The MacLamity

The News That Stays News, Reported Live

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

.

Just as it is pleasing that Marcel Marceau makes the only noise in "Silent Movie," it is pleasing that the only complete English sentence in "A la Recherche du Temps Perdu" is "I do not speak French."

.

IT is a bit much to expect schoolchildren to read Ulysses and Don Quixote, merely because both books are so long that it is not only in the students interest to find clever ways of not reading it but it is also very hard to test the student in a way that proves that he or she has read it. Nevertheless, I'm not sure why it is all "ambitious" to expect schools to expect children to read these books.

.

The latest book fad that Dave Pelzer has wrought: "the stories they tell are 'inspiring', 'profound', 'touching', their authors are always 'brave' and the books themselves are never less than 'remarkable'. The ordeals the authors have endured are undoubtedly harrowing in the extreme, their reasons for sharing their experiences are cathartic, possibly altruistic and totally understandable. The books world might indeed be a blander place without this grist. But where most non-fiction offers the reader a range of possible responses, these books offer, or rather demand, only one - empathy. With poignancy comes impoverishment."

.

One of England's great drinkers of genius, and writer of merit, Julian McLaren Ross, gets a headstone.

Friday, January 27, 2006

.

Blinking Lights is exactly where my taste is right now. The Eels have the same pop sensibilities as The Flaming Lips and the same will to try everything. Both bands greatly embarrass themselves occasionally. But the Eels do it when they take themselves too seriously and the Flaming Lips do it when they take whimsy too seriously. Seriousness fails more softly than whimsy.

.

The restless bones of Tom Paine.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

.

Quote of the Day from Mr Tom Waits: "Anybody who plays the piano would thrill at seeing one thrown off a building, watching it hit the sidewalk and being there to hear that thump."

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

.

Americans really don't like foreigners writing about them, unless it's Tocqueville. They'll go absolutely beserk over what they descrive as errors, and won't dwell on whatever the foreigner has got right, since they will say that the observation is so obvious that there's no need to make it. I can't say I have much desire to read
BHL's book on the U.S., since that's pretty much my response as well. I'll just say that I wish Americans could write as well about France as BHL writes about America in the one Atlantic extract I got around to reading (Cf. this tripe). And I'll just note how often it is that I read in American publications the self-parodic sweeping statement: Europeans never understand how diverse America is when they make sweeping statements about America.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

.

It seems Jack Shafer was 15% more funny 15 years ago. At least the piece he reproduces is 15% more funny, thanks to its tight Liebling-esque structure and poise, than his pieces for Slate. He's still a great read today. But that older piece is less throw-away for throwing away lines more elegantly.

Monday, January 09, 2006

.

Political correctness's greatest unpleasantness is its tendency to reiterate its worthy abstract goals, and to leave the hard work of achieving them to other people. . MacLamity really is not sure what Ms. Tyson was thinking when she made this decision as part of her fight to bring more women into the boardroom: "There was an attempt to draw up a list of 100 women who might be candidates for boards, though Laura D'Andrea Tyson, an academic and former adviser to President Clinton who was charged with finding candidates, decided in the end that such a list was unnecessary." Of course it wasn't necessary. But it would have been a fantastic tool for debate, of great use to companies actually looking for board members, and the best proof possible of the commission's principles.

The list would have been incredibly hard to do. A commercial headhunter would charge something like the net national product of luxembourg to find 100 board members. But what really did the list in, I imagine, is that it is easy to ask the world "What are you going to do about it" with a weary and outraged expression. It is far harder to say "Here is what you can do about it right now."

.

It seems pretty clear that JT Leroy has never been JT Leroy, so here's some more specualtion on who JT Leroy really is.

.

The modern dictionary of common knowledge would define Judo as the martial art where you use your opponent's own power against him or her. I don't think that it's really possible to do such a thing. But it's nice to believe, and nicer the weaker you are and the more powerful your enemies are. Stow-on-the-Wold has managed to do it, however, with its response to AA Gill saying the town is full of "bleating woolly flocks of pensioners:"
"I know that [AA Gill is] a regular at a lovely little restaurant in west London," says Mr Hope, who used to be a big cheese in public relations. "But he's never done a review of it [AA Gill reviews restaurants]. It's because he doesn't want too many people to go there. It's the same with Stow. He comes here and loves it so he criticises it to try to keep people away so he and his mate, Jeremy Clarkson, can find a good table at one of our many fine restaurants and find a parking place for Clarkson's big car."

