pumped and psyched for this book now. Dale Peck should read this and learn that good criticism makes you want to read and shows why reading is important.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004


Dotodot 100
Lyrics for the Beastie Boys, adapted from the instructions to a friend's new speakers:

Dotodot 100 Ozaki!
promoting high-quality
and living industry!
For stepping the future
The leader of computer!
Constantly personal, characteristic,
Healthy Computer Lifer the objective
more enjoyable, convenient
Ozaki health achievement
Ozaki decides
healthy computerized

dotodot 100 Ozaki
dotodot 100 Ozaki

living computer accessories accessorize
dotodot 100 Ozaki
convenient accessories for human life
dotodot 100 Ozaki
health achievement for life
Original text: Ozaki is the leader of the computer and living industry, and specializes in producing and promoting high-quality, enjoyable,
convenient and healthy computerized life accessories. For stepping the future, Ozaki decides "Enjoyable, Convenient and Healthy Computer Lifer" as the objective for Ozaki products. Ozaki will create constantly personal, characteristic, living computer accessories for offering the best choice for the customers and more enjoyable, convenient and health achievement for human life


A refutation of a great wail of paranoia from a money-supply analyst:
Let me just say from the outset that the Federal Reserve has confirmed our Stock Market Crash forecast by raising the Money Supply (M-3) by crisis proportions, up another 46.8 billion this past week. What awful calamity do they see? Something is up. This is unprecedented, unheard-of pre-catastrophe M-3 expansion. M-3 is up an amount that we've never seen before without a crisis - $155 billion over the past 4 weeks, a $2.0 trillion annualized pace, a 22.2 percent annualized rate of growth!!! There must be a crisis of historic proportions coming, and the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States is making sure that there is enough liquidity in place to protect our nation's fragile financial system. The amazing thing is, the Fed's actions mean they know what is about to happen. They are aware of a terrible, horrific imminent event. What could it be?

One can draw no other conclusion except that the Fed is acting irresponsibly in its managing the money supply, in fulfilling its duty to "maintain a stable currency." I reject the notion that the Fed is acting irresponsibly. No, something is up, bigger than we have ever seen in the history of the United States. Let me ramble.


As is their right. (Le However, I found this hard to fathom ("When are you bringing back Hard-to-fathom cartoon?" MacLamity's readers don't cry.): "Seule consolation pour Tony Blair, l'Angleterre a battu la Nouvelle-Zelande lors du test-match de cricket. Le Commonwealth, c'est bien connu, a l'avantage d'offrir au Royaume-Uni plus l'illusion que la realite de la puissance."

I wonder what country Marc Roche sends his dispatches from sometimes. He seems to have gone to the dark side of The Foreign Correspondence. Rather than make an unfamaliar country familiar, he simply repeats stereotypes that are apparently "bien connu" in France but, in England, are out-of-date or just wrong. In fact, I almost like his writing for that reason: it's interesting to see what the French take to be self-evidently true about the British. We apparently love The Times crossword. Roche mentions this every 6 months. He probably still hasn't got over the fact that noone's wearing bowler hats in London these days.

In this case, I wish Roche was right. It would be nice to beat New Zealand all the time. Sadly, the commonwealth does a poor job of giving England the illusion of power. They have a habit of emasculating England in every sport all the time.

New Zealand lost in cricket but the day before it thrashed England in Rugby. C'est bien connu. Roche might imagine that the West Indies, India and Australia play cricket to provide England with people to defeat. Anyone who'd lived in England for one cricket season should know that the commonwealth beats England at cricket, devastatingly, skillfully, more often than not. And haven't the French ever played New Zealand in Rugby? And didn't they lose? Does this mean that the commonwealth teaches France the reality of power more than the illusion? Answers, please!

[P.S.] "Le tabloid francophobe The Sun ne s'y est pas trompe avec sa manchette 'Guttered' ('Devastes')." Is it worth pointing out that GUTTERED doesn't mean much - "Gouttiere," if anything (with an accute on the last E). GUTTED is what the francophobe Sun was.

[P.P.S] Other French readers display 200% more wit than Roche while writing in to The Sun. Le Monde should hire them.


