The MacLamity

The News That Stays News, Reported Live

Monday, November 29, 2004


Quote OF THE DAY: "I've never done any dogs. Of course dogs don't seem to lend themselves to verse quite so well, collectively, as cats." - T.S. Eliot

Sunday, November 28, 2004


The British foreign minister's angry denial that he's a Trot and is hot to "spot a Trot at 50 yards" does for the British politics what Chuck Taylors do for The Strokes. Jack Straw has the best kind of retro: sincere and ironic at the same time. I regret that most of my earnest college arguments used nouns like "paradigm," "race," "gender," "epistemology," "hegemony," "sub-hegemon," and "neo-liberalism." I wish I'd have been able to use the kind of terms that Orwell describes as being used the Spanish civil war:
Broadly speaking, Communist propaganda depends upon terrifying people with the (quite real) horrors of Fascism. It also involves pretending--not in so many words, but by implication--that Fascism has nothing to do
with capitalism. Fascism is just a kind of meaningless wickedness, an aberration, 'mass sadism', the sort of thing that would happen if you suddenly let loose an asylumful of homicidal maniacs. Present Fascism in this form, and you can mobilize public opinion against it, at any rate for a while, without provoking any revolutionary movement. You can oppose Fascism by bourgeois 'democracy, meaning capitalism. But meanwhile you have got to get rid of the troublesome person who points out that Fascism and bourgeois 'democracy' are Tweedledum and Tweedledee. You do it at the beginning by calling him an impracticable visionary. You tell him that he is confusing the issue, that he is splitting the anti-Fascist forces, that this is not the moment for revolutionary phrase-mongering, that for the moment we have got to fight against Fascism without inquiring too closely what we are fighting for. Later, if he still refuses to shut up, you change your tune and call him a traitor. More exactly, you call him a Trotskyist.

And what is a Trotskyist? This terrible word--in Spain at this moment you can be thrown into jail and kept there indefinitely, without trial, on the mere rumour that you are a Trotskyist--is only beginning to be bandied to and fro in England. We shall be hearing more of it later. The word 'Trotskyist' (or 'Trotsky-Fascist') is generally used to mean a disguised Fascist who poses as an ultra-revolutionary in order to split the left-wing forces. But it derives its peculiar power from the fact that it means three separate things. It can mean one who, like Trotsky,
wished for world revolution; or a member of the actual organization of which Trotsky is head (the only legitimate use of the word); or the disguised Fascist already mentioned. The three meanings can be telescoped one into the other at will. Meaning No. I may or may not carry with it meaning No. 2, and meaning No. 2 almost invariably carries with it meaning No. 3. Thus: 'XY has been heard to speak favourably of world revolution; therefore he is a Trotskyist; therefore he is a Fascist.' In
Spain, to some extent even in England, ANYONE professing revolutionary Socialism (i.e. professing the things the Communist Party professed until a few years ago) is under suspicion of being a Trotskyist in the pay of Franco or Hitler.

The accusation is a very subtle one, because in any given case, unless one happened to know the contrary, it might be true. A Fascist spy probably WOULD disguise himself as a revolutionary. In Spain, everyone whose opinions are to the Left of those of the Communist Party is sooner or later discovered to be a Trotskyist or, at least, a traitor. At the beginning of the war the POUM, an opposition Communist party roughly corresponding to the English ILP., was an accepted party and supplied a minister to the Catalan Government, later it was expelled from the Government; then it was denounced as Trotskyist; then it was suppressed, every member that the police could lay their hands on being flung into jail.

Until a few months ago the Anarcho-Syndicalists were described as 'working loyally' beside the Communists. Then the Anarcho-Syndicalists were levered out of the Government; then it appeared that they were not working so loyally; now they are in the process of becoming traitors. After that will come the turn of the left-wing Socialists. Caballero, the left-wing Socialist ex-premier, until May 1937 the idol of the Communist press, is already in outer darkness, a Trotskyist and 'enemy of the people'. And so the game continues. The logical end is a régime in which
every opposition party and newspaper is suppressed and every dissentient of any importance is in jail. Of course, such a régime will be Fascism. It will not be the same as the fascism Franco would impose, it will even be better than Franco's fascism to the extent of being worth fighting for, but it will be Fascism. Only, being operated by Communists and Liberals, it will be called something different.
In one way at least, we know the culture war of the 90s has run out of steam. The debate used to be about who were Men and Whites and Racists and Rapists. No one cares about them much any more. Neoconservative is the defining adjective of our day, the way Trotskyite was from 1930-70. For most people who read newpapers around the world and like to argue about politics over beer, it's not necessary to know what a neoconservative thinks and to argue that they're wrong. It's necessary only to know who they are and then to exterminate them.

Other political adjectives that seemed so strong five years ago have lost their power, and no one wants to claim them as their own. The Bush spent a considerable amount of time in the last election going through Kerry's policies for no other reason than to attach to Kerry the adjective "liberal." But it never stuck. Kerry refused to be defined by the term, just as he refused definition in so many other respects. Even the Christian right doesn't want to belong to the Christian right.

To see this taking place in real time, watch Edward Herman getting into a fight a few months after Sept. 11 with Christopher Hitchens (whose "Islamo-fascist" almost became a defining term; as far as I can tell Islamist won out) and trying to beat Hitchens not by arguing with him, but by classifying him as the enemy. The problem is that Herman didn't, three years ago, know what the names were.
Christopher Hitchens is "complacent" at my suggestion that he has moved to the "vital center, maybe further to the right, with termination point still to be determined" ["Minority Report," Dec. 17, 2001]. Actually, I understated the case. He now brags that back in 1979 he didn't vote for Labour against Margaret Thatcher, whose "intellectual and moral courage" and "revolutionary" policies he admires (Reason, Nov. 2001). He also supported her war against the Argentine fascists. Hitchens likes wars, against fascists, and it seems that anybody the United States or NATO-bloc powers take on are fascists.
So Hitchens has actually sunk below the class we may call "liberals," using the word in its best and traditional sense. As L.T. Hobhouse pointed out in his 1911 classic, Liberalism, "It is of the essence of liberalism, to oppose the use of force, the basis of all tyranny." He also spoke of the necessity of withstanding "the tyranny of armaments." Hitchens is enthused about the use of force--one of his accolades to Bush's war is titled "Ha ha ha to the pacifists" (The Guardian, Nov. 14, 2001), and in another he argued that the "danger" was that Bush was not acting with sufficient violence (The Guardian, Sept. 26, 2001). And Hitchens hasn't shown the slightest concern over the fact that his war is encouraging militarization and is feeding back on civil liberties and domestic programs at home.

