The MacLamity

The News That Stays News, Reported Live

Sunday, October 31, 2004

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A footnote to New Sincerity's recent musings on retro-futurism, or nostalgia for the futures of the past, provided by "Watchmen" illustrator David Gibbon: "'I wanted to convey how things felt to me back when I was a Mod rather than how they really were. Chromed scooters aren't particularly exciting to people today, but chromed anti-gravity hoverscooters just might be!" Future-retroism, perhaps.

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Up-to-date, finger on the pulse comments punditry from Thomas Friedman produces an endorsement for George Bush SENIOR. Friedman does a good job of outlining 41's merits, but not how it is that those merits are so great as to prevent him, if he's going to play this game, from endorsing Lincoln ... or Washington.

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Dirty TRICKS
Like death, dirty campaigning is always with us and is one of those strange bad things where the only thing worse than them is their abolition. It is a bad world where Dukakis supposedly lost an election because the Republicans ran an ad that somehow appealed to racists and so the votes for Bush Sr. were racist and they shouldn't count and it's so unfair. But the alternative isn't pleasant. In this fantastic article on Rove's polymorphous nastiness, there is a brief portrait of prelapsarian Alabama into which the serpent Rove introduced the forbidden fruit of negative campaigning:
Judicial races in Alabama were customarily low-key affairs. "Campaigning" tended to entail little more than presenting one's qualifications at a meeting of the bar association, and because the state was so staunchly Democratic, sometimes not even that much was required. It was not uncommon for a judge to step down before the end of his term and handpick a successor, who then ran unopposed.
What strikes me is that when Rove introduced his dirty tricks to the Alabama court circuit he also made voting significant. And votes are how we want things decided, isn't it?

As much as I dislike dirty tricks, complaints about them contradict one of the fundamental assumptions of democracy: that voters can decide things for themselves and can and should be trusted to so. If we can't trust voters to respond to the Willie Horton ad like rational human beings then why should we give them the vote? It's an assumption that shares with Thucydides the suspicion that what is called democracy is really just the rule of an elite few who can manipulate crowds. You hope that the manipulators are good people the same way you hope a King might be a good king. But you cannot choose them. They push a button somewhere deep inside you and you do anything they say (the following's a weird Victorian translation, sadly, the MIT server cuts off its great translation of the second book of Thucydides just before this part):
In this speech did Pericles endeavour to appease the anger of the Athenians towards himself, and withal to withdraw their thoughts from the present affliction [plague, confinement within city walls, Spartans razing land]. But they, though [...] rather inclined to the war; yet they were every one in particular grieved for their several losses: the poor, because entering the war with little, they lost that little; and the rich, because they had lost fair possessions, together with goodly houses and costly furniture in them, in the country; but the greatest matter of all was, that they had war instead of peace.
And altogether, they deposed not their anger till they had first fined him in a sum of money. Nevertheless, not long after (as is the fashion of the multitude) they made him general again, and committed the whole state to his administration. For the sense of their domestic losses was now dulled; and for the need of the commonwealth, they prized him more than any other whatsoever.
For as long as he was in authority in the city in time of peace, he governed the same with moderation, and was a faithful watchman of it; and in his time it was at the greatest. And after the war was on foot, it is manifest that he therein also foresaw what it could do. He lived after the war began two years and six months.
And his foresight in the war was best known after his death. For he told them, that if they would be quiet, and look to their navy, and during this war seek no further dominion, nor hazard the city itself, they should then have the upper hand. But they did contrary in all: and in such other things besides as seemed not to concern the war, managed the state, according to their private ambition and covetousness, perniciously both for themselves and their confederates. What succeeded well, the honour and profit of it came most to private men; and what miscarried, was to the city’s detriment in the war.
The reason whereof was this: that being a man of great power both for his dignity and wisdom, and for bribes manifestly the most incorrupt, he freely controled the multitude; and was not so much led by them, as he led them. Because, having gotten his power by no evil arts, he would not humour them in his speeches, but out of his authority durst anger them with contradiction.
Therefore, whensoever he saw them out of season insolently bold, he would with his orations put them into a fear; and again, when they were afraid without reason, he would likewise erect their spirits and embolden them. It was in name, a state democratical; but in fact, a government of the principal man. But they that came after, being more equal amongst themselves, and affecting every one to be the chief, applied themselves to the people and let go the care of the commonwealth. From whence amongst many other errors, as was likely in a great and dominant city, proceeded also the voyage into Sicily; which was not so much upon mistaking those whom they went against, as for want of knowledge in the senders of what was necessary for those that went the voyage.
For through private quarrels about who should bear the greatest sway with the people, they both abated the vigour of the army, and then also first troubled the state at home with division. Being overthrown in Sicily, and having lost, besides other ammunition, the greatest part of their navy, and the city being then in sedition; yet they held out three years, both against their first enemies and the Sicilians with them, and against most of their revolted confederates besides, and also afterwards against Cyrus the king’s son, who took part with, and sent money to the Peloponnesians to maintain their fleet; and never shrunk till they had overthrown themselves with private dissensions. So much was in Pericles above other men at that time, that he could foresee by what means the city might easily have outlasted the Peloponnesians in this war.
[This is where I left off a month ago, not really knowing how i could follow such a virtuoso pretentious quote from the classic. But this article from The Boston Globe, on books that serve up American history in the Salami slices of election years has a few great reminders of how dirty democracy is and seems always will be:
Jefferson's Federalist foes described him as "a howling atheist," the "head of the French party in America" -- this at a time when war with France appeared imminent -- and, for good measure, the "greatest villain in existence." [...]
The election of 1912 and its wider context, for example, is full of sharply rendered incident -- from the assassination attempt against Teddy Roosevelt to the brawl that erupted on the floor of the Republican Convention when it became clear that incumbent William Howard Taft had the clout to exclude many pro-Roosevelt delegates. Chace (a longtime writer on foreign affairs who died earlier this month) is excellent on this and much more, not least in tracing the outcome of the events of 1912 -- including wartime President Woodrow Wilson's draconian suppression of dissent, which makes the Patriot Act look like an initiative of the ACLU. Yet the entire narrative is framed as the beginning of a conflict between noble Democrats ("progressive idealists," Chace calls them) and nasty proponents of "conservative values" who gained their ascendancy "with the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

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Ron Rosenbaum steals Joan Didion's method of sounding oracular by talking about the present as if it was the past: " It was the time of the nation's love/hate affair with undecided voters. The media loved them, giving us post-debate panel after post-debate panel of these inarticulate simpletons turning off the rest of the electorate with their cliche-filled maunderings, which made it clear that they'd only declared themselves undecided for the free buffet in the green rooms.
The campaigns treated the Undecideds as if they were a priestly class of extremely judicious thinkers whose painful deliberative process justified every effort to pander to them. To others, they were brain-dead morons who had trouble deciding whether to super-size their fries, and who shouldn't be trusted with anything as consequential as the vote. Some saw Undecidedness as a kind of diagnosable syndrome, cognitive paralysis, with too much Paxil being either the cause or the cure (though scientists couldn't make up their mind either way).
In the frenzied final two weeks of the campaign, the shameless pandering by both sides had reached its peak. The decision by George Bush to summon Congress into special session to pass an emergency 'Aid for Undecided Voters Act' -- a package of benefits including holistic spa treatments ('No Undecided Voter Left Behind') -- was then succeeded by John Kerry's equally cynical 'Aid to the Children of Undecided Voters' plan. ('Parental indecision can be a traumatic experience for a child.')
Neither bill passed. Despite near-unanimous support, they foundered on whether to include tax credits for the 'leaning slightly' voters, who weren't technically undecided but might become so in the future.
For a brief moment, Undecidedness became fashionable, Indecision Chic the new black. Lines grew longer at swank restaurants as whole tables repeatedly asked their waitpersons to repeat the specials and then shouted in unison: "We’re still undecided!"
Jon Stewart’s Daily Show claimed to have discovered the single most deeply undecided voter, a NASCAR dad who’d had a sex change and became a Soccer Mom, too.