"I know Sandymount Strand: I got lost there once. I know the Martello Tower, the scene of the book's opening chapter, Telemachus. I wish I'd known Buck Mulligan. I've swum in the Forty Foot, where women aren't allowed, and even swum naked in the freezing Irish Sea. I've had many a drink in Davy Byrnes." Terry Wogan

"I have never read 'Ulysses' in its entirety. I pick it up, read it in spurts" - Malachy McCourt

"Never did I read such tosh," Virginia Woolf

"[Marilyn Monroe] read it in episodes, [dipping] into places from time to time where fancy took her," Richard Brown


Probably far more than what follows:
2003 is the most boring year ever, or the CIA had other things to worry about

Before email, in 1986, stamps and planes meant the world.

When the Cold War ends in 1989 and Hebrew script appears at the top of the front cover, larger than the word "factbook" itself. What does the word say? Coincidence or...

Noone knows what to think of the world after the cold war. The world's not made of countries and blocs (as in 1988 and 1987). There are lots of different worlds - but all identical as abacus beads, in 1990. The world's a random mess of flags and names in 1991. God knows what's going on in 1992. The CIA's on an acid binge. The world becomes four globes - red, yellow, green, orange - with compass points for auras, lost in a constellation of cities marked with the names of countries.

The 1993 factbook is as convincing as a tourist brochure. The earth from space looks great. I want to go there. And look, they also have trees, and forests, and beaches, and deserts, and mountains! Is breakfast included? The Factbook doesn't say.

2000 is a psychadelic disaster too. Apparently, the designer thought the number 2000 was exciting enough and all that was necessary were a few red astrolabes. 2000 was an exciting number, back then.

The covers in 1998 and 1999 have the style of illustrations in religious pamphlets - the gaudy, colorful ones that explain what reincarnation or heaven looks like.


If you're writing a novel about Henry James, het it out quickly to avoid the rush. (The New York Times > Books >NY Times). What you should apparently include in your Henry James book: events in life inspire James's art, the tanking of the play 'Guy Domville,' ambiguity, and an all-too-comfortably close male friend (Oliver Wendell Holmes or Gerald Du Maurier).

Monday, June 14, 2004


"I have combed through more than two million postcards and have ended up buying (at prices ranging from 10p to GBP10) 50,000 of them. It is at this point that the chronic stage in the psychopathology of collecting is reached, the delightful drudgery of sorting. As yet there is no official taxonomy of these cards and I am free to invent my own headings under which to group them. Since the heyday of the postcard was the first third of the century, the words of music-hall songs provide clues for categories. 'I do like to be beside the seaside' was an obvious starting point, though this huge subject quickly got subdivided into Promenades, Bathers, the Pier, the Beach and others."Tom Phillips:


The trailer to the new Ulysses movie looks promising.


"'No face shines through the novels of James Joyce, and this is disturbing" Anthony Burgess

"You remember the day you pulled up your clothes and let me under you looking up at you while you did it? Nora, my faithful darling, my sweet-eyed blackguard schoolgirl, be my whore, my mistress, as much as you like (my little frigging mistress! My little fucking whore!) you are always my beautiful wild flower of the hedges, my dark-blue rain-drenched flower." - James Joyce to Nora. The day was June 16.

"There's almost a rule with any new theory that you see first if it works on "Ulysses," then apply it to other works of modern literature." Sean LAtham


Chapter 3: LEFT ALONE

There are those who think being skeptical means suspicion of everything, even stuff that is self-evidently true. Eg. "Now come come, how can you be so naive? You don't really think that the planes actually caused the explosions in the World Trade Center, do you?" MacLamity considers such people an insult to skeptics. They're as bad as the gullible. However, MacLamity saw this documentary on
Mark Hofman last week and then read this NY Times story today. Now, if you were a Hofman-esque forger looking for the buring hot holes in the American experience, which people would pay anything to fill, wouldn't you start miraculously discovering "altogether remarkable" slave narratives?

"The researchers found that much of Mr. Turnage's account could be verified in census, Army and bank records," The NY Times notes.Just like the Salamander letter!


Ziiiiiiiii DUUUUUUUU!
I had the following email exchange last week with a colleague running the office pool. I'd sent England to the finals:
HIM: a brave man...

