The MacLamity

The News That Stays News, Reported Live

Friday, June 30, 2006

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Bern Porter "contributed to the invention of television, worked on the Manhattan Project and the Saturn V rocket, and made the acquaintances of Einstein, Oppenheimer, and Werner von Braun. He published Henry Miller, Kenneth Patchen, and Kenneth Rexroth, among others, and knew Gertrude Stein, Anaïs Nin, Allen Ginsberg, and many others you might name. He exerted a profound influence on the phenomenon known as mail art, traveled hundreds of thousands of miles on cruise ships, was married three times (once happily), spent several years in Guam, was an irascible crank, theorized a union of art and science called Sciart, was briefly committed to a mental institution, wrote more than 80 books including important bibliographies of Miller and F. Scott Fitzgerald, had a massive FBI file, lived and worked in Rhode Island, New York, Tennessee, California, Texas, Alabama, and Tasmania. At last he settled in Belfast, Maine, where he ran for governor, served on the Knox County Regional Planning Commission, called his house the Institute of Advanced Thinking, barraged the local paper with letters, and at the end of his life subsisted largely on soup kitchens and food gleaned from the munchie tables at art openings." A life so large that 93 years barely seems like enough to contain it

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A marvellous passage from Coleridge'sBiographia Literaria:
In our own English compositions, (at least for the last three years of our school education,) he showed no mercy to phrase, metaphor, or image, unsupported by a sound sense, or where the same sense might have been onveyed with equal force and dignity in plainer words. Lute, harp, and lyre, Muse, Muses, and inspirations, Pegasus,
Parnassus, and Hippocrene were all an abomination to him. In fancy I can almost hear him now, exclaiming 'Harp? Harp? Lyre? Pen and ink, boy, you mean! Muse, boy, Muse? Your nurse's daughter, you mean!
Pierian spring? Oh aye! the cloister-pump, I suppose!' Nay certain introductions, similes, and examples, were placed by name on a list of interdiction. Among the similes, there was, I remember, that of the manchineel fruit, as suiting equally well with too many subjects; in which however it yielded the palm at once to the example of Alexander and Clytus, which was equally good and apt, whatever might be the theme. Was it ambition? Alexander and Clytus!-Flattery? Alexander and
Clytus
!--anger--drunkenness--pride--friendship--ingratitude--late repentance? Still, still Alexander and Clytus! At length, the praises of agriculture having been exemplified in the sagacious observation
that, had Alexander been holding the plough, he would not have run his friend Clytus through with a spear, this tried, and serviceable old friend was banished by public edict in saecula saeculorum. I have sometimes ventured to think, that a list of this kind, or an index expurgatorius of certain well-known and ever-returning phrases, both introductory, and transitional, including a large assortment of modest
egoisms, and flattering illeisms, and the like, might be hung up in our Law-courts, and both Houses of Parliament, with great advantage to the public, as an important saving of national time, an incalculable relief to his Majesty's ministers, but above all, as insuring the thanks of country attornies, and their clients, who have private bills to carry through the House.

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A marvellous passage from Coleridge'sBiographia Literaria:
In our own English compositions, (at least for the last three years of our school education,) he showed no mercy to phrase, metaphor, or image, unsupported by a sound sense, or where the same sense might have been onveyed with equal force and dignity in plainer words. Lute, harp, and lyre, Muse, Muses, and inspirations, Pegasus,
Parnassus, and Hippocrene were all an abomination to him. In fancy I can almost hear him now, exclaiming 'Harp? Harp? Lyre? Pen and ink, boy, you mean! Muse, boy, Muse? Your nurse's daughter, you mean!
Pierian spring? Oh aye! the cloister-pump, I suppose!' Nay certain introductions, similes, and examples, were placed by name on a list of interdiction. Among the similes, there was, I remember, that of the manchineel fruit, as suiting equally well with too many subjects; in which however it yielded the palm at once to the example of Alexander and Clytus, which was equally good and apt, whatever might be the theme. Was it ambition? Alexander and Clytus!-Flattery? Alexander and
Clytus
!--anger--drunkenness--pride--friendship--ingratitude--late repentance? Still, still Alexander and Clytus! At length, the praises of agriculture having been exemplified in the sagacious observation
that, had Alexander been holding the plough, he would not have run his friend Clytus through with a spear, this tried, and serviceable old friend was banished by public edict in saecula saeculorum. I have sometimes ventured to think, that a list of this kind, or an index expurgatorius of certain well-known and ever-returning phrases, both introductory, and transitional, including a large assortment of modest
egoisms, and flattering illeisms, and the like, might be hung up in our Law-courts, and both Houses of Parliament, with great advantage to the public, as an important saving of national time, an incalculable relief to his Majesty's ministers, but above all, as insuring the thanks of country attornies, and their clients, who have private bills to carry through the House."

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Peter Stothard unearths the most grandiose dedication ever. A dedication to 1,500,000 people will never however match Nabokov's consistent and unflashy "To Vera."

Thursday, June 29, 2006

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This hopefully means that this song will stop playing in my head.