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The latest installment of Dick Tracy is becoming the happiest moment I can expect in the first 3 hours of my day. Dick Tracy's currently fighting terrorists, who communicate using a hybrid of Klingon with wretching noises:
Srooshki Dickwoosh
Tracygoosh
Ruktrusik
Rtooshmud
Shpivish
Glipshrip [THIS MEANS, I THINK, "BE QUIET"]
Hroosh moshdpo
Blagivwoosh
Fjadgoshibi
Shoospluck
This is the inspired weirdness that drove Edmund Wilson and Renata Adler to a silent daily war over The New Yorker's copy of the Daily News, when Dick Tracy was going through his interstellar Moon Maid period (See Renata Adler gratuitously give props to Moon Maid here, a review of 'Yellow Submarine').

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This has to be one of the best Andrew Sullivan posts in a while. It's not that he says anything particularly new; he applauds himself once a month for his heterodoxy. He became dull when he assumed a pro-war hedgehog crouch and didn't move for two years. But for the past six months, he's been back in form. I don't know any other blogger who's as good at changing his mind. Kaus likes to be surprised by something that he can't refute. Sullivan, on the other hand, struggles with it.
It is, I suppose, flattering to have not simply my arguments in this election dissected, but my motives as well. Did I turn against Bush because of the war failures? Or because of the FMA? Or because of the spending? Am I a traitor or a thinker? Am I deluded or are my critics? Well, the great thing about a blog is that if you really care that much, you can see all the evidence splayed out in front of you. When someone writes daily, hourly, as I do, you don't just make arguments or points. You're showing the whole inglorious sausage-making of the intellectual process. I think that's a good thing. This notion that writers somehow exist in a purely rational world outside of human emotion, passion, sensibility and bias is a silly one. We can struggle against these factors; but they can never be abolished. Read your Montaigne.
Those last three words are gorgeous, as are Montaigne's: "I don't give you my opinion because it is correct, but because it is mine."

Thursday, October 28, 2004

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MacLAmity woke up with a headache and the noise of police sirens in his ears. He read an article about the title of Dan Brown's new book.
He linked to it. Something was wrong, but MacLamity, a tall, striking 27-year-old genius, couldn't tell what it was. It was only later, when he'd lost enough blood from a hole in his stomach to feel almost euphoric with dizziness, that he put the pieces of the puzzle together. It was a grim satisfaction. But dying men take what satisfaction they can.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

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Press Freedom in America is getting better, but it's still not as good as that in, er, Bosnia! and, er, Latvia! And Trinidad and Tobago. Can this really be true? Requiring a special press visa for reporters is apparently one of the things to hurt the U.S., and rightly so, it's a vile Kin-Jong-Il-endorsed regulation. But getting accidentally arrested because you happen to be standing in the midst of some unruly protesters seems to be bad luck, and not specifically a press freedom problem.

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Imagine THE NEW YORK TIMES ENDORSING BUSH
Now, double the shock.

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Imagine THE NEW YORK TIMES ENDORSING BUSH
Now, double the shock.

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Imagine THE NEW YORK TIMES ENDORSING BUSH
Now, double the shock.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

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A possible sequel to "Reading Lolita in Tehran" Writing for The Telegraph in Kabul: "Why aren't you bearing sons for your husband? Do you have a medical problem? Who gave you permission to come to Afghanistan? What does your family say about your lack of children?"

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Now MATTER HOW PERSONAL HER WORK IS
There are still some astonishing things to learn about Tracey Emin:
Whe won a place at Maidstone College of Art, got a first, and went to the Royal College of Art. When she left, she had a relationship that resulted in two abortions. The first, in 1990, was particularly traumatic. Returning to hospital the following week because she felt so ill, a foetus slithered down her thigh as she got out of the cab. It was a twin that had been missed by the doctors. Emin destroyed all her work and gave up art altogether.
The Independent

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Bible SHOCK
Of all the possible Bible translation errors, surely this is second on the list, under the possible Virgin/Maiden Mary confusion:"Onan, it turns out, was guilty not of onanism but, more likely, of prudent coitus interruptus with his brother’s widow." And so Onan joins Marx in the hell of misattributed -ISMS. But whose -ism is the more horrible?

Monday, October 25, 2004

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The New Republic is really kicking ass by running "The Undying Fire" by HG Wells. I forget sometimes how prolific HG Wells was and the only thing I know about him is that he was massively prolific. As the Scientologists say of L. Ron Hubbard, Wells wrote competently no matter what the genre, even in this genre:
Two eternal beings, magnificently enhaoled, the one in a blinding excess of white radiance, and the other in a bewildering extravagance of colors, converse amidst stupendous surroundings. These surroundings are by tradition palatial, but there is now also a marked cosmic tendency about them. They have no definite locality; they are above and comprehensive of the material universe.

There is a quality in the scene as if a futurist with a considerable knowledge of modern chemical and physical speculation and some obscure theological animus had repainted the designs of a pre-Raphaelite. The vast pillars vanish into unfathomable darkness, and the complicated curves and whorls of the decorations seem to have been traced by the flight of elemental particles. Suns and planets spin and glitter through the avanturine depths of a floor of crystalline ether. Great winged shapes are in attendance wrought of iridescences and bearing globes, stars, rolls of the law, flaming swords and similar symbols. The voices of the Cherubim and Seraphim can be heard crying continually, "Holy, Holy, Holy."

Now, as in the ancient story, it is a reception of the sons of God.

The Master of the gathering, to whom one might reasonably attribute a sublime boredom, seeing that everything that can possibly happen is necessarily known to him, displays on the contrary as lively an interest in his interlocutor. This interlocutor is of course Satan, the Unexpected.

The contrast of these two eternal beings is very marked. While the Deity, veiled and almost hidden in light, with his hair like wool and his eyes like the blue of infinite ace, conveys an effect of stable, remote, and mountainous grandeur, Satan has the compact alertness of habitual travel; he is as definite as a grip sack, and he brings a flavor of initiative and even bustle upon a scene that would otherwise be one of serene perfection. His halo even has a slightly travelled look. He has been going to and fro the earth and walking up and down in it; his labels still upon him. His status in heaven remains as undefined as it was in the time of Job; it is uncertain to this day whether he is to be regarded as one of the sons of God or as an inexplicable intruder among them. (But see upon this question the Encyclopaedia Biblical under his name.) Whatever his origin there can be little doubt of his increasing assurance of independence and importance in the Divine presence. His freedom may be sanctioned or innate, but he himself has no doubt remaining of the security of his personal autonomy. He believes that he is a necessary accessory to God, and that his incalculable quality is an indispensable relief to the acquiescences of the Archangels. He never misses these reunions. If God is omnipresent by a calm necessity, Satan is everywhere by an infinite activity. They engage in unending metaphysical differences into which Satan has imported a tone of friendly badinage. They play chess together.

But the chess they play is not the little ingenious game that originated in India; it is on an altogether different scale. The Ruler of the Universe creates the board, the pieces and the rules; he makes all the moves; he may make as many moves as he likes whenever he likes; his antagonist however is permitted to introduce a slight in explicable inaccuracy into each move, which necessitates further moves in correction. The Creator determines and conceals the aim of the game, and it is never clear whether the purpose of the adversary is to defeat or assist him in his unfathomable project. Apparently the adversary cannot win, but also he cannot lose so long as he can keep the game going. But he is concerned, it would seem, in preventing the development of any reasoned scheme in the game.
The raving-madly genre.

