The MacLamity

The News That Stays News, Reported Live

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

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Hitchens-on-Hitchens wrestling.

Monday, May 30, 2005

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Just when you thought fishing couldn't get any more manly, along comes noodling:
First you strip to the waist and clamber into the river. Next, you bend under water and rootle blindly along the muddy riverbank with your bare hands. When you find a promising hole, you waggle your fingers - or toes - so alluringly that a large catfish locks its jaws around your arm or leg. Then you simply wrestle the 100lbs (45kg) giant out of the water and serve it fried with cayenne pepper.
After this, the Old Man of the Old Man and the Sea seems about as rugged as Billy Crystal at the start of 'City Slickers' (and at the end as well, actually, and all the way through the abominable sequel).

Sunday, May 29, 2005

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Perhaps the most essential tip on how to forge a Pollock gleaned from this hysterical NY Times article:
Don't sign it Pollack

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Michael Jackson has a kitscher sense of himself than even Stalin did.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

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Australian cricket drinking legend.

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The voice in the lift, embodied. The last sentence makes it all worthwhile.

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It always takes a while, but the French will always eventually come up with the French for something. It's not a blog c'est bloc notes. They'll be coming up with a word for entrepeneur, next.

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This is one of the more exciting rock reunions -- that of Brett Anderson and Bernard Butler, even though they only really managed to compose 5 good songs over 2 albums, those 5 songs were sensational. It was sad to hear a report that when Bernard Butler was playing a gig in LA in the late 90s he couldn't get people to stop talking, as he mournfully strummed on his guitar and didn't sing about much at all and didn't sing that well. His charisma is pathetically less than his song-writing talents.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

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The British Arts Council has decided to end racism:
More broadly, the council expects its grantees to create partnerships with minority artists and organizations; to advertise their programs in minority media; to attract minority audiences; to promote events for target groups, like Black History Month; and to support minority-owned businesses "wherever possible." And there is a lot more in the council's manual, which at times reads like an edict.

"Don't" ignore prayer times or dietary and alcoholic restrictions of board members from ethnic minorities. "Do" routinely integrate cast members of shows. "Don't" assume it will be difficult to attract minority audiences in areas without large minority communities. "Do" train new staff in race equality. "Don't" impose your tastes on minority artists. And so on.
Is "train new staff in race equality" even a meaningful sentence?

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Such is the influence of Gianni Agnelli that Umberto Eco both imitates him and, more to the point, won't admit it to an Englishman:
He strokes his beard as he says this, and I notice he wears his watch over his shirt cuff, with the face on the inside of his wrist. Is this meaningful?
'There are two practical reasons for it - one is that in my job I am obliged to attend a lot of symposia, which are frequently very boring. If I do this to check the time [he bends his arm], everybody notices. If I do it this way [he looks down at his watch without moving his wrist], I can check surreptitiously without showing it.
'As for the sleeve, that is because my watch-strap gives me eczema. So,' he says with a laugh, 'there is a meaning there, but not a terribly interesting one.'

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The US politician who led the campaign to change the name of french fries to 'freedom fries' has turned against the war. "

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Phil Spector's hair yesterday will probably be recognized after his death as his last work of genius.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

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Hitchens's version of the war dance that asks for the death of academic jargon, of which MacLamity just can't enough and for which he always falls:
"'The question of gender is a question of language.' This statement is Barbara Johnson's . . . and her succinct formulation of the relationship between gender and language does much to characterize the approach of a group of feminists who draw upon the discourses of poststructuralism.''
What, apart from its brevity, is ''succinct'' about an assertion -- not at all a formulation -- that asserts both too much and too little and that proves nothing?

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Who DIED?
I remember feeling a twang of hurt when I read a translator's declaration (from 1989) that "Mother died today" was too British an opening for Camus's The Stranger. "Aujourd'hui, maman est morte:" It's just four words, for christ's sake. How hard can it be to translate? But Mom, Mum, Mummy, Mother: they do all sound strange. I was rather saddened to see that that Matthew Ward's choice has stuck however, used in passing in a Threepenny Review essay
"The flat-line affect at the beginning of The Stranger -- 'Maman died today' -- now seems the expected response to death."
I suppose "Maman" is the most accurate representation of "Maman" there is. They're identical, in fact. But then we should just translate "est mort" as "est mort." No matter how British Stuart Gilbert's use of mother is, it still has its uses. For starters, thanks to Norman Bates's use of "mother" to refer to his mother, mother opens the book in the same deadpan psycopathic style that Meursualt's mind operates (see also what the repeated use of mother does here). Secondly, mother is less British than Mummy, less American than Mommy, less Victorian than Mama, and, most importantly of all, less French than Maman. Mother leaves the narrative in a neutral space and doesn't immediately locate its narrator, which is surely a good thing when you're reading a book whose title in French suggests both a stranger and foreigner. "Maman" tells me this guy is French, and therefore, I know little more about him than I would a total stranger.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

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the WSJ: Fantastic business journalism and a thorough investigation into people shouting Freebird at rock concerts. Billy Corgan's lecture is hysterical and elicits Pavement's right-on-the-money summation of the Smashing Pumpkins "I don’t understand what they mean/ And I could really give a fuck..."