I am in awe of the brilliance of this argument. Consider, there can be no more criticism after it:

In books: If someone wanted the brilliant insights of my book all to themsleves, there'd be no better way to ensure that than to call it "dull, pompous, drivel" in a major paper.
In cinema: We all know that the critic hates to have to step over people on his way to get more popcorn in the middle of the movie. So, of course, he said "watching this movie reminded me of how the boa constrictor suffocates you slowly and painfully without ever letting you lose consciousness."
In Politics: My opponent calls me corrupt so that he can have the pleasure of voting for me all to himself.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

.

I think this is the kind of animal we could all do without: "The fish has a remarkable physiology - it has no backbone, but an oil-filled 'notochord' and four limb-like appendages, with stubby fins. It has a double tail and gives birth to as many as 26 young at one time. It is believed to gestate for 14 months and may live for more than 80 years. The young develop inside the mother, attached to the outside of a huge yolk-filled egg of about 100mm (3.9in) in diameter." If you want us not to extinguish your species's existence in our massive trawler nets, then don't be so friggin' weird, ok?

Thursday, January 05, 2006

.

I'm half-way through "Hard Times" and loving it. Dickens has improved immensely since I was 16. Congratulations to him. People my age don't seem to talk about Dickens at all, the way our parents might have. Where does he sit on the pop culture plane? I found this column a pretty good guide, to what the people who don't know anything about Dickens know about Dickens. I'd have thought "Author of 'A Christmas Carol'" might be one of the facts that people might know, but apparently not:
Have you ever heard of the writer Charles Dickens? I had. Have you heard of the name Ebenezer Scrooge? I had. But I had not put together Charles Dickens, Ebenezer Scrooge and "A Christmas Carol," which is a story about a tight-fisted wealthy Englishman who loved money but looked down upon those who lived in poverty. He came around to being quite a generous fellow during the development of the play.

.

.

A bad day on both sides of the Atlantic for the idea that all the people on the margins want the same thing.

Peter Tatchell the founder of the gay rights group OutRage!, said [of the head of the U.K.'s muslim council statement that homosexuality is immoral and spreads disease]: "It's tragic for one minority to attack another minority."


Marion Barry: "There is a sort of an unwritten code in Washington, among the underworld and the hustlers and these other guys, that I am their friend," Barry said at an afternoon news conference in which he described the robbery [of him] in detail. "I don't advocate what they do. I advocate conditions to change what they do. I was a little hurt that this betrayal did happen."

(Both items from AndrewSullivan, but Maclamity performed the synthesis all on his own.)

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

.

I heard about Tertullian's spectacular description and rationalization of how precisely heaven rewards good behavior on the BBC. De Spectaculis is MacLamity's kind of theology:


We have, I think, faithfully carried out our plan of showing in how many different ways the sin of idolatry clings to the shows, in respect of their origins, their titles, their equipments, their places of celebration, their arts; and we may hold it as a thing beyond all doubt, that for us who have twice renounced all idols, they are utterly unsuitable.
[...]
Since, then, all passionate excitement is forbidden us, we are debarred from every kind of spectacle, and especially from the circus, where such excitement presides as in its proper element. See the people coming to it already under strong emotion, already tumultuous, already passion-blind, already agitated about their bets. The praetor is too slow for them: their eyes are ever rolling as though along with the lots in his urn; then they hang all eager on the signal; there is the united shout of a common madness. Observe how "out of themselves" they are by their foolish speeches. "He has thrown it!" they exclaim; and they announce each one to his neighbour what all have seen. I have clearest evidence of their blindness; they do not see what is really thrown. They think it a "signal cloth," but it is the likeness of the devil cast headlong from on high.
[...]
Our banquets, our nuptial joys, are yet to come. We cannot sit down in fellowship with them, as neither can they with us. Things in this matter go by their turns. Now they have gladness and we are troubled. "The world," says Jesus, "shall rejoice; ye shall be sorrowful." Let us mourn, then, while the heathen are merry, that in the day of their sorrow we may rejoice; lest, sharing now in their gladness, we share then also in their grief. Thou art too dainty, Christian, if thou wouldst have pleasure in this life as well as in the next; nay, a fool thou art, if thou thinkest this life's pleasures to be really pleasures.
[...]
What greater pleasure than distaste of pleasure itself, contempt of all that the world can give, true liberty, a pure conscience, a contented life, and freedom from all fear of death? What nobler than to tread under foot the gods of the nations--to exorcise evil spirits--to perform cures--to seek divine revealings--to live to God? These are the pleasures, these the spectacles that befit Christian men--holy, everlasting, free. Count of these as your circus games, fix your eyes on the courses of the world, the gliding seasons, reckon up the periods of time, long for the goal of the final consummation, defend the societies of the churches, be startled at God's signal, be roused up at the angel's trump, glory in the palms of martyrdom.
If the literature of the stage delight you, we have literature in abundance of our own--plenty of verses, sentences, songs, proverbs; and these not fabulous, but true; not tricks of art, but plain realities. Would you have also fightings and wrestlings? Well, of these there is no lacking, and they are not of slight account. Behold unchastity overcome by chastity, perfidy slain by faithfulness, cruelty stricken by compassion, impudence thrown into the shade by modesty: these are the contests we have among us, and in these we win our crowns. Would you have something of blood too? You have Christ's.
But what a spectacle is that fast-approaching advent of our Lord, now owned by all, now highly exalted, now a triumphant One! What that exultation of the angelic hosts! What the glory of the rising saints! What the kingdom of the just thereafter! What the city New Jerusalem!

