The MacLamity

The News That Stays News, Reported Live

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

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"I have thought the matter up and down, and in and out, and I cannot for the life of me see how the great change which we long for can come otherwise than by disturbance and suffering of some kind We are living in an epoch where there is combat between commercialism, or the system of reckless waste, and communism, or the system of neighbourly common sense. Can that combat be fought out ... without loss and suffering? Plainly speaking I know that it cannot." William Morris back in 1895.

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Henry Hill joins Jack Palance and Michael Madsen as tough men who are not afraid to show off their paintings and poems.

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Who has read War and Peace the most? Britain's literary establishment squares off. (Who said "didn't like it as much as Resurrection. It's a bit long-winded, but what the fuck.")

Sunday, September 25, 2005

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When it comes to war, America's poets have chosen the tactic of not attending poetry gatherings organized by Laura Bush, which, as we all know, has had an impact on the national economy and put horrible pressure on Bush's poetry-loving supporters. The original tactic that Sam Hammioll cooked up back in 2003, of course, was to hand Laura Bush a compilation of anti-war poems depended on Laura Bush's co-operation. She cancelled the event. From then on, the poets have fought the war the only way they can, by ensuring an Absence of Poets In Laura Bush's Presence. Will it work? Who knows. The highly irritating irritatingness of Sharon Olds's letter -- along with its over-the-top and self-conscious poeticness -- to Laura Bush suggests not:

I could not face the idea of breaking bread with you. I knew that if I sat down to eat with you, it would feel to me as if I were condoning what I see to be the wild, highhanded actions of the Bush Administration.
What kept coming to the fore of my mind was that I would be taking food from the hand of the First Lady who represents the Administration that unleashed this war and that wills its continuation, even to the extent of permitting "extraordinary rendition": flying people to other countries where they will be tortured for us.
So many Americans who had felt pride in our country now feel anguish and shame, for the current regime of blood, wounds and fire. I thought of the clean linens at your table, the shining knives and the flames of the candles, and I could not stomach it.

It's not just the irritatingness of this letter. It's the fact that Sharon Olds printed this letter in The Nation , which is probably the least effective way of getting a message through to Laura Bush this side of shouting it while running at her with a big knife held prominently.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

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"When women stop reading, the novel will be dead." Ian McEwan can't even give modern classics away to men.

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Which names are the Hurricanest. Note that when a Hurricane inflicts a traumatic amount of damage they retire the name and the hence the (R)s. I feel that Beulah could have gone far , if only it had shown the apparent consistent non-trauma of Arlene, Florence and Frances...

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Words that could enter history: "'Stop, George.'".

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Is it bitterness or the clear sight of departure that makes me gag at the self-satisfied self-fascination in this sentence: "At long last, Melville is poised to emerge as a flesh-and-blood figure, and a New Yorker to boot, thanks to Andrew Delbanco's Melville: His World and Work, the finest biography ever written of this essential American."(from the NY Observer). "Melville burst onto the scene in 1846 with Typee, his sexy account of living with naked cannibals..." how very New York of him!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

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Danone's CEO has gone off his rocker and started talking to himself: "There can be no doubt that markets headed up. Did you fuel rumors of a takeover bid to give your share price a lift?Most definitely not. Let me say it again. "

Monday, September 19, 2005

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The latent narcissism of blogging goes blatant in Yahoo's Blog for Hope campaign. Why link to Fran Drescher? Because she's obviously cleverer than The Nanny suggests, but this post suggests she's roughly that clever. Where's the person who delivered the line "Money talks, and bullshit walks" as money would, with bullshit walking shamedfacedly away?

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You say you want something for headaches and the army says you have serious schizoid tendencies. The Navy has an eye for talent, and they picked out Jack Kerouac's talent for "a rambling, grandiose, philosophical manner." Way to go Navy Lit. Crit.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

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"Poetry makes nothing happen," said Auden. And I would say the same of criticism, if the criticism is any good. So, where does that put the most effective book critic in the U.K.: 'I don't think newspapers exist in order to sell books for me, of course, but if a newspaper reviews a book that then sells only 20 copies in the following week, then it means they have reviewed something their readers have no interest in reading. I don't see the point of that.'

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We're celebrating the centenary of the theory of relativity. Remind me, what was the state of play before then? We had relativity, surely, but no theory of it?

