The MacLamity

The News That Stays News, Reported Live

Monday, October 31, 2005

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Sunday, October 30, 2005

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Harold Bloom on bad reviews of Harold Bloom: "Our regime is fascistic, but our constitution is good. The best provision in that constitution states that any child who is born on the American soil is an American citizen, and therefore all these so-called illegal immigrants are now the parents of American citizens. I may not live long enough to see it, but my hope is that this country would be saved by the Hispanic Americans, the Asian Americans -- the new waves of Europeans. This is still a vibrant and living culture, whereas the English are incorrigible. They have no minds at all. That little book [Hamlet: Poem Unlimited] had a mixed reception in the United States, a terrible reception in England, a very good reception in other countries. The Italian, the Spanish, the Portuguese, the Scandinavian readers want to understand me, the English don't. I really don't want to go there again, it's an absolutely dead culture. It no longer has any poets, it no longer has any novelists, it cannot produce a composer or a painter anymore. The French are not much better." -- Harold Bloom, a man who just wants to be undertsood.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I want Jon Bon Jovi. I believe in his audience -- his circulation -- and what he stands for. The unique editorial is his music, and his genius around the music."-- an ad exec, running to the edge of meaning, then falling off.

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The children's book of my enemy Independent Online Edition >is about to be remaindered. And I am pleased.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

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Adam Kirsch's allusion to Nietzsche in his review of the "Chosen" was sufficiently exciting to make it to the Arts and Letters Daily's link. But is Kirsch covering his tracks by making a reference to Nietzsche and the archeology of ideas, without giving a hat-tip to Foucault? Foucault picked the idea out of Nietzsche's sprawling corpus and made it a concern of non-Nietzsche specialists post-1980, just as Kundera did with Nietzsche's notion of eternal recurrence in the Unbearable Lightness of Being (Borges would have done so -- and succeeded in making it feel non-Nietzschean -- if his non-fiction had been translated earlier (To go full-circle, Foucault, unlike Kirsch, loved discussing the origins of his ideas, and gave full credit to Borges as the onlie begetter of Mots et Choses). Presumably, Kirsch wants to remove the left-wing post-modern taint from performing archeology on ideas. I would like to know what his right-wing, "New York Sun" vision of it is? A secular variation on this?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

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Plus ca change...


Dos Passos: "The question I keep putting to myself is what's the use of fighting a war for civil liberties, if you destroy civil liberties in the process?"
Hemingway: "Civil liberties, shit. Are you with us or are you against us?"

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

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Whatever music is to my ears this is the opposite.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

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Has my week been hell just for the sake of this shit or this praise?

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Quote of the day: "The machine is neither a god nor a devil." -- music critic Hans Stukenschmidt in 1926. (more here)

Name of the day: Hans Stuckenschmidt.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

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Dickens: "Jo? Yes. Kill him."

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Alan Parker on directors' drawings: "Most directors are decent draughtsmen, Parker explains. It goes with the job, whether it involves storyboarding a movie or simply scribbling ideas down on the set. 'On the other hand, a lot of directors can't draw at all. Steven Spielberg, for instance, cannot draw. He works from a storyboard drawn by someone else to his instruction. Whereas Scorsese does stickmen. There's an exhibit in the American Film Institute in a big glass case. The first square shows two stickmen standing up. The next square shows one stickman lying down. And that's the storyboard to Raging Bull.' He cackles with mirth. 'Whoa!' he says. 'Go Marty!'"

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

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Who would include Kipling in an article about British post-imperial writers, yearning for the past? Kipling in his prime was THE imperial writer. Once he became post-imperial, he was not nostalgic.

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It's interesting how the U.S. is filtered through Europe. You can see that Fox News takes up a large part of German mental real estate in this article, when the reporter makes the trivial (but at the same time absurd in the context of this article) mistake of saying that Barry Diller founded Fox News, instead of the more impressive foundation of Fox.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

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Becoming dictator of Tobago is one of more realizable dreams. Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has pretty much done that in the Maldives.

Monday, October 17, 2005

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For me the two covers from the 1960s Esquire are head and shoulders above the rest. What a magazine it was.

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Sunday, October 16, 2005

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The BBC's Restoration has a natural counterpart in in Channel 4's new show. Sky should combine the two concepts into one program -- called let's say Re-start -- where you would choose an urban or rural area and vote on what era in its architectural history it should be returned to, if any. So the Bullring in Birmingham would be restored to its state in the 1930s. Place de Brouckere would be returned to the 1920s. And of course the old Penn Station would swallow Madison Square Garden whole. This wouldn't be as conservative a program as it sounds. The public would have to get away from saying they liked how things were before. They'd have to recognize that Architecture has historically usually been in a Silver or Bronze Age, 30% to 60% of what it makes is usually faddish and awful. But those awful buildings are necessary in order to make good buildings. A Dark Age occurs when too many buildings are knocked down, meaning that the 40%-70% of new buildings that are decent-to-excellent cannot make up for the truly wonderful ones that get knocked down in the rush.