Monday, May 16, 2005

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Dawn of the Idols: Everything about the Newsweek scandal discgraces everybody. Newsweek looks idiotic for reporting the Guantanamo Koran swirlies. The Pentagon and Newsweek's Pentagon source look idiotic for their bureacratic referrals to paper and to bureacratic mandates: "a top Pentagon spokesman told the magazine that a review of the military's investigation concluded 'it was never meant to look into charges of Quran desecration;'" "the magazine's original source later said he could not be sure he read about the alleged Quran incident in the report Newsweek cited." Finally, the people rioting in Pakistan look idiotic for their gross idolatry. It used to be that "the West," aka Medieval Christianity, absurdly accused the Muslims of idolatry. Now these charming protestors in Pakistan are saying that the libel perpetrated by the "Song of Roland" is no libel at all! It does upset us when you attack our idols.

[P.S.] Get ready for an epic Christian v. Muslim capture the flag, with bibles, crosses and Korans instead of flags, and blood, suffering and death instead of tags. You flush the Koran down the toilet? We poop on your Bible! I fear this is a battle the West will lose, unless it can stop the Klannies from performing humiliating own goals like this.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

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I'm very late to this story about this robot-age version of the Sokal hoax. It's amazing that computers can do what 10 years ago could only be done by a disgruntled physicist with perfect aim. And 10 years from now? We'll have robots that can perfectly imitate credulous humanities professors who are desperate for contributions to their sad-sack scholarly journals. The opening of "Rooter" is indistinguishable from scholarly prose, in terms of style (impenetrable) and content (none, even after successful penetration!).
I. INTRODUCTION
Many scholars would agree that, had it not been for activenetworks, the simulation of Lamport clocks might never have occurred. The notion that end-users synchronize with the investigation of Markov models is rarely outdated. A theoretical grand challenge in theory is the important unificationof virtual machines and real-time theory. To what extent can web browsers be constructed to achieve this purpose? Certainly, the usual methods for the emulation of Smalltalk that paved the way for the investigation of rasterization do not apply in this area. In the opinions of many, despite thefact that conventional wisdom states that this grand challengeis continuously answered by the study of access points, webelieve that a different solution is necessary. It should be noted that Rooter runs in Ω(log log n) time. Certainly, the shortcoming of this type of solution, however, is that compilersand superpages are mostly incompatible. Despite the fact thatsimilar methodologies visualize XML, we surmount this issue without synthesizing distributed archetypes.We question the need for digital-to-analog converters. Itshould be noted that we allow DHCP to harness homogeneous epistemologies without the evaluation of evolutionary programming [2], [12], [14]. Contrarily, the lookaside buffer might not be the panacea that end-users expected. However,this method is never considered confusing. Our approach turns the knowledge-base communication sledgehammer into a scalpel.
And compare it with the older hoax you realize that editorial standards at scholarly journals can only have got worse, or maybe Sokal just didn't push his prose as far to prose catastrophe as he could have:
There are many natural scientists, and especially physicists, who continue to reject the notion that the disciplines concerned with social and cultural criticism can have anything to contribute, except perhaps peripherally, to their research. Still less are they receptive to the idea that the very foundations of their worldview must be revised or rebuilt in the light of such criticism. Rather, they cling to the dogma imposed by the long post-Enlightenment hegemony over the Western intellectual outlook, which can be summarized briefly as follows: that there exists an external world, whose properties are independent of any individual human being and indeed of humanity as a whole; that these properties are encoded in ``eternal'' physical laws; and that human beings can obtain reliable, albeit imperfect and tentative, knowledge of these laws by hewing to the ``objective'' procedures and epistemological strictures prescribed by the (so-called) scientific method.