ME: what really disgusts me about myself is that i do this ridiculous gung-ho call on england v portugal but then at the end go for a chicken-shit capitulation to the obvious favorites

HIM: could be a smart tactic...this bet could turn on who picked the runner-up, since most people seem to think france will win

ME: great. I'll call it a smart tactic, then. thanks.

HIM: (personally i can't see england getting anywhere without a left-sided midfielder or a decent center-back pairing...)

ME: yeah, apart from this bet, i can easily imagine a horrific 4-goal defeat at some point, as the defense crumbles into chaos and the midfield, having no real identity beyond beckham, gets sucked backwards in an attempt to compensate, booting the ball desperately over the halfway line to portuguese players, and leaving Wayne Rooney alone by the goal, consoling himself with the throught that it's only 2-years wait for the world cup.

HIM: a true england fan, lurching from dreaming to fatalism...
But what other rational response is there to a team like England? You go to the England-France game with a sense of dread which expands with the crowd of French people filling the pub. (Do the French not have big-screen TV sports in their bars? Brussels is francophone, for crying out loud! Why must the French come to Irish pubs?) And then everything goes amazingly. England don't win. But they play an incredibly good side as if they also were a good side. Neither team gives the other any room. England scores a very decent goal. And then doesn't fall to pieces. Like they always do. Except that they do. In the last two minutes overtime. The French go beserk. The screen on which the game's being projected is vibrating to the stamping and cheers. The ecstatic French players are being warped by French screams. And you don't feel surprise, if you've supported England. You feel sick. But you expected this Ealing-comedy ending all along. The Man in the White Suit's white suit disintegrates.The Ladykillers pull off the perfect heist but can't kill the sitting-duck old lady. Lawrence of Arabia conquers the desert, and gets run over by a car.

The Sunday Times last week decided that if the England football team was a Hollywood star, it would be Charlie Chaplin: "Tragi-comic, always brings tears to their supporters' eyes."

(and Latvia? Val Kilmer: "Nobody quite know why they're there or how they got there.")

[P.S.] But this was really exciting.

Sunday, June 13, 2004


"So. . . have either of you read Joyce's `Ulysses'? Well, it's. . . um. . . really good." -- a sober, desperate Phineas Freak

"I will say it once and for all, straight out: It all went wrong with James Joyce" -- Dale Peck

"If reading the back of a cereal box isn't more fun, at least it's more filling. . .. If your lips move when you read and you lick your finger before turning pages, this is the book for you." -- reviewer

"American culture is all about bowel movements, masturbation, and underpants. If we no longer need 'Ulysses,' it's because we're all living in Bloom's paradise." Tim Cavanaugh
From The Boston Globe

Friday, June 11, 2004


Thursday, June 10, 2004


The fascination with the music on my iPod only grows. When I first got it, I kept on telling people, "I set the thing to random and I'm just amazed by how eclectic and good my taste in music is." A lot of that is the iPod's fault, although the rest is certainly due to my increasing knack for being loud and boring when I'm drunk. But I honestly can't believe the music I have some times. "This is fucking great," I say. "Do I really have this song? What is it? From what album? O, that song. From that album! Wow. Is only people were as lucky as I am to be listening to my iPod. They'll just have to settle for me telling them about it all the time." As The Telegraph puts it
the only thing the iPod bore likes more than listening to his music collection is comparing it with someone else's. I know this because I am becoming an iPod bore myself, a realisation I came to while perusing a recent in-flight magazine. Having flicked desultorily through the usual celebrity puff pieces, I found myself closely studying a page made up of hundreds of lines of tiny type detailing the contents of iconoclastic singer-songwriter Beck's iPod. When I looked up, I noticed that all the men sitting around me were engrossed in the same page.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004




Lord Byron : "Why, nature, waste thy wonders on such men?"
The English in Portugal


Psychoanalysis is an unregulated activity in Britain. We can all do it there, as the rapist or therapist can tell you (to paraphrase Humbert Humbert). This has meant war between and (Guardian) Here's how Freud explained his reluctance to call himself a psychoanalyst: 'anyone who has recognised transference and resistance as the focal points of therapy belongs irretrievably to the mad horde ...' The man had a knack for clearing up nothing he turned his mind to.