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Why I hate the Official Secrets Act.

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Outstanding VERSUS STRONGLY MINDED
"On the homepage of the Church of Satan, beneath the central figure with devilish horns flanked by men in animal masks, is the catchline 'We're looking for a few outstanding individuals.' The homepage of the Royal Navy, meanwhile, asks if you've got the strength of mind to succeed. Horns and animal heads aside, the central messages are not dissimilar - they are on the lookout for a dedicated few. Which may explain why naval technician Chris Cranmer was attracted to both."

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Quote of the Day: "Dylan may be unparalleled as a quasi-literary phenomenon, but ''quasi-'' is no idle qualifier. "

Sunday, October 24, 2004

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The annoying thing about Woody Allen is that he can write fantastic prose. Just when a decade of shabby movies bred comfortable contempt for an intimidating idol, Woody Allen proves that he can write about complicated issues in a light, funny, intelligent and heartfelt way. His Bergmasn essay made use of quotes so expertly at the beginning that I put it down almost immediately. I've never been able to find it again and never read the end of it, in fact. His essay on George S. Kaufman produce in me the same kind of awe. His admiration for Kaufman is so simply put that it seems an easy thing to say. It is therefore a perfect act of homage:
Groucho Marx, who was not impressed by much in this world -- he told me he found it hard to keep awake at dinner at T. S. Eliot's and held a kind of reserved view of Perelman, whom I believe to be the single funniest human of my lifetime -- was in genuine awe of Kaufman. I think that was because in addition to Kaufman's comic talent, he had such a thoroughly rigorous command of stagecraft. Kaufman could work at home or late in hotel rooms under pressure and do the hard labor, the tedious, glamourless structuring and rewriting and merciless cutting that is crucial to making comedy breathe. Hart has written about Kaufman's ability to edit and pare to the bone, to throw out jokes should they dare to impede the plot -- to kill his children. Kaufman felt that while a drama could survive with a bit of slack, a comedy had to be airtight. The story is told of a playwright suffering with his opus in Philadelphia who asked Kaufman how he could improve it. Without seeing the failing play, Kaufman replied, ''Make it shorter.''
Did Kaufman have his flops and are the plays dated? To work in the theater is to strike out as often as not. A much-quoted line of his is ''Satire is what closes on Saturday night.'' Alas, too, comedy dates, and there is plenty dated about his plays, which were fabulous in their time, although a few still hold up quite well, when blessed with a good production. Given the state of the theater -- strangled by economics, mortally devastated by the maw of television and by the financial and artistic seductiveness of film -- it is hard to imagine a comedy-writing titan like George S. Kaufman coming along to dominate the Broadway season. On the other hand, there may be a figure equal or even greater just around the corner from Columbia University -- but don't go looking for him.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

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Just AS TROTSKY DOESN'T APPEAR IN STALIN'S GREATEST HITS
Robbie Williams on 'Freedom': Never heard of it, mate
Bono on 'A Celebration': I can't actually remember the tune.
Stipe on 'Shiny Happy People': I don't like it, and I don't ever want to hear it or see it again
Billy Joel on 'Just the Way You Are': I hate that song. My mind wanders whenever we do it. I start it: `Don't go changing... nah, nah, nah, nah... and I forget the words. So I look to the drummer to tell me the words, because he always sings along. And he goes: 'She got the house, the dog, the car.' I actually sang that one night. The audience were not happy. It's safer not to play it

Big hits stalk their creators like the monster stalked Dr. Frankenstein.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

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Notre-Dame STAINED GLASS WINDOWS INTO THE SOUL
My paper endorsed Hollinghurst to get the Booker and I'm glad he got it. But I'm worried about his rise to fame. Every photo of him suggests that he's a bug-eyed lunatic in a state of shock and about to destroy the room with his fire-gushing corneas. Here he is about to attack, here he is warning that if anyone touches his book his eyes will convert them into fiery dust, here he is sending subconcious messages to a photographer, here he's completely lost it... he's panicking... it's best to evacuate the city until he calms down. There's no doubt that the judges took one look at him and decided that it was best not to upset him and award the prize in such a way as to save the world from Hollinghurt's fiery psycho-wrath.

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Fur CRUSADE
Victorian ads from The Daily Telegraph:
"'PALMER'S PATENT LEG has attained a character unparalleled in the history of Anatomical Mechanism. It has been declared by competent judges to be the best artificial limb yet invented' (1855)
'Real Russian Ox Tongues, 21 shillings per dozen' (1862)
'TO MASTER CHEESEMONGERS - WANTED, by a steady Young Man, aged 18, a SITUATION in the above line. Twelve months good character in last situation' (1867)
'Engine driver wanted for steam plough. No letting out to hire' (1873)
'LIZZIE from CD - all has been arranged. All a hoax. Fear nothing; pray return. Mother dying. Baby ill. Fetch explanatory letters waiting at address named by you' (1882)
'CHRISTMAS OR WEDDING PRESENT - LUMINOUS PICTURES, visible at night or in the dark. Immense success in France' (1892)
'TOO THIN IN THE BUST - ladies desiring any improvement in this direction should send me stamp for free particulars of a simple, inexpensive, harmless self-treatment' (1897)
'LIVE FISH Best quality only. No cheap rubbish. 6lb, 2 shillings' (1902)
'ALCOHOL EXCESS AND DRUG HABITS cured at home, in three to seven weeks' (1904)
'LIVERPOOL VIRUS For the destruction of RATS AND MICE, may now be obtained READY PREPARED WITH THE BAIT' (1909)
'FUR CRUSADE against Horrors of Trapping and Skinning animals alive. Do please help - Major C Van Der Byl, Wappenham, Towcester' (1929)
'Business or Professional Women. A good appearance is your best introduction. Ugly nose-to-mouth lines and disagreeable frown lines create a bad impression. Have them smoothed away by the latest and wonderful treatment' (1934)."
Chris Ware and Alan Moore, the Victorians stole all your ideas!

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Team America's Kim Jong Il has apparently invaded Slate.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

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Speaking of American ignorance
here's what happened when well-meaning and condescending Guardian readers tried to relieve Ohio of it. Reading this, I can only conclude an old roommate of mine has moved from Brooklyn to Clark County:
Consider this: stay out of American electoral politics. Unless you would like a company of US Navy Seals - Republican to a man - to descend upon the offices of the Guardian, bag the lot of you, and transport you to Guantanamo Bay, where you can share quarters with some lonely Taliban shepherd boys.