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Whenever I read articles like these in a high-profile publication about how plagiarism and copyright are useless Western constructs, I want to copy the text, paste it into Word, change the byline to MacLamity and sell it for a lot of money to another high-profile publication. I just want to know if the authors would complain, you see, or stick by their principles and send me a note saying, "Cool! That's exactly what I meant!"

Thursday, October 13, 2005

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Few things have given me as much comedic pleasure over the past year as this. Whoever writes it is a genius.

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Don't Touch Our Svennis!

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There are many strange things about the utterly unexpected but apparently possible selection of Daniel Craig as the new Bond. But this oft-quoted opinion of Craig's that Bond is "an iconographic figure in moviemaking" is perhaps the strangest. Does Craig mean to move Bond away from the spying and more into the study of icons? "The Iconographer Who Loved Me," and so on.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

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The head of Fifa's criticism of greed in football dazzles with the shiny polish it puts on old-world values. It's not just that he has a 1930s view of grotesque capitalists strangling the games view, it's also his belief apparent belief in the superiority of gentlemen over players. Some choice comments:
“reminiscent of a misguided ‘wild west' style of capitalism”.

Among the main targets of a remarkably hard-hitting attack are excessive wage demands by “semi-educated, sometimes foul-mouthed” players sometimes guided by “unsavoury” agents.

wealth comes from “individuals with little or no history of interest in the game” who had happened upon football “as a means of serving some hidden agenda”.

“More than ever before, the majority are fighting with spears, while the greedy few have the financial equivalent of nuclear warheads.”

“What logic, right or economic necessity would qualify a man in his mid-20s to demand in a month a sum that his own father could not earn in a decade?”

that young players are bought by speculators who generate a profit each time those players are subsequently sold, [is] “a new type of slavery”.


Of course, back in the 1950s, England solved this problem by having a maximum wage. Jimmy Hill, Chairman of the PFA at the time, brought this to an end by threatening a players strike:


[When wasit that you f]irst began campaign to abolish the players' maximum wage?
Because I was usually the only one who could read, write and add up, I became the PFA rep at both clubs I played for. The maximum wage had always riled me. There were no other careers - sporting or otherwise - in which you had something like that. We had players meeting up and down the land about it. We were deadly serious about striking if we didn't get our way. It was scrapped in 1961.


Was it better when players were semi-educated and underpaid?



Monday, October 10, 2005

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Not to be missed: The New Yorker has posted the original articles that eventually became 'In Cold Blood'. (Pierre Assouline knows all these things before i do. The man's an Anglomane!)

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It is rare that a sentence beginning with the construction “As a person who…. I object to….” leaves anything memorable behind it. At Stanford in the late ‘90s every hundredth sentence MacLamity heard or read seemed to begin “As a product of affirmative action, I object to…” and yet I can’t remember how any of them ended. This surprising and delightful comment on monkey psychology in the NYT Book Review, by being an incredibly rare exception to the rule, is therefore yet another sign of how good it has become under Sam Tanenhaus:

Also, since I am a person with autism, I do not agree with de Waal's view that emotions are required for making choices and storing memories. I use my visual thinking all the time to make logical choices. When Kuni helped the injured bird, emotion may have been the motivation, but visual thinking was the method. She compared the wing to her visual memories of flying birds and spread it to fit that image. I think her brain and mine would perform the task the same way.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

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American narcissism revealed through criticism of the narcissism of others: "A sociologist who wrote on such worthy subjects as life in housing projects, Kaufmann hit pay dirt, so to speak, in 1992 when he published a book on French attitudes to daily tasks such as ironing and emptying the trash. This was followed by books on similarly unconsidered themes which proved a great attraction to the French since they were about their favorite subject, themselves." The French, I suppose, should be reading the sort of sociology that Americans read, like Freakonomics, which shows how economics can explain such universal questions as:

Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? What kind of impact did Roe v. Wade have on violent crime? In Freakonomics, [the authors] set out to explore the hidden side of … well, everything.... The myths of campaign finance. ... The secrets of the Ku Klux Klan.



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ok, clear copy jam...so, clear the jam...... open the door... ok, let's see ... so remove the paper... and then let's see.... Huuuuuuuhhhhh.... endless.... it's just endless..... ok, if this doesn't work I'm going to frigging shoot myself in the frigging head... ok here we go.... Huuuuuhhhhhhhhhh.... why can't we have a normal copier ... Fucking dammit... what a peace of crap... what a fucking piece of crap..... what a fucking piece of crap .... those were the days back in Washington, Matty, eh?



The last sentence is the only part of this speech (the excerpt above represents about one minute out of about ten) directed to another human being. A colleague's been delivering this speech as if she was the prosecutor and also the jury. She has been loudly winning her own sympathy and working herself through skilfull rhetoric into a frothy wrath over the sheer unfairness of her situation. It sounded horribly pathetic, as if she's the only person left who can listen to her complaints.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

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Forget everything else, this is the trial of the century.