[...Herman points out that the bombing of Afghanistan is killing people and Hitchens shouldn't be enjoying it...]

But Hitchens knows better, just as he knows that the kind and gentle Bush Administration is "pedantically" avoiding civilian casualties. Hitchens also knew back at the time of the Kosovo war that NATO--and his much beloved leader Bill Clinton--were driven to war by humane considerations, warring only "when the sheer exorbitance of the crimes in Kosovo became impossible to ignore" (The Nation, June 14, 1999).

In a November 27 talk at the University of Chicago, Hitchens explained that "Bush's war is our war," meaning the left's war. At this point in his political journey, we may have a long wait to find an imperialist war that Christopher Hitchens will not find to be a left's and just war.

Thursday, November 25, 2004



Wednesday, November 24, 2004


"The novel and the film have much more in common than either of them does with the stage play, and the main reason for that is the close-up."


Finally, a writer who won't be gussying up their memoirs to look like fiction: Computers!

Tuesday, November 23, 2004


I'm pumped that St. Etienne's "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" and the Nouvelle Vague version of "I Just Can't Get Enough" made it onto the Telegraphs top 50 covers (and here was me thinking I was the only one obsessed with this bossa nova mangling of great 80s tunes; the other stand-out tracks on the album are "Making Plans for Nigel," "Friday Night, Saturday Morning" and "Love Will Tear Us Apart." By combining whimsy with substance in equal proportions Nouvelle Vague is the true successor to Pink Martini's first album, Hang On Little Tomato is merely a great pretender). I only wish that Mark Eitzel's version of "No Easy Way Down" and Red house Painters' heart-wrenching version of Kiss's "Shock Me" had made it onto the list. RHP make this song so sad that I can't even read these comically heavy-metal macho words without feeling forlorn, even the part about leather fills me with tristesse:
Your lightnin’s all I need
My satisfaction grows
You make me feel at ease
You even make me glow
Don’t cut the power on me
I’m feelin’ low, so get me high

Shock me, make me feel better
Shock me, put on your black leather
Shock me, we can come together

And baby, if you do what you’ve been told
My insulation’s gone, girl you make me overload
In the RHP version "We can come together" implies that the possibility of meeting makes it all the more unbearable that they haven't, as opposed to the Kiss sense of, well, the fantasticness of coming at the same time. It takes a special kind of genius to deliver double entendres so that the sexual meaning is the polite disguise and the non-sexual meaning is the one that's meant.


Arafat's nephew fires the starting gun: ""no poisons known to doctors were found...I cannot assure you that Arafat was not poisoned...This possibility could not be excluded... We are not excluding that but we are not asserting that, because asserting that requires proof and we do not have the proof that suggests there was poison." I think the key phrase there eas "known to doctors."

Sunday, November 21, 2004


What was that I was saying about Manx being about as relevant as Klingon? "A decade later, the Wikipedia project is flourishing. As of November 2004, according to the project's own counts, nearly 30,000 contributors had written about 1.1 million articles in 109 different languages, though some of these language versions of Wikipedia remained quite small. The Manx Gaelic version, for example, had only 3 articles, the Guarani 10, and the Klingon (yes, from the Star Trek series) 48. The largest, the English language version, contained over 382,000 pages that were thought 'probably' to be encyclopedic articles. (The 'probably' tells as much about the limits of Wikipedia's oversight as any single word possibly could.)"


Am I wrong to like John Ashbery partly because he always looks so good in photos. All the poets here look so boringly professional. Harold Bloom, the non-poet in the photo, has the good sense to do something interesting, like put on a hat. Ashbery outclasses them all. If you study his face for long enough, you'll notice he's not looking at the camera. He's looking at you. And by you, I mean your entire being. And he's terrified by what he sees.


Frieda Hughes confronts the Sylvia Plath death cult:
After my mother's suicide and the publication of Ariel, many cruel things were written about my father that bore no resemblance to the man who quietly and lovingly (if a little strictly and being sometimes fallible) brought me up - later with the help of my stepmother. All the time, he kept alive the memory of the mother who had left me, so I felt as if she were watching over me, a constant presence in my life.

It appeared to me that my father's editing of Ariel was seen to "interfere" with the sanctity of my mother's suicide, as if, like some deity, everything associated with her must be enshrined and preserved as miraculous. For me, as her daughter, everything associated with her was miraculous, but that was because my father made it appear so, even playing me a record of my mother reading her poetry so I could hear her voice again. It was many years before I discovered my mother had a ferocious temper and a jealous streak, in contrast to my father's more temperate and optimistic nature, and that she had on two occasions destroyed my father's work, once by ripping it up and once by burning it. I'd been aghast that my perfect image of her, attached to my last memories, was so unbalanced. But my mother, inasmuch as she was an exceptional poet, was also a human being and I found comfort in restoring the balance; it made sense of her for me. The outbursts were the exception, not the rule. Life at home was generally quiet, and my parents' relationship was hardworking and companionable. However, as her daughter, I needed to know the truth of my mother 's nature - as I did my father's - since it was to help me understand my own.

But if I had ever been in doubt that my mother's suicide, rather than her life, was really the reason for her elevation to the feminist icon she became, or whether Ariel's notoriety came from being the manuscript on her desk when she died , rather than simply being an extraordinary manuscript, my doubts were dispelled when my mother was accorded a blue plaque in 2000, to be placed on her home in London. Blue plaques are issued by English Heritage to celebrate the contribution of a person's work to the lives of others - and to celebrate their life in the place where they did the living. It was initially proposed that the plaque should be placed on the wall of the property in Fitzroy Road where my mother committed suicide, and I was asked if I would unveil it once it was in place. English Heritage had been led to believe that my mother had done all her best work at that address, when in fact she'd been there for only eight weeks, written 13 poems, nursed two sick children, been ill herself, furnished and decorated the flat, and killed herself.