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At LEAST IT'S CONSISTENT
Mahathir is one of the more odious men in the world, but at least he doesn't make the pretense made by so many people: that they don't hate America, just Bush. It's a fine distinction in its way.But it leads to all sort of elisions, and ignores that Bush represents 50% of America's voters and that he also effectively represents America's democratic process, in toto. See, for example, Arandhutai Roy labelling anti-Americanism as a simplistic label. Yet her own explanation of her views is Kerry-like in its vagueness. It makes so many distinctions and dissects meaning so minutely that you're left with apparently unrelated scraps. It's a struggle to make meaning out of them:
Anti-Americanism is in the process of being consecrated into an ideology. The term is usually used by the American establishment to discredit and, not falsely - but shall we say inaccurately - define its critics. Once someone is branded anti-American, the chances are that he or she will be judged before they're heard and the argument will be lost in the welter of bruised national pride.
What does the term mean? That you're anti-jazz? Or that you're opposed to free speech? That you don't delight in Toni Morrison or John Updike? That you have a quarrel with giant sequoias? Does it mean you don't admire the hundreds of thousands of American citizens who marched against nuclear weapons, or the thousands of war resisters who forced their government to withdraw from Vietnam? Does it mean that you hate all Americans? [...]
To call someone anti-American, indeed, to be anti-American, is not just racist, it's a failure of the imagination. An inability to see the world in terms other than those that the establishment has set out for you: If you don't love us, you hate us. If you're not good, you're evil. If you're not with us, you're with the terrorists.
[...]
After September 11 and the war against terror, the hidden hand and fist have had their cover blown - and we have a clear view now of America's other weapon - the free market - bearing down on the developing world, with a clenched, unsmiling smile. The Task That Never Ends is America's perfect war, the perfect vehicle for the endless expansion of American imperialism. In Urdu, the word for profit is fayda. Al-qaida means the word, the word of God, the law. So, in India, some of us call the War Against Terror, Al-qaida vs Al-fayda - The Word vs The Profit (no pun intended). For the moment it looks as though Al-fayda will carry the day. But then you never know.[...]
Close to one year after the war against terror was officially flagged off in the ruins of Afghanistan, in country after country freedoms are being curtailed in the name of protecting freedom, civil liberties are being suspended in the name of protecting democracy. All kinds of dissent is being defined as "terrorism". Donald Rumsfeld said that his mission in the war against terror was to persuade the world that Americans must be allowed to continue their way of life. When the maddened king stamps his foot, slaves tremble in their quarters. So, it's hard for me to say this, but the American way of life is simply not sustainable. Because it doesn't acknowledge that there is a world beyond America.
Fortunately, power has a shelf life. When the time comes, maybe this mighty empire will, like others before it, overreach itself and implode from within. It looks as though structural cracks have already appeared. As the war against terror casts its net wider and wider, America's corporate heart is hemorrhaging. A world run by a handful of greedy bankers and CEOs whom nobody elected can't possibly last.
Soviet-style communism failed, not because it was intrinsically evil but because it was flawed. It allowed too few people to usurp too much power: 21st-century market-capitalism, American-style, will fail for the same reasons.
That last paragraph is Roy's own last paragraph, and I find it hard to connect it to her first few paragraphs. Compare all this with Mahathir just letting rip
Malaysia’s former Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamed, said that the American people are "very ignorant," and will almost certainly re-elect another "liar" as their leader.
In an interview with Malaysia’s The Star newspaper published Tuesday, Mahathir also slammed U.S. President George W. Bush as well as his allies Tony Blair of Britain and John Howard of Australia.
Mahathir didn’t spare Bush's democratic rival, Senator John Kerry, saying that both politicians were "in total denial" about the basic purposes of terrorism.
He said that the terrorism has stemmed from the U.S. and Israeli injustices and aggressions against the Palestinians, adding that neither Bush nor Kerry want to mention the original problem of terrorism because that would "annoy the Jewish group (voters)."
"If you mention Palestine as the root cause (of terrorism), you will lose the election. So neither Kerry nor Bush will mention Palestine," he said.
"But surprisingly, the electorate appears to be willing to accept a person who told a blatant lie and to elect a liar as their president," he said, referring to Bush's claims about Saddam Hussein’s possession of weapons of mass destruction.
"The American people are, by and large, very ignorant and know nothing about the rest of the world. ... Yet they are the people who will decide who will be the most powerful man in the world," he said, noting that he believes that Bush will win the November 2 election.
"They (accepted) Blair, and I am sure they will accept Bush. They have already accepted Howard who told a blatant lie," He said.
But apparently Mahathir thinks that Kerry is the lesser of two evils.
In an open letter sent on October 15 to America's Muslim community, Mahathir called upon them to vote for Kerry, saying that Bush has been "the cause of the tragedies" across the Muslim world.
"Vote Bush out of office," Mahathir said. "It is truly an ibadah (act of devotional worship) that you perform."
By the way, I'm not comparing Roy's criticism of America with Mahathir's to say that she's on the same moral plain as him. I'm just suggesting that Mahathir's position is so much simpler, and the kind of thing that people around the world wish they could just come out and say, instead of paying ritual hommage to -- what is it again -- there's something good about America isn't there? Isn't there?

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Mark Helperin explains to MacLamity, in this New Yorker profile, what changed when media criticism became more trusted than the media itself:
""The dumbing-down, lowest-common-denominator dynamic that cable and Internet and tabloid culture have brought means that anything that is big and exclusive and legitimate is quickly turned into something trivial, tawdry, and dumbed-down. If we had the most consequential scoop of all times about wrongdoing in the Bush Administration, it would quickly turn into 'How's it polling? What are they saying about it on Drudge? What are they saying about it on 'Hannity & Colmes'? And it would be reduced to its cheapest, most ephemeral essence." He continued, "Just imagine Deep Throat during the current age. On cable TV every day there'd be guessing games on who it was. Bob Woodward would be staked out, and there would be profiles and journalistic stories about the journalism and was it ethical and how many sources did they have. You'd have a countdown clock on some cable channel of when Nixon's going to resign. You'd have Web sites with endless speculation about who Deep Throat was, and critiques of the language, and textual analysis of every Woodward and Bernstein story. All of that would serve to dilute and diminish not just the exclusivity of the scoop but the importance of the underlying story."
IT's not necessarily dumbing down, mind you. There are deeply dumb campaigning tricks which worked for Nixon for 30 years (like getting some woman called Eleanor Roosevelt to comdemn one of the more famous Elanor Roosevelt's best friends) which couldn't work now.

Monday, October 18, 2004

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And AM I EVER PROUD
The Washington Post wonderfully gets around the swear word that John stewart used as part of the best exchange in the whole program:
Carlson told Stewart: 'I do think you're more fun on your show. Just my opinion.'
'You know what's interesting though?' Stewart shot back. 'You're as big a [male pride] on your show as you are on any show.'
As Wonkette notes, however, for all the fun we have watching hacks like Begala and Carlson trying to defend their hackery, Jon Stewart was a little bit too sanctimonious -- in that strange McSweeney's way -- and made his points with too much ease. He answered any tough question with a question, which is the easiest way of evading a question as any 9-year-old knows. He also had it both ways: speaking for tough-minded, debate-hungry people when he was attacking Crossfire, and saying he was just a comedian who didn't give a shit when defending "The Daily Show." Of course, we want debate. Of course Crossfire is nothing like a real debate program. But what did Stewart have to say beyond that?

It doesn't really matter. He was funny. We all love him all the more for what he did. But we love him because he was pandering to us, just as a Republican panders to the Christian right when he or she yells in reply to any point "That's not the point, the point is that the President is finally giving this country the leadership it needs to reverse the flight from decency that has weighed on our collective soul since 1992."

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She's staring hard at the screen, the nice man is looking at her to see if she's understood what he's just been explaining for the past three minutes. There's a silence. It's impossible to tell if she's understood or not: she's spent so long half-understanding things that to avoid humiliation she keeps a dead-pan face and stops asking questions as soon as she feels that the next one will start to embarrass the person she's talking to. Beyond that, she just goes it alone and hopes everything works out fine. She'll press the buttons until the machine stops beating. Why does this Newsweek photo hint so strongly to me that there's ggoing to be a God-almighty fight over a mess of voting yetafuckinggain?

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The difference between hip-hop and rap as outlined by Maxi Jazz:When I embraced hip-hop in the 1980s, rappers were concerned with ghetto youths' obsession with gold rope chains. Now we've moved on to ice-encrusted Rolexes and necklaces so studded with rocks that it's no wonder rappers work out.
What you hear today is not hip-hop, it's rap music. Hip-hop is a cultural movement born to draw together disaffected youth and give us somewhere not only to belong, but where we can excel. Hip-hop is not something you do or hear, it's something you are. Rap music is just rap music.