Thursday, September 15, 2005

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One of the few funny ads in Belgian cinemas involves getting you all jazzed for a nine-blad razor and then showing a man staring baffled at the camera holding a razor the size of his head. I can't remember what the ad is for, of course. Is there a sensible end to the number of blades you can put on a razor. Why isn't four enough? Last year
this seemed like a joke.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

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Of course, it's a cliche of modern TV cops complain about paperwork in the movies as much as they eat donuts. I always assumed that that was just a trope that was meant to show that cops are people of action, not intellect, of justice, not rules. But now I'm beginning to understand how insane police paperwork is. My favorite part is "You're also required to let him know that, in general, his payment is taxable income."

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MacLamity's new fixation is the Vatican's canon law. Not sure why it's so hypnotic. Is it the hyperlinks to the different clauses that keep me going, with their resemblance to logic statements:


a person who has committed a delict mentioned in
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The vocabulary is stingingly good. Check out the grand finale of this sentence: "a man who has a wife, unless he is legitimately destined to the permanent diaconat." Maybe it's just that the way the law's specificity makes clear how the one true church thinks of everything:


In more urgent occult cases, if the ordinary or, when it concerns the irregularities mentioned in ⇒ can. 1041, nn. 3 and 4, the Penitentiary cannot be approached and if there is imminent danger of grave harm or infamy, a person impeded by an irregularity from exercising an order can exercise it, but without prejudice to the obligation which remains of making recourse as soon as possible to the ordinary or the Penitentiary, omitting the name and through a confessor.

When it comes to God, there are no loopholes.

See also Lawrence Sterne's favorite example of the struggle for loopholeless theology.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

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I wonder if Google's don't be evil" policy can survive China. Certainly, China has supplied one reason to hate Yahoo!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

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The best article on the Wall Street Journal I've read in five years. By miles.

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What has yet to be done is to write the history of new journalism's birth in the 1960s, without taking Tom Wolfe's word for everything. Like B.S. Johnson, Tom Wolfe has been too nervous to let his work speak for itself. He attaches an instruction manual to almost every book he writes, proving that the work is a work of genius, if not the work of a genius. Should someone criticize his work with an off-hand comment, Wolfe will respond by praising it in a nine-page essay. Should someone award him the prize for the year's worst sex scene, he won't find it funny (as others sensibly have). Wolfe's self-estimation is high; his self-esteem is low. No one has written more about his writing than he has. His critics attack him on his terms, taking his word that his novels' main themes are class status in America.

But he hasn't written about them perceptively. For example he's yet to point out that journalists never replaced the likes of Saul Bellow or Philip Roth as America's literature, as Wolfe claimed they had and would. Similarly, he should point out out that some of his wider insights are way off. Sometimes they're so extravagant that they could apply to any society, at any time. He is obsessed with young people having sex. He thought it defined the 1970s. Twenty years later he said it defined the 2000s. (Well, which?)

So here's to a history of Tom Wolfe's achievements that doesn't rely on Tom Wolfe to do all the reporting, and tell the best anecdotes.

P.S. He wasn't always that way. In the 1960s, he responded to a two-article, two-issue monumental attack from the New Yorker with this. The beauty of it is how annoying it is, because it lets everyone know that doesn't really a give a shit what people say about him. If only he still had it in him. Or rather, if only he'd not have changed so quickly.

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Poetry isn't being helped by its defenders, part XVII! "We were hoping to provoke people into thinking about the poetry that's being written today, describing life on Earth as we know it," says the director of the U.K.'s Poetry Society. Great! How? By blasting a poem into space, of course.

... Bob Geldof, are you wondering how to make people care about Africa and poverty again, now that the world's richest country is suffering a Live-8 scale disaster? Are you reading, this? Then do what the Poetry Society's doing. Then put on a competition where people vote on their favorite poor person, who then gets blasted into space. It'll make people think about poverty, and life on Earth as we know it....

....Is it worth making the point that generally the things you blast off into space are the things you're trying to get rid of? At least, that's how Krypton treated the rebels at the start of Superman, after Marlon Brando had put in bad word for them. No, it's probably not worth mentioning....

Monday, September 05, 2005

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A Question: Why should someone knife Lichtenstein's "Nudes in Mirror" on the grounds that it's fake? If it's fake, it's not worth the shiv. Surely, the anxiety that it might be real led this 35-year-old Austrian to deface the painting, so that, whether it was a fake or wasn't, it was no longer a pristine Lichtenstein.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

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The Associated Press really came up trumps on this long feature on why there are no WMDs in Iraq and why the Bushies thought there were. The tragedy being that this article probably won't be run by any major newspaper, who'd rather have the runs than admit that the AP has come through with a story any major newspaper would be proud of.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

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Just the name, just for starters, of Rick Moody's band is really fucking irritating.