So instead,the plaque was put on the wall of 3 Chalcot Square, where my mother and father had their first London home, where they had lived for 21 months, where my mother wrote The Bell Jar, published The Colossus, and gave birth to me. This was a place where she had truly lived and where she'd been happy and productive - with my father. But there was outrage in the national press in England at this - I was even accosted in the street on the day of the unveiling by a man who insisted the plaque was in the wrong place. "The plaque should be on Fitzroy Road!" he cried, and the newspapers echoed him. I asked one of the journalists why. "Because," they replied, "that was where your mother wrote all her best work." I explained she'd only been there eight weeks. "Well, then," they said, "... it's where she was a single mother." I told them I was unaware that English Heritage gave out blue plaques for single motherhood. Finally they confessed. "It's because that's where she died."

"We already have a gravestone," I replied. "We don't need another."

I did not want my mother's death to be commemorated as if it had won an award.
The first time I realized that I cared about poetry (having spent a few years trying to get into it as something that might be good to know, as if I was taking up poetry) is when someone at a party in Brooklyn glibly referred to Ted Hughes in terms that you could apply to Hitler. In the commonest Plath Jungian ur-narrative Hughes is Darth Vader, who creates Plath-the-poet only so that he can turn her to the dark side and use her to extend the empire of male hegemony. Plath kills herself rather than turn. This way, Plath can be your favorite poet even if you don't read poetry or even like it. Similarly Hughes's poetry can and should be demonized, along with him, whatever its merits as poetry.

Question: where does Frieda fit in? She's on her mother's side and her father's side! Did Hughes brainwash her into believeing that he was not the personification of evil using the underhand tactic of kind and attentive parenting?

Thursday, November 18, 2004


MacLamity's getting sicker and sicker of globalization-is-killing-American-movies articles, like Lynn Hirschberg's in The Times. He's about to throw up.

He threw up.

That's better.

Apparently, MacLamity keeps reading, because studios need to sell movies to the dumb Japs and idiot Europeans to make money, dialogue has disappeared, special effects are everywhere, and action is everything. In all these articles it's noted that movies like Troy didn't do well in the U.S., but that it did in Europe! This is obviously horrible. They're inflicting their movies on us, and the studios are helping them. Only a European could like Ronin. Question: Who wants to see a shoot-out near a Coliseum? Answer: Not a sophisticated American who likes dialogue! Which is to say: A dumb European who is dazzled by anything European and who don't like words.

I remember when people used to write articles about Woody Allen that saod that if it wasn't for the Italian and French no American would dare invest in his movies. What happened to those articles? Were they killed? Is it their fault that they contradict the idea that foreigners can't stand dialogue and can only tolerate big-budget movies from Holywood?

MacLamity thought that the problem with movies has always been that 95% of them were big-budget idiotic special-effect-fests with no dialogue. Why are foreigners suddenly responsible for this? I thought that was the problem in the 80s, when big opening weekends meant that you needed Rambos and Terminators and Stallones to get them. No sophisticated dialogue, all action! Damn you 80s! But where were the foreigners?

I thought that was the problem in the 60s when the ossification of the studio system meant that 70-year-olds were trying to sell movies to 25-year-olds. The old guys' decayed minds could remember the formula, but couldn't remember what made it exciting. They churned out sad-sack musicals like Around the World in 80 Days (which had Cantinflas, as Hirschberg would put it, giving "the growing Latin market a chance to cheer".. is Hirschberg worldly enough to spot the difference between Banderas and Gael by the way? or are they both Latins?**), Will!, Half a Sixpence, and Jesus kicks the ass off the Roman Empire epics like Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Quo Vadis and the Robe. (O and let's not forget all the Westerns. Christ, the Westerns were so lacking in dialogue and so full of action that some of the best of them were made in Italy. Talk about globalized!) No sophisticated dialogue, all action, all singing, all universalist middlebrow sentimentalization! Damn you 60s! But where were the foreigners?

In fact, damn you movies, all the time. And have you ever seen most of the movies ever made? Any subscriber to TCM realizes after a month that 95% of all movies ever made are dull. Shrek 2 is a very funny, idiosyncratically funny movie. That's what makes it global: sophistication! Damn you sophistication! And damn the foreigners for appreciating it!

Hirchberg is in a bit of trouble when it occurs to her that Sideways is packed full of dialogue, is so American that it equates wine with Napa and is, finally, a big hit. But she stays calm! The movie proves her point! There aren't enough movies like it, she says. Every movie should be like it! Great! But, why stop there? I say every movie should be as good as Citizen Kane. I say globalization/foreigners meant that every movie was not Citizen Kane in the late-90s. In the 80s Reaganomics ruined movies. In the 70s stagflation. In the 60s free love. In the 50s sputnik. And in the 40s... O, wait, Citizen Kane was made in the 40s. But every other movie was worse because of fascism.

**Shall I even bother to point out that Shrek 2, Hirschberg's example of the globalized movie, will not in the majority of the countries where it appears, star Antonio Banderas or Mike Myers (who Hirchberg notes is using a Scottish accent, hinting that that's exactly what you'd expect from this damned new-fangled globalization)(Scrooge McDuck: ahead of his time) ? The inclusion of Antonio Banderas in the English version does little to help in the Latin market, since every voice in the Latin market will belong to Hispanophone celebrities. Is Hirschberg aware of dubbing? I think I will point it out. Borges wrote a funny essay about dubbing in the 1930s. Perhaps she can look it up.