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Britain's best poem this year is rather good.

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I spent a summer of lunch breaks visiting Kepler's, but I'm not sure it was all that. 'Visiting the store," says one customer, "was like going to the movies."' Hmm, no. Not really! It was like going to a bookstore with a decent poetry section and friendly staff but which, like most large, non-chain bookstores, sometimes didn't have what you were looking for. Kepler's didn't do much that Barnes & Noble does better. If a bookstore's going to be non-chain in these day and age, it needs to take a strong editorial line, like Labyrinth (we're for wannabe and actual academics who want to save money!) City Lights (We're for hippy nostalgics!) Shakespeare & Co. (We're for Movable Feast nostalgics and Joyceans and literary 19-year-olds who want to sleep cheap!), and St. Mark's Bookshop (Theory + experimental fiction + oddball magazines + easily digestible coffee table books of hard to digest artists; if MacLamity had 100,000 euros, this would be his library!). Book shops like that may not have what you want, but they do a good job of convincing you that you want what little they have (last time I was at Shakespeare & Co. it seemed like a good idea to buy this. It was the heady atmosphere of Eliot and Joyce and the dirty tables and the thirst to read some hardcore modernistic touchstone and the way the store had done a display of it as if it was the new Michael Crichton. Luckily, i didn't have the cash on me.)

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

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Some Independent Online Edition >U.K. salaries. Hard to say who is paid a ridiculous amount here. The paparazzo maybe?

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The latest Shakespeare is Sir Henry Neville. I was half-listening to an angry exchange on the radio about this in the shower which led to the following attack and rebuttal:


Female voice: So how is it possible Shakespeare knew so much about diplomatic maneuvers?
Male voice: OK then. How is it possible Henry Neville knew so much about leather making, then?




Mark Twain adds: and how did he know so much about the law. And is Shakespeare even dead?

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I can't wait to get home and watch this. One of my favorite anecdotes involves the meeting of Samuel Beckett and Buster Keaton -- two of the world's great non-conversationalists -- before the filming of "Film." Beckett tried to make small talk. "There was a pause, followed by a silence." I used to praise that quoted sentence from Anthony Cronin's biography to the skies. It came as a shock when I looked it up in a bookstore recently to discover that for four years I'd been misquoting what turned out to be a far more boring turn of phrase.

P.S. and all this is apropos of www.ubu.com coming back online. Rock on!

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A small insight into where the blurbs come from:

On the back cover, Jacques Pepin calls the book a 'well-written tale of many kitchens by a committed, dedicated young chef.' But in a phone conversation last week he said he had read only the first chapter when he wrote his endorsement.
'I regret having sent it,' Mr. Pepin said from his home in Connecticut. 'I'm irate. For a young chef to have the pretension to attack Mr. Keller - I've never seen such a thing.'
Mario Batali called the book 'honest and matter-of-fact' in his back-cover blurb. In an e-mail last week he said he had composed his comments without finishing the 294-page book, adding, 'I know that Thomas Keller's kitchens are spotless and that Dan Barber does not rip off recipes.'

Monday, October 03, 2005

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As far as I can tell, it seems to surprise Americans that most blacks outside America behave differently from blacks in America. The surprise is generally in the form of benign mirth, like William Jennings Bryant’s bemusement listening to Haitian ministers speak French. Similarly the Caribbean love of cricket seemed to bemuse my American friends: They can’t really like it, surely. British colonialism probably forced them away from basketball. In referring to a black person from outside America, one sometimes mental gears grinding when the term African-American doesn’t apply, as when someone said to me in the late 1990s, “That’s the first time I’ve heard an African-American speak with an English accent.” This New York Times article seems to be based entirely on the same impulse. Am I reading too much between the lines, when I detect a deep sense that rap is equated with American blackness and that American blackness is then made into a universal blackness -- a Sudanese rapper’s dissimilarity with 50 Cent is treated as an amusing paradox: ‘[U]nlike "Get Rich or Die Tryin,' " the forthcoming film about the hard-knock adventures of the Queens rapper 50 Cent, a film about Mr. Jal could portray an altruistic and deeply religious artist who works with organizations like Amnesty International and War Child International.”

Sunday, October 02, 2005

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The state makes France's artists lazy!

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"Someone else I talked to, Andrei Sannikov, a former deputy foreign minister, who is now an active member of the dissident scene, said with a trace of bitterness, 'We're not sexy.'
Ukraine is sexy. Poland is sexy. Lithuania is sexy. Even Latvia is quite sexy. Belarus, landlocked between all of them and Russia, is not sexy. The Lonely Planet guidebook is brutal: 'With no history whatsoever as a politically or economically independent entity, Belarus was one of the oddest products of the disintegration of the USSR.'" -- Tom Stoppard takes stock of Belarus.

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Mark Twain is dead.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

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It doesn't really matter that at times Clive James's rush for aphorisms comes at the expense of substance: his supreme achievement is to make intellectual work seem easy: both reading it and writing it.