Yes, and there are other sights: that last day of judgment, with its everlasting issues; that day unlooked for by the nations, the theme of their derision, when the world hoary with age, and all its many products, shall be consumed in one great flame! How vast a spectacle then bursts upon the eye! What there excites my admiration? what my derision? Which sight gives me joy? which rouses me to exultation?--as I see so many illustrious monarchs, whose reception into the heavens was publicly announced, groaning now in the lowest darkness with great Jove himself, and those, too, who bore witness of their exultation; governors of provinces, too, who persecuted the Christian name, in fires more fierce than those with which in the days of their pride they raged against the followers of Christ. What world' s wise men besides, the very philosophers, in fact, who taught their followers that God had no concern in ought that is sublunary, and were wont to assure them that either they had no souls, or that they would never return to the bodies which at death they had left, now covered with shame before the poor deluded ones, as one fire consumes them!

Poets also, trembling not before the judgment-seat of Rhadamanthus or Minos, but of the unexpected Christ! I shall have a better opportunity then of hearing the tragedians, louder-voiced in their own calamity; of viewing the play-actors, much more "dissolute" in the dissolving flame; of looking upon the charioteer, all glowing in his chariot of fire; of beholding the wrestlers, not in their gymnasia, but tossing in the fiery billows; unless even then I shall not care to attend to such ministers of sin, in my eager wish rather to fix a gaze insatiable on those whose fury vented itself against the Lord. "This," I shall say, "this is that carpenter's or hireling's son, that Sabbath-breaker, that Samaritan and devil-possessed!

Heaven is where you get to enjoy the spectacular punishment of those who enjoyed spectacular punishment while they were on earth. Heaven is like an episode of "Cops:" which has all the pornographic pleasure of Jerry Springer, but which is filmed in the pursuit of justice.

.

A great boring headline. (Although the article is pretty good)

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

.

Is it the literary agents of the 00s or the Booker Prize judges of the 70s that look more foolish when the former rejects with wonderful arrogance and loftiness the books the latter selected as the best writing of the year.


Them on Naipaul:
“We . . . thought it was quite original. In the end though I’m afraid we just weren’t quite enthusiastic enough to be able to offer to take things further.”

Naipaul on them:
The “world had moved on” since he wrote the novel, [Naipaul said]. He added: “To see that something is well written and appetisingly written takes a lot of talent and there is not a great deal of that around.”


Other examples of this bitter genre, in which talent spotters are shown to be useless at spotting talent, can be found here and here

.

Saddam on a bad day: "Saddam looked tired. He did not show the same energy he did in previous sessions, as if he were ill. He did not show his customary aplomb with the judge. He seemed almost kind. I am surprised." From a fascinating interview with Saddam's old translator. Also, this comment should get the Freedom Fry portions of America into a righteous fury: "For example, until the end of his presidency, when I heard him talk about Jacques Chirac whom he had met in the mid-1970s it was to emphasize that he had remained his friend, even 30 years later and despite France's sometimes-hostile position towards Iraq. Saddam continues to believe in friendship in a world where there is no friendship, only interests."