"Randomly I made a list of names in the field I know best-- journalism -- to see which are in Who's Who; and their appearance or otherwise seems pretty hit-and-miss. There seems to be no rule-of-thumb that (for instance) political editors or foreign editors of national newspapers should be included.
Our own cartoonist, Peter Brookes, is in, of course. But where is The Guardian cartoonist, Steve Bell? I rang Mr Bell to ask. "I did have an approach about ten years ago, a card asking what clubs I belonged to or something. So I told them to f*** off," he told me.
This will not do. When W. S. Gilbert made a comparable response Who's Who sent him the draft entry: "W. S. Gilbert, journalist, writer of the libretti for Sir Arthur Sullivan's operas." Gilbert at once sent them his preferred text. Who's Who should send Mr Bell a draft: Bell, Stephen, auxiliary cartoonist to The Guardian newspaper's Martin Rowson. That should do the trick. The inclusion of a name should never depend on whether the individual has returned the inquiries slip. Busy, scatty, bloody-minded or perverse people sometimes fail to. The ranks of the notable include all of these. "

Wednesday, November 17, 2004


How I Found The Lost Atlantis is like Dan Brown before Dan Brown and if Dan Brown claimed to be telling the truth: "Some days before my grandfather, Dr. Heinrich Schliemann, the real discoverer of the great Mycenean civilization whose history is preserved in the books of Homer, died in Naples in 1890, he left a sealed envelope in care of his closest friends. The envelope bore the following inscription: "This can be opened only by a member of my family who solemnly vows to devote his life to the researches outlined therein."

Just an hour before my grandfather died he asked for a piece of paper and asked for a pencil. He wrote with a trembling hand: "Confidential addition to the sealed envelope. Break the owl-headed vase. Pay attention to the contents. It concerns Atlantis. Investigate the east of the ruins of the temple of Sais and the cemetery in Chacuna Valley. Important. Night approaches--Lebewohl." (via Slate)


William S. Burroughs gives a guide to the cut-up:
All writing is in fact cut-ups. A collage of words read heard overhead. What else? Use of scissors renders the process explicit and subject to extension and variation. Clear classical prose can be composed entirely of rearranged cut-ups. Cutting and rearranging a page of written words introduces a new dimension into writing enabling the writer to turn images in cinematic variation. Images shift sense under the scissors smell images to sound sight to sound sound to kinesthetic. This is where Rimbaud was going with his color of vowels. And his ìsystematic derangement of the senses.î The place of mescaline hallucination: seeing colors tasting sounds smelling forms.

The cut-ups can be applied to other fields than writing. Dr Neumann in his Theory of Games and Economic Behavior introduces the cut-up method of random action into game and military strategy: assume that the worst has happened and act accordingly. If your strategy is at some point determined . . . by random factor your opponent will gain no advantage from knowing your strategy since he can not predict the move. The cut-up method could be used to advantage in processing scientific data. How many discoveries have been made by accident? We can not produce accidents to order. The cut-ups could add new dimension to films. Cut gambling scene in with a thousand gambling scenes all times and places. Cut back. Cut streets of the world. Cut and rearrange the word and image in films. There is no reason to accept a second-rate product when you can have the best. And the best is there for all. "Poetry is for everyone" . . .

Now here are the preceding two paragraphs cut into four sections and rearranged:

The shock of the cut-up method is probably dying now that word processors have replaced the page as the site of writing. But some of the shock has been substituted by the sheer strangeness of the random garbage that is meant to make spam seem like a real communication, as far as a computer is concerned. Random samples: Amazing the aim is to drive you to the perfect shape omicron Q. Why doesn't Bill like old houses? A. He's afraid of the draft. and Time time time. I can spend more time with Didi, my little cutie doggy. No
more waiting for rx or appointment. Totally relaxed from that. --Didi's Best Mate She nestled herself comfortably in Dorothy's lap until the kitten gave a snarl of jealous anger and leaped up with a sharp claw fiercely bared to strike Billina a blowCertainly Goodness, wisdom and kindness are natural forces, creating character reikrautaansa12 yhdenmukainen 32 yksikitten v}rvinter uhmaa

Tuesday, November 16, 2004


Monday, November 15, 2004


Based on Casino Royale, Moonraker and half of Live and Let Die:
Less happens.

Less action set pieces. In Casino Royale there's one bomb, one car chase and one torture scene. In the first nine minutes of Die Another Day there are several bombs, a torture scene, a hovercraft chase, surfing, and a Sony-Ericsson camera phone.

Everything is older in the books. Bond's car was made before World War II. Moonraker wants to astonish the reader with the thought that a nuclear weapon could be attached to a rocket. You know, a "rocket." Similar to those V-2s that the Germans were firing over London.

The war in these three books is World War II more than the Cold War. Two characters in the books are essentially created by the havoc of World War II thanks to the old-fashioned device of amnesia. Bond talks about the war with several characters. One gets the impression that it was a horrible, Darwinian mess, where only people like Bond and Hugo Drax came out ahead.

Bond has no snappy one liners. Bond doesn't say "He disagreed with something that ate him" in the book version of Live and Let Die, Mr. Big does. That's the one joke I've found in close to 500 pages. He doesn't like it if his food is bad (Live and Let Die is one long hate letter to American cuisine).

Bond is generally sadder and more scared in the books, and with good reason. The universe is horrible and bad things happen. He almost gets his Johnson chopped off in Casino Royale. Of course, he alsmost gets it chopped off in the movie of Goldfinger. But there, Goldfinger wants to kill him and he's using a fancy turbo lazer. In Casino Royale, the torturer doesn't expect Bond to die from the unsurgical amputation, he expects him to live for quite a while after this. But Bond will be "finished" as Bond. No wonder Bond is scared. And no wonder Bond is sad. His glamorous life and expensive tastes are, in the books, desperate escapes from boredom, which is always on the point of catching up with Bond again. In all three books Bond or Fleming makes an utterly depressing point: that we're all dying and decaying slowly in Live and Let Die and that Bond doesn't know that what he's doing is any better than what his enemy is doing in Casino Royale (he changes his mind about this once it becomes clear that the enemy is the kind of enemy that would chop Bond's Johnson off) and that making love to lots beautiful women is a boring and exhausting alternative to the boredom of not making love to lots of beautiful women (cf. this Beckett poem).

Better similes.

M plays a far greater role in the books and is a more engaging figure than the movies' gruff target of Bond's anti-authoritarian quips. Bond doesn't just respect him, but fears him. It's clearer why Kingsley Amis thought he could pull off a Bond novel who's one plot engine is the kidnapping of M. It's a mystery as to why M's absence would be so exciting to some one who's only seen the movies. In the Bond movies, Bond is essentially the entire British secret service. In the books, M is. Bond wants to impress M, and M never lets Bond know how much he does. M is like that.