Part of the reason young people don't march as the conscience of a nation anymore is that most hip-hop is now merely rap. Our political leaders and media moguls, with their skillful use of language, make sure that people don't know that before one can usefully help the weak, one must first tackle the greed that works to keep them weak. And rappers, with their love of bling, reinforce this ignorance.

The truth we are not told is this: while we continue to display our childish lack of self-esteem by adorning our bodies with things that others can't afford - in particular, diamonds - then African children, mothers and fathers will continue to be slaughtered. With our love of bling, we in the west heedlessly fuel the unimaginable misery of millions of Africans. Why does the Guardian let Maxi Jazz say what it won't let John McWhorter say?

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Inquiring MINDS
Will someone let Renato Martino know where the term "holy inquisition" comes from? And what damage it did to life and thought. And how culturally lobbies might be unpleasant, but far less unpleasant than Thomas "If-you-see-that-your-neighbors-are-wearing-clean-and-fancy-clothes-on-Saturdays,-they-are-Jews.-If-they-clean-their-houses-on-Fridays-and-light-candles-earlier-than-usual-on-that-night,-they-are-Jews.-If-they-eat-unleavened-bread-and-begin-their-meal-with-celery-and--lettuce-during-Holy-Week,-they-are-Jews.-If-they-say-prayers-facing-a-wall,-bowing-back-and-forth,--they-are-Jews" Torquemada's style of cultural lobbying:
A prominent Vatican cardinal on Monday assailed what he called attempts to silence the Roman Catholic Church on issues of gender and marriage, blaming «powerful cultural, economic and political lobbies.» Cardinal Renato Martino said «new holy inquisitions full of money and arrogance» were taking aim at church positions, particularly in Europe.
Martino, president of the Vatican's Justice and Peace Council and former Vatican representative at the United Nations in New York, declined to further identity such lobbies.
And next: Lukashenko complaining of Stalinist purges and rigged elections.

Friday, October 15, 2004

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Nixon ONLY WISHES
MacLamity got a D in art from Eton, and just can't understand what his teacher was doing giving him this pitiless grade when the teacher could have done all of MacLamity's work for him, done it really well, and given it an A. But MacLamity is underwhelmed, deeply underwhelmed, by the smoking-gun tape that supposedly proves Prince Harry discussing how his teacher is doing his AS-level art project for him.
SF: (tape inaudible). Sorry, it's just the way you would say it, then.

Student: (tape inaudible). (tape skips).

SF: Sorry?

Student: (tape inaudible). Well, it's just that (tape inaudible) goes here.

SF: Oh right, yeah. But you'd be up there anyway for the (tape inaudible).

Student: Yeah, yeah. (tape skips).

SF: When you wrote this (tape inaudible). (walking, sounds like up stairs).

Student: Smells of fresh paint.

SF: What?! I wasn't expecting that. Anyway, what I wanted to speak to you about is this. Last year, when I did (tape inaudible), wrote the (tape inaudible) exam, did you tell anyone about that? (tape skips). Did you mention it to anyone?

Student: (tape inaudible - muffled).

SF: Are you sure? (tape skips) what else was said? (tape inaudible) I mean that I wrote it (tape skips twice) and I understood that you would do some writing (tape skips).

Student: (tape inaudible) a tiny, tiny bit, I, I was, like, a sentence in it. (tape skips).

Student: (tape copied - "...I was, like, a sentence in it. (tape skips)).
This isn't Watergate. This is the new Tate sound sculpture ("No, no, no!" they shout, and "Think! Think! Think!" Pete and Repeat were sitting on a fence. Pete fell off, who was left?" "Repeat." "Pete and…" They give alarming instructions: "Shit in your hat. Show me your hat. Put your hat on your head," or they gush effusively: "Thank you, thank you, thank you."), surely!

Thursday, October 14, 2004

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Tough ON THE PARENTS
Why sending your kid to school is like sending kids to Iraq, because everyone's got an opinion about what you've done and wants to let you know what it is:
I explain that we sent our eldest away (aged 11) because we felt that it was the best thing for him. Generally, the other mother will examine my face throughout for obvious signs of insincerity.
"It's ghastly, actually," I say. "It's all right for him, but it's the family members left behind" - pause as I dab my eyes with a hanky - "who suffer, of course."
[...] The truth is we miss our son badly, but we are also convinced that we are doing the right thing. Although we can explain to interested parties why we are doing it, we cannot (as the phrase goes) apologise for sending him away.
So we know exactly how Mr Blair feels about public reaction to his war in Iraq, basically. We've discovered that a son's education is to other parents what foreign policy is to voters - a matter of passionate, shared concern. Everyone has an opinion and is happy to share it with you, especially if they feel you are in the wrong.
"Our news is that Ludo went to boarding school yesterday, which was a pretty shattering event emotionally, and the house feels so empty, with only two little bears' plates at breakfast and teatime . . . Have just had first email from him claiming to be having the time of his life and not missing me at all," I wrote to a friend in Washington DC, a mother of four, writer and soccer mom.
"How can you stand having him away?" she wrote back. "I feel hollow when one child goes on a sleepover, for heaven's sake."
I never realised that doing something all middle-class parents used to do as a matter of course (daddies would generally be on the telephone to Ludgrove and Harrow as soon as the cord was cut and he saw little Johnny's scrotal sac) would be so divisive.
One friend of mine, who has just sent her son away aged eight, has not yet dared tell two of her greatest friends, so fearful is she of their outrage.
I think I have worked it out. Where your children go to school is, for my generation, the biggest point of reference of all: a much greater signifier than where you live or what you do. People don't like it when you do things that confound their expectations of you, or do things that they have thought of doing themselves and decided against, or do things that risk your child having a better all-round education than theirs, at whatever cost.
"If I knew that the child was in a wholesome outdoorsy atmosphere, with cold porridge and warm fires, it might be tolerable," coninued my friend's email.
"But then I would get lugubrious about all the money I was spending to give them such a wonderful time and wish they would come home to go to a free local school so that I could afford to buy more pairs of pointy high-heeled shoes."
I know exactly what she means.

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Talent IS A DISEASE! MEDIOCRITY IS THE CURE! Part XVIII
Mozart had Tourette's.
In the programme he argues that Mozart, too, "self-medicated" by writing music.
"The self-medicating theory is that music is a replacement for the twitching. With me it was subconscious. It wasn't until I was about 25 that someone pointed out that I wasn't twitching when I was at the piano.
"I suspect Mozart didn't have physical jerks as much as me. But there is definite evidence of his grimacing and feet-tapping.
"We also know a lot about his inability to rein in impulses, the sudden boredom, his sense of mischief and his scatalogical obsession, which all point to Tourette's. He even had a morbid fear of the trumpet until he was nine. Seriously! He would lie down and scream if he heard one."
The filthy, excrement-obsessed letters Mozart wrote provide a useful starting point for McConnel.
"There's a very rare condition in Tourette's called coprographia - the need to write down filth. We Touretters have filthy minds!
"When you write a song, as Mozart did, called Lick Out My Arsehole, that in itself is not so shocking judged by the standards of his day. But what is very odd and Touretty about it is that he set it to the most gorgeous, sublime tune. It's Tourettishly inappropriate.
"My sense of humour is the same. I never know when to stop." McConnel - like Mozart - passes wind a lot, staging elaborate wind-breaking competitions with his daughter. "I love farting," he beams.