In the closing minutes of the 6th Great Obituary Writers' International Conference (their title), one of the events that obituarists hate the most burst in on them. Just as Tim Bullamore, a Bath city councillor who writes for Fleet Street newspapers and the British Medical Journal, began an elaborate slide show on the glories of his city, where the conference takes place next year, someone rushed in and shouted: "Reagan's died!"

Gasps of astonishment, cries of surprise, uproar and confusion. Several delegates sprinted to the hotel lobby's public call boxes or grabbed cellphones. The bringer of the news was surrounded and peppered with questions. Bullamore's presentation was ruined. Finally, he grabbed the microphone and bellowed: "Reagan's dead and he'll be deader. Let's go on with the show."

He resumed his slides, but it wasn't the same. The 40th president of the United States, Ronald Wilson Reagan, had died inconveniently and thrust obituarists into disarray. But really, they loved it. One delegate, her eyes sparkling, gushed: "Isn't this just wild?"

Obituarists insist that they write about life rather than death - and it's true. After all, the actual death itself is usually dispatched in one sentence. Yet even when anticipated, the event itself may still overwhelm any analytic considerations. It turned out that of the 42 obituary writers present, all members of the International Association of Obituarists (IAO), not one had written Reagan's final salutation. Newspapers prepare such obituaries in advance or rely on news agencies, and Reagan's Alzheimer's had been known for years.
The Guardian


Leni Riefenstahl was a Nazi, there's no getting around that. The Triumph of the Will and Olympia are beautiful but fascist. But here's something much to her credit, and I don't know why it's so important to me. When she took photos of the Nuba tribes in the 60s, she didn't keep or show any where the tribes-people stare into the camera. For some reason this has become the default pose of The Ethnic in photos, starting I think with photos of the Amerindians taken in the nineteenth century. Back then, it was considered a sign of naivety to stare into the camera (my source on this is my mother). Now, I think, The Ethnic's long stare out of the image is considered defiant and wise. And they always choose the photos that draw attention to The Ethnic's eyes, starting with National Geographic's photo of Sharbat Gula. No photographer, it seems, can go anywhere outside Europe without coming back with a picture of The Ethnic at very old age, with deep creases running across the face, and narrow, tired eyes. If you go to an exhibit of these photos, like I did in a park in Paris last year, you notice how the concept of The Ethnic, as a photographic subject, destroys culture. It is enough to be non-Western to be wise. Meanwhile, in pushing for a common humanity the photographer ignores individuality.

Riefenstahl's photos are exploitative. She's fascinated with the color of the Nubans' skin. She likes to frame it in contrast with the orange sand. They aren't happy. They're warriors. However, she's happy for them to get on and do their thing. She's happy for them to ignore the camera and by implication us, the viewers. Even if Riefenstahl defines the independence as being warrior-like, at least the independence of the Nubans - from us - is clear. (A T L A S - Gallery exhibition)

Tuesday, June 08, 2004


A political ad for those long ocean voyages.


There's Alexander the Great, William the Conqueror and then there's President James "'ill suited...undermined his pledge...advice of cronies...inflammatory position...improperly himself...passed over for renomination...schism in the arty...vacillating...rudderless...bungled...presidential failure...erratic trimmer...twisted...stubbornly...deaf ear...feckless...exculpatory vehemence." Buchanan. Ranking Presidents ("political scientists occasionally tire of ranking him last and, just for the heck of it, bump him up to next-to-worst president, with Warren Harding (temporarily) assuming the bottom slot on the greasy pole.")


I never thought the Jack Chick comics could never be beaten. But these ones about the EU parliament run a hard race. Sample dialogue:
Irina! I hear the environment committee's made you it's rapporteur for the water directive!

...And co-decision with the council of ministers applies! Ladies and gentlemen, we shall now vote!

...but I'd hate to choose between mussels and chips and Strasbourg onion tart!