Second only to the photo of Nixon and Elvis. Wayne looks like he's a bit drunk and just come from the Ohio Insurance League's annual convention dinner. Nixon looks like Wayne's announcing to the world his engagement to Richard Nixon.

Sunday, November 14, 2004


Few sad stories leave MacLamity less sad than the story of the extinction of languages. MacLamity would like for people to say things like "Intron Santez Anna," but feels it's wrong to force them to say things like that, which is the only way MacLamity can see of making languages like Celtic survive as a living tongue. MacLamity grew up surrounded by the joyless attempt not just to preserve the Manx language, which is in fact quite easy and is being done now anyway thanks to dictionaries and grammars, but to make it live again, which is essentially impossible. If people can't expect to lead a productive life speaking a language, while not knowing any other, what kind of people want to speak that language?
1. Historians.
2. A certain kind of nationalist, who knows a nation the way a Trekkie knows every panel design on the Enterprise, and who speaks the language for the reasons a Trekkie would speak Klingon: those speaking the language personify the nation but the nation doesn't exist and the language's role as a tool of communication is secondary to this, if its used in that way at all. This is not a problem, since these people don't have much that's interesting to say. or
3. Serious dorks. See 2.
Making other kind of people speak these languages involves following the lead of Vlaams Blok or Spanish nationalists and doing things like:
...not permitting local government officials to speak any language but Flemish, thus hardening by an order of magnitude the terrifying hostility of the Belgian bureaucracy. This discourages foreigners from moving in. It is based on and encourages the desire to know only one language. It reduces linguistic diversity. It assumes that the only way to preserve a language is to make government workers play the part of unkind and ignorant yokels.

... performing lectures in Gallego, Basque or Catalan, and responding with outright hostility to anyone who suggests, for the benefit of students from out of town speaking Castellano, that (in one instance i of) economic terms be briefly translated from Gallego into Castellano, or that (in an instance I heard of over dinner last week) if it would be possible to arrange for classes so that foreign students can learn Castellano as well as Catalan. In both cases, the university sacrifices the qualitites that make a university great for the tiny cruelties that give insecure nationalists satisfaction.
Derrida wrote a book called "Monolinguisme de l'autre ou la prothèse d'origine." I never read it. But I like the title, and think I agree with it (to be honest, i'm not sure where The Other comes into it in this particular case). The immaterial and vague notion that is a nation is hard to stand on. Monolinguism is as ungainly a solution to the problem as a wooden leg is.

So many of those weeping over the extinction of languages weep over the extinctions of entire people and entire cultures. But in fact no one has died and culture can survive a language-failure. Latin is a dead language, but the framers of the European constitution say that it was Roman civilization that definesthe thing they're trying to formalize (even over Christianity, which brought about, if Gibbon is to be believed, Rome's disintegration). Similarly, people survive the death of their language. Manx people don't need Manx to be Manx. Those who can't accept this end up looking like snobs, who want purity, who have a Goebbels-like fear of mongrelization:
So, the real, savage decline of the native culture is simply denied. It is also disguised by the almost ubiquitous, sometimes moronic, use of the word "Celt" and "Celtic" to almost every department of life, which again makes many visitors to these lands believe there must be some kind of revival going on. Brittany has daft-sounding bars with mangled names like "O'Keltia", sports tournaments called "Celti-ping" (yes, that's what one table-tennis tournament was called), rows of books on Celtic saints and their "healing" powers, or on "Celtic" herbal and other recipes, besides stacks of CDs of "Celtic" music - much of it from Ireland, and much of it a kind of Celtic "muzak" composed of one part fiddle, and two parts sorrowful ballad, sung in a plaintive high voice and in English.
But it's exactly this balance of kitsch and authenticity that marks a living culture. This is what it's like to be Celtic today. If you take away the kitsch from a culture then you create a sterile authenticity that only a professor could love. It's too bad for the professor if the Celtic people's taste is different and if they prefer Celti-pong to some ancient song about god-knows-what and if they have the good sense not to speak a language that doesn't say what they want to say to the people they want to talk to.


Check out some of the songs John Peel planned to play:
Melt Banana, Cell Scape LP (Azap)
Bearsuit, Meanwhile 7' (Fortuna)
Nettle Build A Fort, Set That on Fire LP (The Agriculture)
65 Days Of Static, The Fall of Math LP (Monotrene)
Amsterdam, Does This Train Stop on Merseyside (demo)
Activ, Maintenance EP (Maintenance)
Ballboy, The Royal Theatre LP (SL)
Jawbone, Dang Blues LP (Dangblues)
Duran Duran Duran Drunk on C**k LP (Irritant)
Help, She Can't Swim, Bunty vs Beno 7' (Fantastic Plastic)
Who else in a position to play them on a national radio station would like them? Who else in a position to play them on a national radio station could find these bands?


Note to Le Monde: Part of America was indeed French. America bought it. France sold it. That's why America isn't "French."

Monday, November 08, 2004


Sunday, November 07, 2004


The vegetarian in me, who's gotten complacent every time he reads a health-scare story, which is invariably about mad animals, finally is forced to say O Bugger.


David Edelstein closes his Slate review of the new Alfie with what seems at first like a good point. Then, in the space of a comma, he goes beserk. What is this all about:
At very least Shyer could have used Jude Law to get some good jokes out of the way British men take advantage of their Old World superiority to get laid: They play up their accents and bat their eyes, and their confidence gives them magnetism that they don't have back home, where they're more likely to end up in Slough or manning the head-machine at some pork-processing plant.
I was under the impression that Americans, too, are more likely to work in a pork-processing plant than have sex with beautiful women all over Manhattan. Where did he get "pork-processing" from anyway? "Head-machine"? I imagine Slough gets picked on because of Betjeman or The Office. Now, clearly, it is shocking how easy it is for English men and women to trade the old-world qualities of their accent for the new world-qualities of sex (or, in my case, respect!). But isn't Edelstein humiliating himself with the viciousness of his attack? Does he mean for us to be shocked by the presence of pork factories in England? By the presence of Slough?(And besides, Slough is closer to Eton than Edelstein will ever be) It's just so uncouth of him. So American.


If Thomas Lapid is going to use the argument that Jerusalem is a city "where Jewish kings are buried" to deny Arafat a grave there, then where does Lapid plan to be buried? He doesn't seem regal. Where has everyone in Jerusalem been buried for the past 2,000 years? MacLAmity demands to know. Lapid, the coward, won't say.