Monday, October 11, 2004

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Stooping BELOW IT ALL
Anne Rice does the undignified thing and has responded to negative criticism on Amazon.:

Seldom do I really answer those who criticize my work. In fact, the entire development of my career has been fueled by my ability to ignore denigrating and trivializing criticism as I realize my dreams and my goals. However there is something compelling about Amazon's willingness to publish just about anything, and the sheer outrageous stupidity of many things you've said here that actually touches my proletarian and Democratic soul. Also I use and enjoy Amazon and I do read the reviews of other people's books in many fields. In sum, I believe in what happens here. And so, I speak. First off, let me say that this is addressed only to some of you, who have posted outrageously negative comments here, and not to all. You are interrogating this text from the wrong perspective. Indeed, you aren't even reading it. You are projecting your own limitations on it. And you are giving a whole new meaning to the words "wide readership." And you have strained my Dickensean principles to the max. I'm justifiably proud of being read by intellectual giants and waitresses in trailer parks,in fact, I love it, but who in the world are you? Now to the book. Allow me to point out: nowhere in this text are you told that this is the last of the chronicles, nowhere are you promised curtain calls or a finale, nowhere are you told there will be a wrap-up of all the earlier material. The text tells you exactly what to expect. And it warns you specifically that if you did not enjoy Memnoch the Devil, you may not enjoy this book. This book is by and about a hero whom many of you have already rejected. And he tells you that you are likely to reject him again. And this book is most certainly written -- every word of it -- by me. If and when I can't write a book on my own, you'll know about it. And no, I have no intention of allowing any editor ever to distort, cut, or otherwise mutilate sentences that I have edited and re-edited, and organized and polished myself. I fought a great battle to achieve a status where I did not have to put up with editors making demands on me, and I will never relinquish that status. For me, novel writing is a virtuoso performance. It is not a collaborative art. Back to the novel itself: the character who tells the tale is my Lestat. I was with him more closely than I have ever been in this novel; his voice was as powerful for me as I've ever heard it. I experienced break through after break through as I walked with him, moved with him, saw through his eyes. What I ask of Lestat, Lestat unfailingly gives. For me, three hunting scenes, two which take place in hotels -- the lone woman waiting for the hit man, the slaughter at the pimp's party -- and the late night foray into the slums --stand with any similar scenes in all of the chronicles. They can be read aloud without a single hitch. Every word is in perfect place. The short chapter in which Lestat describes his love for Rowan Mayfair was for me a totally realized poem. There are other such scenes in this book. You don't get all this? Fine. But I experienced an intimacy with the character in those scenes that shattered all prior restraints, and when one is writing one does have to continuously and courageously fight a destructive tendency to inhibition and restraint. Getting really close to the subject matter is the achievement of only great art. Now, if it doesn't appeal to you, fine. You don't enjoy it? Read somebody else. But your stupid arrogant assumptions about me and what I am doing are slander. And you have used this site as if it were a public urinal to publish falsehood and lies. I'll never challenge your democratic freedom to do so, and yes, I'm answering you, but for what it's worth, be assured of the utter contempt I feel for you, especially those of you who post anonymously (and perhaps repeatedly?) and how glad I am that this book is the last one in a series that has invited your hateful and ugly responses. Now, to return to the narrative in question: Lestat's wanting to be a saint is a vision larded through and through with his characteristic vanity. It connects perfectly with his earlier ambitions to be an actor in Paris, a rock star in the modern age. If you can't see that, you aren't reading my work. In his conversation with the Pope he makes observations on the times which are in continuity with his observations on the late twentieth century in The Vampire Lestat, and in continuity with Marius' observations in that book and later in Queen of the Damned. The state of the world has always been an important theme in the chronicles. Lestat's comments matter. Every word he speaks is part of the achievement of this book. That Lestat renounced this saintly ambition within a matter of pages is plain enough for you to see. That he reverts to his old self is obvious, and that he intends to complete the tale of Blackwood Farm is also quite clear. There are many other themes and patterns in this work that I might mention -- the interplay between St.Juan Diago and Lestat, the invisible creature who doesn't "exist" in the eyes of the world is a case in point. There is also the theme of the snare of Blackwood Farm, the place where a human existence becomes so beguiling that Lestat relinquishes his power as if to a spell. The entire relationship between Lestat and Uncle Julien is carefully worked out. But I leave it to readers to discover how this complex and intricate novel establishes itself within a unique, if not unrivalled series of book. There are things to be said. And there is pleasure to be had. And readers will say wonderful things about Blood Canticle and they already are. There are readers out there and plenty of them who cherish the individuality of each of the chronicles which you so flippantly condemn. They can and do talk circles around you. And I am warmed by their response. Their letters, the papers they write in school, our face to face exchanges on the road -- these things sustain me when I read the utter trash that you post. But I feel I have said enough. If this reaches one reader who is curious about my work and shocked by the ugly reviews here, I've served my goals. And Yo, you dude, the slang police! Lestat talks like I do. He always has and he always will. You really wouldn't much like being around either one of us. And you don't have to be. If any of you want to say anything about all this by all means Email me at Anneobrienrice@mac.com. And if you want your money back for the book, send it to 1239 First Street, New Orleans, La, 70130. I'm not a coward about my real name or where I live. And yes, the Chronicles are no more! Thank God!
Awesome! Cash back on a crappy vampire novel with the author's signature on the check!

Thursday, October 07, 2004

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Speaking of The Piano Teacher and "sado masso" how is it possible for one country to have two kinky cannibal shockers in as many years?

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The BBC struggles to say something that Reuters and the AP hasn't said about Jelinek: "One of the most famous women writing in German she was most controversially quoted in 1980 as saying "Austria is a criminal nation", referring to her country's participation in the crimes of the Third Reich." Good start! Now what? "Her 1990 novel Wonderful, Wonderful Times addressed that subject." And what did the front cover of the book say?

The BBC also rocked Google:
An online travel guide, aboutAustria.org, describes Jelinek as a "proverbial Beelzebub abused for her critical views, especially in Austria".


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Nobels aside, the Piano Teacher was a great movie, although I attributed a lot of that to Michael Haneke who made the very threatening, if very flawed, Funny Games.

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Elfriede Jelinek's home page has a clay bambi on it. Here's an extract from Bambiland:
It breaks through, breaking through, the sun, first messenger of defeat, to the lord what's his name again, everybody knows what his name is, the army breaks through the city, mighty in mass the army, but not mighty enough, forcing its way, the army, through people hungering and thirsting through the menacing city full of people on its way, a force of more than moderate size, far too big, its sacrilege is matched in suffering, the city, resting familiarly on the ground, lying there in the desert, its inhabitants long since baked to an army of clay. How, after this reverse, shall we and Babylon now take action for the best? Whatever you say, all they do is growl water water water, food, food. My son, my son, my two sons, my three sons, my four sons. All gone. All gone. At best both together: water and food. Parcels with food, come on, off the vehicle, a little bit faster please, or else the city dwellers, no longer bedewed by water, will break the skull of the chosen ones of the lord and thus a whole world of feelings which only we only we in the west know and a wave of hatred which only they know. But we are also thirsty, yes sir, but at least we don't hate, yes sir, though we do have feelings about this, too. But at least we don't utter them. We are not totally without feelings, and where do they lead, the feelings? Where do they come from, where do they go? Where do they lead us? To the liberation of the people they lead us. So why then do they make such a fuss? Don't they want to be free? To be free under the condition of being understood? What? Either what is said is too much or too little. The claim to expose oneself completely, with each word that is spoken, is naïve. So let's not say anything. Better like this.