Farewell TO BERLIN
Sometimes, no matter how much you do, you can't do enough for The New York Times. Pondering a gallon of seriously readable essays on romantic philosophers, unforgettable word-sketches of FDR and Churchill, a biography of Marx and the NYT decided to start its obituary of Isiah Berlin along the lines of "The British philosopher Isiah Berlin, who divided his peers into hedgehogs and foxes, has died..." That's all that made an impression? Just calling Joyce and Pushkin foxes, Dostoevsky a hedgehog, and, this was the point, Tolstoy a fox who wanted desperately to be a hedgehog. For Berlin, it was a nice conceit for an essay on how Tolstoy struggled to channel de Maistre's thinking into the action of War and Peace. Berlin didn't exactly seem too keen on his conceit: "like all over-simple classifications of this type, the dichotomy becomes, if pressed, artificial, scholastic, and ultimately absurd. But if it is not an aid to serious criticism, neither should it be rejected as being merely superficial or frivolous; like all distinctions which embody any degree of truth, it offers a point of view from which to look and compare, a starting-point for genuine investigation." But that is what Berlin's remembered for. And, apparently, it's still a knife you can twist in his corpse.

Buried in Christopher Hitchens wonderful smack down with Reagan's corpse, is a little sneer at the mermory of Berlin:
The fox, as has been pointed out by more than one philosopher, knows many small things, whereas the hedgehog knows one big thing. Ronald Reagan was neither a fox nor a hedgehog. He was as dumb as a stump.
Hard to know what Hitchens is up to here. He has some bones to pick with Berlin, and picked them publicly in a review of a biography of Berlin a wild back - Berlin had one face of charm and empathy and a hidden face twisted with the need for personal vendettas, had a persecution complex that permitted him to pick on the weak, and didn't discover that much. But, even for Hitchens, it seems absurd to explicitly exclude Berlin from a mention hedgehog and the fox and to deny Berlin the one thing that 99% of people associate with the name. As Hitchens might put it: Berlin didn't come up with the idea of the hedgehog and fox as has been pointed out by more than one writer. Hitchens pointed this out. And Berlin did too. Berlin starts his essay
There is a line among the fragments of the Greek poet Archilochus which says: 'The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing'. Scholars have differed about the correct interpretation of these dark words, which may mean no more than that the fox, for all his cunning, is defeated by the hedgehog's one defense.
Berlin didn't come up with the dichotomy of the hedgehog and fox. But, if he hadn't written his essay in his 60s, I strongly doubt Hitchens would have written that paragraph.

(Although, I'm sure Hitchens reads Archilochus's fragments with pleasure)

(Who hasn't?)

(In fact, once you've read Archilocus, you realize that nothing has been put by less than two philosophers! As more than one philiosopher has put it, "Whoever lives is enchanted by song." As more than one philosopher has put it, "I myself the lead singer of the lesbian paean, to the sound of the flute."


Who I'd be voting for in my commune if I was a member of my commune.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004


Belgium's finest trashy bande-desinee has
a new installment out tomorrow.


Two Frenchmen make sweeping claims about Britain while discussing its role in Europe. Le Monde. My favorites:
Ils ont introduit le capitalisme moderne, donné l'exemple dans le domaine du commerce libre et global, et ont toujours été exemplaires en matière de démocratie. Ils n'ont jamais connu de fascisme.

Les Britanniques sont pragmatiques : quand ça marche, ils veulent en être.

Ils ont inventé le concept de "club", mais, lorsqu'ils n'en font pas partie, ils le jugent sans intérêt, et, s'ils sont à l'intérieur, ils veulent le diriger.

Tony Blair a attaqué avec courage ce problème [an irrational hatred of Europe in Britain], mais les dirigeants britanniques, confrontés à des difficultés en raison, notamment, de l'Irak, sont revenus récemment à un réflexe traditionnel : défendre la Grande-Bretagne contre l'Europe. Ce n'est pas la bonne attitude.


If you wondered how it was possible that all of Gunther von Hagens plastinated bodies could be fashioned from dead volunteers, you were right to wonder. A Russian allegedly brokered unclaimed bodies from Russian hospitals for von Hagen (Independent) Mind you, it's not as if anyone was going to do anything useful with those corpses. Noone but von Hagen wanted them.


The Pulitzer now considers Jazz worthy of the music prize. (The New York Times) The Pulitzer board thinks that it has broadened its scope so that it can award the prize for music to the best music. Actually, the Pulitzer board is genetically allergic to all significant artistic work around it (it specifically refused to give a prize to Gravity's Rainbow, for example). Instead, jazz has become so middle-brow and dull that it's worthy of the Pulitzer.


An occasional series of articles that always find that a genius of all time had symptoms of X. X always being, say, autism, and never being, say, extreme artistic talent. Michelangelo had autism.