But deep conceptual shifts within twentieth-century science have undermined this Cartesian-Newtonian metaphysics1; revisionist studies in the history and philosophy of science have cast further doubt on its credibility2; and, most recently, feminist and poststructuralist critiques have demystified the substantive content of mainstream Western scientific practice, revealing the ideology of domination concealed behind the façade of ``objectivity''.3 It has thus become increasingly apparent that physical ``reality'', no less than social ``reality'', is at bottom a social and linguistic construct; that scientific ``knowledge", far from being objective, reflects and encodes the dominant ideologies and power relations of the culture that produced it; that the truth claims of science are inherently theory-laden and self-referential; and consequently, that the discourse of the scientific community, for all its undeniable value, cannot assert a privileged epistemological status with respect to counter-hegemonic narratives emanating from dissident or marginalized communities. These themes can be traced, despite some differences of emphasis, in Aronowitz's analysis of the cultural fabric that produced quantum mechanics4; in Ross' discussion of oppositional discourses in post-quantum science5; in Irigaray's and Hayles' exegeses of gender encoding in fluid mechanics6; and in Harding's comprehensive critique of the gender ideology underlying the natural sciences in general and physics in particular.7


Wednesday, May 11, 2005

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I asked an art-history grad-student friend of mine if there was such a thing as an art book from the academy that wasn't a poorly written embarrassment of theoretical poverty. My general point at the time was that there was no such thing. She recommended 'Looking Askance' and proved me wrong. It asks why people (like me) primarily attack modern art as fraud, rather than as incompetence or ugliness. Check out the spooky first chapter and find out what a spirit medium and Marcel Duchamp had in common.

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JG Ballard is the only writer we have who can effectively apply the techniques of science fiction to dull modern-day familiar practices like flying through the air:
The space age died with the Challenger shuttle disaster in 1986, and now seems to belong to another century, along with the Detroit gas-guzzler, the Manhattan psychoanalyst and the king-size cigarette. These phenomena still exist, but they are part of a more needy and impetuous era.

Even flying feels all too 20th century, though millions of us take to the air as casually as we board a bus or train. We wait in nondescript boarding lounges, walk down metal tunnels and lever ourselves into the narrow seats of a small cinema, where we watch Hollywood films on a low-definition screen while unsmiling staff push trays on to our laps bearing an assortment of inedible foods that we are not expected to eat.

Before take-off the cabin crew perform a strange folkloric rite that involves synchronised arm movements and warnings of fire and our possible immersion in water, all presumably part of an appeasement ritual whose origins lie back in the pre-history of the propeller age. The ceremony, like the transubstantiation of the host, has no meaning for us but is kept alive by the airlines to foster a sense of tradition.

After a few hours we leave the cinema and make our way through another steel tunnel into an identical airport in the suburb of a more or less identical city. We may have flown thousands of miles but none of us has seen the outside of the aircraft, and could not even say it if had two, three or four engines. All this is called air travel.

The miracle and wonder of flight, which has inspired poets, philosophers and madmen, has dwindled into a workaday procedure that we anticipate with the same enthusiasm we feel when we visit the dentist. At least the space age ended on a note of mystery that still surrounds the Moon flights. We know what happened inside the Apollo spacecraft, but what went on in the astronauts' minds, and did they ever recover from their strange journeys? Nasa still holds their secret, perhaps the first stage of its evolution into a religious organisation, something that British Airways is never likely to achieve.
It's the Martian Chronicles, minus the Martians and minus the Mars.

Monday, May 09, 2005

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How Lightsabers Work

Monday, May 02, 2005

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I hadn't noted, until Tom Phillips pointed out, that one of the great flaws of performance art, especially it's 1980s iteration, is its dead seriousness. The first demand it makes of its audience, is that the audience not find it funny. The Young British Artists, by contrast, were most successful where their sense of humor and absurdity was most evident. The Germans, however, have apparently not got that far yet:
There is a whimsical and absurd trend among German and Austrian artists. While these qualities may characterise much British humour, in recent Germanic art it really isn't half as funny. In fact, it's a bit laboured and depressing. The madcap culprits include German artist John Bock, or Austrian artist Franz West who makes big, misshapen plaster rings that you're invited to wear around your neck (why? Well, hey, just for a laugh).
[...]
Dada artists performed absurd actions and celebrated the notion of chance. It was meant to provoke and disturb, which it did very effectively.
There is nothing, however, provocative and disturbing about Slominski's work. It isn't a reaction to anything but simply a celebration of its own inanity.

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Excellent reasoning from Matt Taibbi:
IDEAS: Why did you start acting out on the campaign trail?
TAIBBI: I needed to behave in a way that made me feel like I wasn't participating in this lousy process. At one point I took two hits of acid, dressed up as a Viking, and tried to interview one of Kerry's press handlers.... I did all this because I wanted to preserve my dignity as a citizen, instead of being just another accomplice in the con game.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

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James Fenton on Nabokov on Cervantes