We always want to be understood benevolently, or nobody would say anything into the many cameras and microphones. We hide from what is foreign to us. We only say about ourselves what we want others to think about us, we don't say what we think. What? What? They don't want to be understood? So why do we bother? It's all the same to us. We do what we want anyway. No, we can't always do what we want. But we don't make a fuss about it. We are genuine. We take to robbery when we want something. It robs us of our sense when we don't get it. So where is all the oil now, unused? Burning. Burning. Explosives round the wells where the oil builds up and burns uselessly. Hard to imagine and difficult to predict. Whoever managed to rescue themselves from drowning in the sea, at least them we would kill. You can set our house on fire, you can also set our icons on fire, but not our oil and not our television set, this we keep, our altar, this can't disappear without trace, it is the trace! It is our tracer ammunition so that we can see in the dark. So that we can also see in the dark how lightning hits the flow of the hostile army. And this is, of course, our depleted uranium ammunition, I was looking for it earlier, because we definitely need it. Look, I will explain in simple words why: a missile draws the energy it contains from velocity and mass. It can't eat a Mars bar, right. It can't eat a muesli bar or that Kinder Surprise chocolate to help it work, rest and play to gain energy that it does not have, the missile. It can't and needn't eat, how lucky. In this one point where its force of impact first originates and ours unfortunately ends. The guns of the combat tanks only have a small diameter, not more than 12 cm, so how can this make a decent impact force? Our problem is that we need to develop a high impact on a little space, and uranium has a high density, that's its bad luck. That's also our bad luck because it might also make us sick. Yet it is rather our good luck than our bad luck when we look at it from the point of view of war. Charging ungainly ships prow to prow, that doesn't do the trick any more. But the uranium really hits the spot. As it hits us what this gentleman has just told us. There is a constant flow of supplies, but he doesn't have to run himself, this guy. But I can't get this out of my head: the feelings, are they now really all dead, really all of them? Because you had to witness such horrible things and so much suffering or what or why? All of them? So you did have some, and the others don't have any at all? That can't be! No, I can't believe that, they are still alive, no, they aren't after all. They are dead, no doubt about that. Perhaps you know none of these feelings personally. You who believe in God. But this is not enough for you. You want to set the fatherland free. But they can't because we alone resist the seducer who would only hold us up, and we query religion and we query the stones and we query the sand and we query the water, only we know God and have recognised that we don't want him, we seducers of nobody, we seducers of the image alone. When we get home, we immediately switch on the image. It must work. And it does work. Immediately. They never disappear without trace, the images of our deity that we can see, that only we can see there on the glowing screen. Right, so we strip this people of their faith, and we give them at last our icons for it, and finished. Then all will be well. Then this people will be totally finished, this people who has no notion of the primacy of the individual, for a people without any individuals, this doesn't exist. But God they know. And this is the main thing. They know nobody, they love nobody, but God they know. They don't know feelings but a God they know, so they claim. So they say. And they know that this God is theirs. They will get to know us now. Let's bet that we will soon be their gods? No? Well, then not. He who doesn't want one has already got one. It breaks through, breaking through, the ruler's army, menacing each city, here come all the names that we know or don't know, never mind, Arabia or whatever it's called bursts with names, some of them known to everybody, no one knows nobody, even he who does not know a person knows at least somebody who knows a person, for Babylon spits out a colourful mixture and now does not take it back. And all those, the lords in command, the name bearers they are heavily burdened with their golden vehicles, I mean the cars really carry them and not the other way round, they only carry the petrol behind our cars where we sometimes get killed. Thanks nevertheless, we take it gladly gladly, the golden liquid, watering with it such flowers of manhood, that has marched away to the Babylonian lands. What was I going to say. Yes. All those who threatened their neighbours find pride more alluring than the fact that everybody is equal. That's a fact. Really. This is why we now find them, wherever they are, where the king's dread word is spoken. Perhaps somebody will flee from them, but many more will come. Those of the British people and of the American people that went marching, for example. It is them, from houses rich and golden. But of course they want more. They always want more. The rich get richer. The clever get cleverer. Not everybody who wants something will get it. This one gets something, not from a coddled people, that's why he gets something. He gets something. Do you know him from before? Have you heard the name Halliburton and the name of Cheney, the holy lord, offspring of I don't know what or who, but certainly of a mother, and since then he has wrestled with the numerous soft feelings. Dick Cheney. But his feelings won't win. Halliburton will win, the company, they can build cages in Cuba, well, even I could build a cage if I had to, but it would only be strong enough for rabbits, if anything, they also built Corpus Christi in Texass, they managed that. And it earned its name. He will rebuild everything, the lord of the energy industry, Mr. Chairman of the Board, lord of the fiddled books , lord of jobs for the boys. But such boys are only found in Arabia. You can bet on it that this company will win irrespective of whoever else wins. Hang on, and what about the British with all these brave guys who so diligently butchered foreign flesh, and of course also the other way round, because nobody wants to owe the other a favour, but sometimes it has to be. They have dragged themselves to the foreign land, illusion of the avenger incarnate, and now several of them are six feet under, in the sand, and now they should get nothing? Well then. I proclaim it to you. They must get their contracts, and not too few. At the moment they haven't got any. But they are still negotiating. Flawless in beauty and in gait, sisters of one race, such that the building companies will come running. One after the other, and which comes first, all this is strictly laid down. I proclaim it to you. As the fatherland they had – won in a draw – no, not in a draw, but through common law, connections, lobbies, family ties, tradition, whatever, anyway, they got the best of the contracts. The list of contracts bends like a willow but none that weeps. Boys, the early bird catches the worm! Bush and Blair, they argue with each other in English in the summer residence Camp David, the little one with a sling shot, you know, and Goliath, Leviathan, praying for deliverance from evil and making sacrifice, there's no getting away from it, what did I want to say, never mind, the British companies have so far not had their share, but Blair wants his share, that goes without saying. That's clear. When he heard about Halliburton, he raged, then Bush soothed him and yoked them to his chariot, the lads, and fastened harness on their necks, but his own companies are like a number, with lots of zeros at the end, well, not exactly a yoke, and only for his boys, and they, proud of their trappings, were obedient to the rein to allow the contracts to run smoothly. They keep their mouths shut. And we ours. If they keep their mouths shut, then so can we. But Cheney doesn't keep his shut. And he doesn't have to. He's got something to say. He has a say. He's speaking again. But he doesn't have to, as long as he's closer to the beginning of making money than to the end of it. How is the war doing? It's still closer to the beginning than to the end. Birds of a feather flock together. Dick Cheney. Yes. He and his lot will reconstruct it all. With a sum of 100 billion dollaros, day after day counting the money, while time is stretching.

Oh dear, I can see something horrible, and it hits parents and women equally, it hits children and old people equally, what hits them is penance. Thank God it is the only one, the only penance that exists at all will be inflicted, of all people, on the tourist industry, and they are really the last ones to be blamed.
And so on and so forth. Well, it's longer than Pinter's Iraq poem. You can say that about it. Definitely longer. And that was just an extract.

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It WAS THE SECOND NOBEL OPTION!
Will any one in the English-speaking world dare pretend that they'd heard of Elfriede Jelinek 5 minutes before now. MacLamity's now on the look-out for the most preposterous claims to be familiar with her (for all I know, excellent) work and the reporters who manage to locate the Austrian literature professors the quickest.

The Nobel citation is classic: she apparently is all about a "musical flow of voices and counter-voices in novels and plays that with extraordinary linguistic zeal reveal the absurdity of society's cliches and their subjugating power."

The shorter and more lucid the Nobel citation, the better the writer, is a fair rule of thumb.