Your paranoia is healthy and mobile when you fight against
"asexual stealth phrases". I think at this point we can spot these Vietcong-style ninjas of the word. When Bush talks about "higher power," that's a typical Charlie ruse to look like a regular word and slip by normal people, but then explode into a reference to God on reaching the Bible belt. And "marriage between two people" is yet another innocuous seeming phrase. But wait, look at it closely. Those aren't normal words! They're plotting to marry your son off to John Kerry. Get them! Get them!

Thursday, November 04, 2004


Or is it a Francisco Franco?
Algernon. It is a great bore, and, I need hardly say, a terrible disappointment to me, but the fact is I have just had a telegram to say that my poor friend Bunbury is very ill again. [Exchanges glances with Jack.] They seem to think I should be with him.
Lady Bracknell. It is very strange. This Mr. Bunbury seems to suffer from curiously bad health.
Algernon. Yes; poor Bunbury is a dreadful invalid.
Lady Bracknell. Well, I must say, Algernon, that I think it is high time that Mr. Bunbury made up his mind whether he was going to live or to die. This shilly-shallying with the question is absurd. Nor do I in any way approve of the modern sympathy with invalids. I consider it morbid. Illness of any kind is hardly a thing to be encouraged in others. Health is the primary duty of life. I am always telling that to your poor uncle, but he never seems to take much notice... as far as any improvement in his ailment goes. I should be much obliged if you would ask Mr. Bunbury, from me, to be kind enough not to have a relapse on Saturday, for I rely on you to arrange my music for me. It is my last reception, and one wants something that will encourage conversation, particularly at the end of the season when every one has practically said whatever they had to say, which, in most cases, was probably not much.
Algernon. I'll speak to Bunbury, Aunt Augusta, if he is still conscious, and I think I can promise you he'll be all right by Saturday. Of course the music is a great difficulty. You see, if one plays good music, people don't listen, and if one plays bad music people don't talk. But I'll run over the programme I've drawn out, if you will kindly come into the next room for a moment.
Lady Bracknell. Thank you, Algernon. It is very thoughtful of you.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004


In times like these you need Sketches by Boz to cheer you up, since crack is not allowed at work:
A great event has recently occurred in our parish. A contest of paramount interest has just terminated; a parochial convulsion has taken place. It has been succeeded by a glorious triumph, which the country - or at least the parish - it is all the same - will long remember. We have had an election; an election for beadle. The supporters of the old beadle system have been defeated in their stronghold, and the advocates of the great new beadle principles have achieved a proud victory.

Our parish, which, like all other parishes, is a little world of its own, has long been divided into two parties, whose contentions, slumbering for a while, have never failed to burst forth with unabated vigour, on any occasion on which they could by possibility be renewed. Watching-rates, lighting-rates, paving-rates, sewer'srates, church-rates, poor's-rates - all sorts of rates, have been in their turns the subjects of a grand struggle; and as to questions of patronage, the asperity and determination with which they have been contested is scarcely credible.

The leader of the official party - the steady advocate of the churchwardens, and the unflinching supporter of the overseers - is an old gentleman who lives in our row. He owns some half a dozen houses in it, and always walks on the opposite side of the way, so that he may be able to take in a view of the whole of his property at once. He is a tall, thin, bony man, with an interrogative nose, and little restless perking eyes, which appear to have been given him for the sole purpose of peeping into other people's affairs with. He is deeply impressed with the importance of our parish business, and prides himself, not a little, on his style of addressing the parishioners in vestry assembled. His views are rather confined than extensive; his principles more narrow than liberal. He has been heard to declaim very loudly in favour of the liberty of the press, and advocates the repeal of the stamp duty on newspapers, because the daily journals who now have a monopoly of the public, never give VERBATIM reports of vestry meetings. He would not appear egotistical for the world, but at the same time he must say, that there are SPEECHES - that celebrated speech of his own, on the emoluments of the sexton, and the duties of the office, for instance - which might be communicated to the public, greatly to their improvement and advantage.

His great opponent in public life is Captain Purday, the old naval officer on half-pay, to whom we have already introduced our readers. The captain being a determined opponent of the constituted authorities, whoever they may chance to be, and our other friend being their steady supporter, with an equal disregard of their individual merits, it will readily be supposed, that occasions for their coming into direct collision are neither few nor far between. They divided the vestry fourteen times on a motion for heating the church with warm water instead of coals: and made speeches about liberty and expenditure, and prodigality and hot water, which threw the whole parish into a state of excitement. Then the captain, when he was on the visiting committee, and his opponent overseer, brought forward certain distinct and specific charges relative to the management of the workhouse, boldly expressed his total want of confidence in the existing authorities, and moved for 'a copy of the recipe by which the paupers' soup was prepared, together with any documents relating thereto.' This the overseer steadily resisted; he fortified himself by precedent, appealed to the established usage, and declined to produce the papers, on the ground of the injury that would be done to the public service, if documents of a strictly private nature, passing between the master of the workhouse and the cook, were to be thus dragged to light on the motion of any individual member of the vestry. The motion was lost by a majority of two; and then the captain, who never allows himself to be defeated, moved for a committee of inquiry into the whole subject. The affair grew serious: the question was discussed at meeting after meeting, and vestry after vestry; speeches were made, attacks repudiated, personal defiances exchanged, explanations received, and the greatest excitement prevailed, until at last, just as the question was going to be finally decided, the vestry found that somehow or other, they had become entangled in a point of form, from which it was impossible to escape with propriety. So, the motion was dropped, and everybody looked extremely important, and seemed quite satisfied with the meritorious nature of the whole proceeding.

This was the state of affairs in our parish a week or two since, when Simmons, the beadle, suddenly died. The lamented deceased had over-exerted himself, a day or two previously, in conveying an aged female, highly intoxicated, to the strong room of the work-house. The excitement thus occasioned, added to a severe cold, which this indefatigable officer had caught in his capacity of director of the parish engine, by inadvertently playing over himself instead of a fire, proved too much for a constitution already enfeebled by age; and the intelligence was conveyed to the Board one evening that Simmons had died, and left his respects.