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The new Philip Roth is something to declare in Germany, and banned at the border. The U.S. edition anyway. The edition with the "small, but still startling" swastika on the front.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

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Fact CHECK
Slate's furious debunking of Medieval Times's representation of the Middle Ages is atrociously ignorant. Particularly here:
Myth No. 7: Medieval people ate food they couldn't possibly have eaten.
A tomato might seem medieval when used as the foundation for the Excalibur's 'dragon's blood soup' (not to be confused with Medieval Times' 'dragon tail soup'), but medieval people simply could not have eaten food that wasn't present in their world. Tomatoes didn't make it to Europe until Spanish conquistadors brought them back from South America in the 1500s. The same goes for potatoes (dragon's eggs). Similarly, the Excalibur's roast Cornish game hen is a recent chicken breed that was popularized by a 1960s poultry mogul.
Slate, dude, we know. That's why it's called dragon tail or dragon egg soup. Obviously there were no tomatoes or potatoes in Europe at the time. But there were dragons. They were so common and so big that they were ideal for soup. No Dragons exist today. But these are fairly good representations of what soup made from Dragons would have looked like at the time.

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One submarine for sale, one very careful owner, starts first time, the Royal Navy sold that lemon to Canada like a pro.

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Great MUSICAL LYRICS: "It's too late for salvation but I don't care
It's hell and damnation, too late for prayer."
From Brighton Rock the musical

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Ma NOBEL, I GOT THE ILL COMMUNICATION
I like the Nobel Prize for literature because no one ever seems to guess who will get it or, even better, one time out of three, no one seems able to say anything about who won. No one in the English-speaking press comically had much to say about the prizes that went to Ketersz, Saramango or Fo. Fo they could do, because he was a communist, so they could talk about that. I imagine the book critics as panicked freshmen at High School, realizing the book report is due today, as opposed to never due, and is going to be on that Hungarian poet. I imagine them saying "O fuck, why couldn't Margaret Atwood have won on the day I have to go back home and let the plumber in to mend the guest bathroom."

The other thing I like is how I haven't heard of so many of the early winners:
BJØRNSTJERNE MARTINUS BJØRNSON: tribute to his noble, magnificent and versatile poetry, which has always been distinguished by both the freshness of its inspiration and the rare purity of its spirit.
COUNT MAURICE (MOORIS) POLIDORE MARIE BERNHARD MAETERLINCK: in appreciation of his manysided literary activities, and especially of his dramatic works, which are distinguished by a wealth of imagination and by a poetic fancy, which reveals, sometimes in the guise of a fairy tale, a deep inspiration, while in a mysterious way they appeal to the readers' own feelings and stimulate their imaginations.
CARL FRIEDRICH GEORG SPITTELER in special appreciation of his epic, Olympian Spring.
WLADYSLAW STANISLAW REYMONT (pen-name of REYMENT ), for his great national epic, The Peasants.

and my personal favorites:
HALLDÓR KILJAN LAXNESS for his vivid epic power which has renewed the great narrative art of Iceland.
KNUT PEDERSEN HAMSUN for his monumental work, Growth of the Soil.
It's disappointing when names like Pirandello and Sinclair Lewis start to crop up (crop up like the growth of the soil!.)

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All WERE JEWS
The first chapter to the new Philip Roth here.

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Basobol
Is it possible to write a more condescending article about Japan than this? Mr Whiting's not really racist. He's not a cultural supremacist. It's just that he cannot perceive a Japan except where Japan has intersected with America. I don't know what to quote. Damn you fair use! I wish I could quote it all.
The question everyone here has, though, is how much attention the Americans are paying.

The fixation can be seen everywhere. The nightly news often includes clips of Americans sports anchors singing the praises of the man known in both countries simply as Ichiro. The news programs are also fond of man-in-the street interviews in which Ichiro is smothered in praise by American passers-by. Newspapers regularly carry articles about American sportswriters and columnists who praise Japan's native son.
[...]
Midori Masujima, a prominent sportswriter, even sees Ichiro as a phenomenon transcending sport, writing, "Today's athletes, standing shoulder to shoulder with their overseas peers, can inspire great hopes in the Japanese people."
SHOCKER: A SPORTSWRITER SAYING THAT AN ATHLETE TRANSCENDS HIS SPORT! Good God,and here's me thinking that 'Ali' was just a movie about boxing and that Simon & Garfunkle turned their lonely eyes to Joe DiMaggio [how doyou spell Joltin' Joe' sname, and with the capitals where????] because they just really like baseball. It's like when white-middle-class-golfin'-every-day-going-on-golf-holidays-to-Scotland-reading-golf-magazines Americans made fun of the Japanese, because they were obsessed with golf (search for golf)?

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Physics SCHMYSICS: MACLAMITY CAN DO THAT
1+1=2 holds its own against e=mc2. Richard Harrison: "I know that other equations have done more, express greater power and have a broader understanding of the universe. But there's something to be said for the beauty of the simplest thing of their kind. I remember [my son] holding up the index finger of each hand as he learned the expression, and the moment of wonder when he saw that the two fingers, separated by his whole body, could be joined in a single concept in his mind." (Mind you, selecting that kind of thing is an old trick to seem deep. Like in some design exhibit I saw where someone nominated a sheet of paper as his favorite work of design, or a journalism seminar where someone brought in a baseball as an example of deliberately affective art and on and on like that... my favorite book: the telephone book... my favorite language: morse code... my favorite song: the dial tone... it never fails.)

Sunday, October 03, 2004

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The BATTLE OF HASTINGS
The Xenophobe nearly always ends up looking worse than the foreigners he or she detests: a sadness which is really driven home by this excellent account of some polite, intelligent German children, from the wonderfully named Charles Dickens school, who got a nasty reminder that the Dickensian universe was based on the English state:
When the pupils of the Charles Dickens primary, in Berlin, left for a trip to England, it was with the ideals of Germany's Europa schools, where there are lessons in English and a love of British culture is promoted.
The Germans, 10 and 11 years old, brought boxes of chocolates and books as presents for their host families in St Leonards, Hastings, East Sussex. The British, the German children claim, returned the courtesy with cold baked beans and lessons in English vocabulary consisting largely of a word beginning with F.
One German girl claimed that her English hosts made her sleep every night on a sun lounger. The alleged insults ranged from "bloody foreigner" to "your mother was f***ing good".
[...["It wouldn't happen to English families in Germany," said Dr Ulrich Sacker. "My explanation for this would be British ignorance. They have no information about contemporary Germany, while at the same time holding a very negative picture based on the experience of the war and the Holocaust."
The English families angrily refused to answer questions about the allegations, insisting that - in the words of one mother - they "never done nothing".
[..]Lisa Schwetlick, 11, claimed that at the home of her host family she shared a small room with two classmates. One had a proper bed, but Lisa says she spent every night on a folding sun lounger and the other girl slept on top of a cupboard.
"There was hardly enough to eat," claimed Lisa. "We were given baked beans and sometimes potatoes. When we got back from a trip to London, we were given only crisps. The family wasn't interested in talking to us. They spent most of the time repairing three big motorbikes they had outside. I never want to go back again."
[...]"I wouldn't treat them any differently from my own children. They get packed lunches and cooked meals."
Frederick Johannson, 11, who stayed with another family, claimed: "We were given mostly cold baked beans. Their 16-year-old son told me 'Your mother was f***ing good.' "He took us for a walk for about three hours and then ran off. He told us: 'See if you can find your way back'."
When The Telegraph visited the woman who organised the exchange families at her house near Hastings, she said: "I have nothing to say. I suggest you contact the company." A grey-haired man with her added: "Can't you listen to a f***ing answer? P*** off. We will be seeing a solicitor in the morning. You just f*** off."