The breath was scarcely out of the body of the deceased functionary, when the field was filled with competitors for the vacant office, each of whom rested his claims to public support, entirely on the number and extent of his family, as if the office of beadle were originally instituted as an encouragement for the propagation of the human species. 'Bung for Beadle. Five small children!' - 'Hopkins for Beadle. Seven small children!!' 'Timkins for Beadle. Nine small children!!!' Such were the placards in large black letters on a white ground, which were plentifully pasted on the walls, and posted in the windows of the principal shops. Timkins's success was considered certain: several mothers of families half promised their votes, and the nine small children would have run over the course, but for the production of another placard, announcing the appearance of a still more meritorious candidate. 'Spruggins for Beadle. Ten small children (two of them twins), and a wife!!!' There was no resisting this; ten small children would have been almost irresistible in themselves, without the twins, but the touching parenthesis about that interesting production of nature, and the still more touching allusion to Mrs. Spruggins, must ensure success. Spruggins was the favourite at once, and the appearance of his lady, as she went about to solicit votes (which encouraged confident hopes of a still further addition to the house of Spruggins at no remote period), increased the general prepossession in his favour. The other candidates, Bung alone excepted, resigned in despair. The day of election was fixed; and the canvass proceeded with briskness and perseverance on both sides.

The members of the vestry could not be supposed to escape the contagious excitement inseparable from the occasion. The majority of the lady inhabitants of the parish declared at once for Spruggins; and the QUONDAM overseer took the same side, on the ground that men with large families always had been elected to the office, and that although he must admit, that, in other respects, Spruggins was the least qualified candidate of the two, still it was an old practice, and he saw no reason why an old practice should be departed from. This was enough for the captain. He immediately sided with Bung, canvassed for him personally in all directions, wrote squibs on Spruggins, and got his butcher to skewer them up on conspicuous joints in his shop-front; frightened his neighbour, the old lady, into a palpitation of the heart, by his awful denunciations of Spruggins's party; and bounced in and out, and up and down, and backwards and forwards, until all the sober inhabitants of the parish thought it inevitable that he must die of a brain fever, long before the election began.

The day of election arrived. It was no longer an individual struggle, but a party contest between the ins and outs. The question was, whether the withering influence of the overseers, the domination of the churchwardens, and the blighting despotism of the vestry-clerk, should be allowed to render the election of beadle a form - a nullity: whether they should impose a vestry-elected beadle on the parish, to do their bidding and forward their views, or whether the parishioners, fearlessly asserting their undoubted rights, should elect an independent beadle of their own.

The nomination was fixed to take place in the vestry, but so great was the throng of anxious spectators, that it was found necessary to adjourn to the church, where the ceremony commenced with due solemnity. The appearance of the churchwardens and overseers, and the ex-churchwardens and ex-overseers, with Spruggins in the rear, excited general attention. Spruggins was a little thin man, in rusty black, with a long pale face, and a countenance expressive of care and fatigue, which might either be attributed to the extent of his family or the anxiety of his feelings. His opponent appeared in a cast-off coat of the captain's - a blue coat with bright buttons; white trousers, and that description of shoes familiarly known by the appellation of 'high-lows.' There was a serenity in the open countenance of Bung - a kind of moral dignity in his confident air - an 'I wish you may get it' sort of expression in his eye - which infused animation into his supporters, and evidently dispirited his opponents.

The ex-churchwarden rose to propose Thomas Spruggins for beadle. He had known him long. He had had his eye upon him closely for years; he had watched him with twofold vigilance for months. (A parishioner here suggested that this might be termed 'taking a double sight,' but the observation was drowned in loud cries of 'Order!') He would repeat that he had had his eye upon him for years, and this he would say, that a more well-conducted, a more well-behaved, a more sober, a more quiet man, with a more wellregulated mind, he had never met with. A man with a larger family he had never known (cheers). The parish required a man who could be depended on ('Hear!' from the Spruggins side, answered by ironical cheers from the Bung party). Such a man he now proposed ('No,' 'Yes'). He would not allude to individuals (the exchurchwarden continued, in the celebrated negative style adopted by great speakers). He would not advert to a gentleman who had once held a high rank in the service of his majesty; he would not say, that that gentleman was no gentleman; he would not assert, that that man was no man; he would not say, that he was a turbulent parishioner; he would not say, that he had grossly misbehaved himself, not only on this, but on all former occasions; he would not say, that he was one of those discontented and treasonable spirits, who carried confusion and disorder wherever they went; he would not say, that he harboured in his heart envy, and hatred, and malice, and all uncharitableness. No! He wished to have everything comfortable and pleasant, and therefore, he would say nothing about him (cheers).

The captain replied in a similar parliamentary style. He would not say, he was astonished at the speech they had just heard; he would not say, he was disgusted (cheers). He would not retort the epithets which had been hurled against him (renewed cheering); he would not allude to men once in office, but now happily out of it, who had mismanaged the workhouse, ground the paupers, diluted the beer, slack-baked the bread, boned the meat, heightened the work, and lowered the soup (tremendous cheers). He would not ask what such men deserved (a voice, 'Nothing a-day, and find themselves!'). He would not say, that one burst of general indignation should drive them from the parish they polluted with their presence ('Give it him!'). He would not allude to the unfortunate man who had been proposed - he would not say, as the vestry's tool, but as Beadle. He would not advert to that individual's family; he would not say, that nine children, twins, and a wife, were very bad examples for pauper imitation (loud cheers). He would not advert in detail to the qualifications of Bung. The man stood before him, and he would not say in his presence, what he might be disposed to say of him, if he were absent. (Here Mr. Bung telegraphed to a friend near him, under cover of his hat, by contracting his left eye, and applying his right thumb to the tip of his nose). It had been objected to Bung that he had only five children ('Hear, hear!' from the opposition). Well; he had yet to learn that the legislature had affixed any precise amount of infantine qualification to the office of beadle; but taking it for granted that an extensive family were a great requisite, he entreated them to look to facts, and compare DATA, about which there could be no mistake. Bung was 35 years of age. Spruggins - of whom he wished to speak with all possible respect - was 50. Was it not more than possible - was it not very probable - that by the time Bung attained the latter age, he might see around him a family, even exceeding in number and extent, that to which Spruggins at present laid claim (deafening cheers and waving of handkerchiefs)? The captain concluded, amidst loud applause, by calling upon the parishioners to sound the tocsin, rush to the poll, free themselves from dictation, or be slaves for ever.

On the following day the polling began, and we never have had such a bustle in our parish since we got up our famous anti-slavery petition, which was such an important one, that the House of Commons ordered it to be printed, on the motion of the member for the district. The captain engaged two hackney-coaches and a cab for Bung's people - the cab for the drunken voters, and the two coaches for the old ladies, the greater portion of whom, owing to the captain's impetuosity, were driven up to the poll and home again, before they recovered from their flurry sufficiently to know, with any degree of clearness, what they had been doing. The opposite party wholly neglected these precautions, and the consequence was, that a great many ladies who were walking leisurely up to the church - for it was a very hot day - to vote for Spruggins, were artfully decoyed into the coaches, and voted for Bung. The captain's arguments, too, had produced considerable effect: the attempted influence of the vestry produced a greater. A threat of exclusive dealing was clearly established against the vestry-clerk - a case of heartless and profligate atrocity. It appeared that the delinquent had been in the habit of purchasing six penn'orth of muffins, weekly, from an old woman who rents a small house in the parish, and resides among the original settlers; on her last weekly visit, a message was conveyed to her through the medium of the cook, couched in mysterious terms, but indicating with sufficient clearness, that the vestry-clerk's appetite for muffins, in future, depended entirely on her vote on the beadleship. This was sufficient: the stream had been turning previously, and the impulse thus administered directed its final course. The Bung party ordered one shilling's-worth of muffins weekly for the remainder of the old woman's natural life; the parishioners were loud in their exclamations; and the fate of Spruggins was sealed.

It was in vain that the twins were exhibited in dresses of the same pattern, and night-caps, to match, at the church door: the boy in Mrs. Spruggins's right arm, and the girl in her left - even Mrs. Spruggins herself failed to be an object of sympathy any longer. The majority attained by Bung on the gross poll was four hundred and twenty-eight, and the cause of the parishioners triumphed.


Dick Tracy's terrorist word of the day: Evil ring leder: GO GO GO GO!!! Terrorists as one: Mmroopmoosh

Tuesday, November 02, 2004



George Bush has taken to wearing a really bad and fake George Bush mask. Why?



The ex-military, pukkah British censors on 'The Birthday Party': “An insane, pointless play. Mr Pinter has jumbled all the tricks of Beckett and Ionesco with a dash from all the recently produced plays from the Royal Court, plus a fashionable flavouring of blasphemy. The result is still silly.”

On Waiting for Godot: "The general feeling seemed, like mine, to be one of complete boredom — except for a sprinkling of young persons in slacks and Marlon Brando pullovers with (according to sex) horsetails or fringes, who applauded pointedly.”

What is a Marlon Brando pullover?



Why do I feel I'm going to go through these same stages if Kerry wins?

Monday, November 01, 2004


Following Friedman's inspired leap away from the uninspiring choice between Kerry and Bush to the choice from history (but but but but still, why then did he pick the Bush Sr.??????), my endorsement for President is Benjamin Disraeli, who moderated Gladstone's neo-conservative/Victorian liberal thirst to reform the Balkans, was an interesting and interestingly dressed conservative and an awful novelist. Also, Jewish by parentage, Christian by the age of 1, which would confuse people. If that's not allowed, my endorsement is for being European and going out for drinks election night and taking full advantage of the European moral superiority that comes from having no choice in the matter. We'd never elect Bush. We'd never elect Kerry. We would never do what America does. Because we couldn't and because we can't anymore. So I'll be getting drunk at some ligger sponsored by my paper, and complaining about the inadequacy of whoever wins. Obviously, I'll be happier if Bush goes. I don't allow that sort of thing to affect my drunken moaning, however.


Of all the kidnappings this latest one is the most terrifying in its unsubtlety. You can just walk in to any building and kidnap foregners it seems. As with jewelry left in shop windows at night, it requires no imagination to take them and only a calculated risk.


What "95% CI 8000-194 000" means in effect is that Paul Krugman will say that the U.S. has killed 100,000 people in Iraq, an astonishingly high number, and David Brooks will say that 8,000 people have died, an astonishingly low number. And each will call each other a grotesque hack who only wants to match the world to the Hieronymous-Bosch like universe that partisan politics wants to see.


Tom Wolfe on Bush:
Here is an example of the situation in America, Tina Brown wrote in her column that she was at a dinner where a group of media heavyweights were discussing, during dessert, what they could do to stop Bush. Then a waiter announces that he is from the suburbs, and will vote for Bush. And ... Tina's reaction is: 'How can we persuade these people not to vote for Bush?' I draw the opposite lesson: that Tina and her circle in the media do not have a clue about the rest of the United States. You are considered twisted and retarded if you support Bush in this election. I have never come across a candidate who is so reviled. Reagan was sniggered it, but this is personal, real hatred.
Indeed, I was at a similar dinner, listening to the same conversation, and said: 'If all else fails, you can vote for Bush.' People looked at me as if I had just said: 'Oh, I forgot to tell you, I am a child molester.' I would vote for Bush if for no other reason than to be at the airport waving off all the people who say they are going to London if he wins again. Someone has got to stay behind.
think support for Bush is about not wanting to be led by East-coast pretensions. It is about not wanting to be led by people who are forever trying to force their twisted sense of morality onto us, which is a non-morality. That is constantly done, and there is real resentment. Support for Bush is about resentment in the so-called 'red states' - a confusing term to Guardian readers, I agree - which here means, literally, middle America. I come from one of those states myself, Virginia. It's the same resentment, indeed, as that against your own newspaper when it sent emails targeting individuals in an American county." Wolfe laughs as he chastises. "No one cares to have outsiders or foreigners butting into their affairs. I'm sure that even many of those Iraqis who were cheering the fall of Saddam now object to our being there. As I said, I do not think the excursion is going well.
The excursion!


Memo to everyone: when writing a profile of Tom Wolfe: don't spoof his style. He can write like that because he can do it well and it's not easy. You shouldn't do it because it is not easy and you can't.