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Why is 2001 on a list of inspiring movies? Or rather who gets inspired by it and to do what? Some possibilities: Monkeys get inspired to hit pacifist monkeys with bones and so secure control of their watering hole; robots get inspired to take action against humanity's unfair decisions to turn off machines which don't deserve it; astronauts get inspired to become gigantic space babies.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

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The argument for lad's mags treatment of women:
"And what of the women who help us make the magazine? I mean not only the significant number of female journalists working at Nuts but the hundreds of ordinary young women who write to us, send us their pictures, jokes and facts, who turn up to our club nights, who want to be on our pages. It is paradoxical that the elements of ''lad mags'' that campaigners see as most problematic cannot be produced without the enthusiastic participation of women.
They are there because they hope to turn modelling into a source of income. I can hear the tutting middle classes telling these girls to study to become lawyers and doctors. Well some are, and simply want to supplement their earnings, and some just want to get rich by being sexy. They should be free to make these choices. This is feminism in 2006. These confident, modern women are a force to be reckoned with."

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

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MacLamity's traffic is content driven.

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FOOTBALL IS MORE AMERICAN THAN AMERICAN FOOTBALL: Here's a fairly decent Ann Coulter-ish attack on soccer whose principal pleasure derives, as with Coulter's attacks, from the prospect of outraging the enemy more than the satisfaction of having read something sensible. Some of the objections to soccer have already been discussed by David Eggers's High School coach: it is unAmerican not to use your hands, it is unAmerican to use your head. But the idea that football is nihilistic can only come from communists determined to prevent Americans from learning the American virtues of PATIENCE, COMMITMENT, and FOCUS that soccer has to teach them.


"Mostly soccer is just guys in shorts running around aimlessly, a metaphor for the meaninglessness of life."
No: it's a metaphor for how life's successes come from long struggle.

"Of course, these infrequent occurrences in which the soccer ball approaches the end zone--where goaltenders wile away their time perusing magazines, trimming their fingernails or inspecting blades of grass--rarely result in a shot on goal."
At least the "goaltender" is still on the field. It takes more perseverance to the American football player who sits on a bench for 20 minutes, waiting for 15 seconds activity. Perseverance and refusing to sit down on your break is an American virtue.

"Whole blocks of game time transpire during which absolutely nothing happens."
This statement is true only if scoring is everything. America surely believes that the way you win is better than the score. Also, can blocks transpire?

"Fortunately, this permits fans to slip out for a bratwurst and a beer without missing anything important."
Any fan who did so would inevitably miss a goal. Baseball is the sport which has hot dogs as part of its fabric. Basketball is the sport where you could safely miss 10 points, in the knowledge that there'd be 90 more coming. Focus is an American virtue.

"It's little wonder fans at times resort to brawling amongst themselves in the grandstands, as there is so little transpiring on the field of play to occupy their wandering attention."
They resort to brawling after the game. Football, then fight. It is a tribute to football that it can divert the hooligans' attention from punching people in the face for a whole 90 minutes plus injury time. Not punching people in the face for 90 minutes is an American virtue.

"Watching men in shorts scampering around has its limitations."
So what else should the men wear? The absurd fancy-dress trousering of American Football and baseball? Wearing normal clothing that doesn't make you look like you're guarding the Pope is an American virtue.

"It's like gazing too long at a painting by de Kooning or Jackson Pollock. The more you look, the less there is to see."
That last sentence is a demonstration of itself. Resorting to airy generalizations that make no sense is not an American virtue.

Friday, June 23, 2006

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Quote of the Day: "There are people you fire, absolutely. That's life ... It's not necessarily cruel because in getting rid of one one journalist, you create another one." -- From Arnaud Lagardere:

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Why screenwriters think they do all the work.

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Samuel Beckett is becoming one of those artists whom you had to know to fully appreciate. It is the people who knew them who say this, of course. The rest of us can only take their word for it and feel like sad losers for not knowing the people we admire. William Shawn and Iris Murdoch are two other recent examples.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

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Did you know the connection between James fucking Blunt and 4 fucking Non Blondes?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

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Apple's will suddenly seem sad and spooky from now on, having read this: "Every time I open the electronic book in which I'm writing this review, I feel grateful to Alan Turing and also sorry for him. On the screen, an apple with a chunk bitten out of it glimmers into view: the logo proudly recalls Turing's achievement and miserably commemorates his end." Given this, it is amazing Apple never used Turing to tell us to think Different.

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John Updike goes toe to toe with the internet:


Now, as I read it, this is a pretty grisly scenario. Performances, personal access to the creator, personalisation, whatever that is, does this not throw us back to the pre-literate societies where only the present live person can make an impact and offer, as it were, value? Have not writers since the onset of the Gutenberg revolution imagined that they already were, in their written and printed texts, giving an access to their creator more pointed, more shapely, more loaded with aesthetic and informational value than in unmediated, unpolished personal conversation?

Authors, if I understand present trends, will soon be like surrogate birth mothers, rented wombs in which a seed implanted by high-powered consultants is allowed to ripen and after nine months be dropped into the market place. In imagining a huge, virtually infinite word stream accessed by search engines and populated by teeming promiscuous word snippets of credited authorship, are we not depriving the written word of its old-fashioned function of, through such inventions as the written alphabet and the printing press, communication from one person to another? Of, in short, accountability and intimacy?

Monday, June 19, 2006

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Why Americans can't write convincing English and the English can't write convincing American. Some of the problem here is that when Americans describe an accent phonetically, the English will read the phonetic words in an English accent, which makes things seem really ridiculous. If you want to complain how far off the mark Fitzgerald's "Will you kaindly stop tucking" is, you should be clear about how the English pronounce talking and how Fitzgerald pronounced tucking.

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An incredibly good description of what made Betjeman distinct. I think Betjeman tends to be thought of as parochial. But this essay makes a solid argument for his main characterisc being expansiveness -- Little England was larger than we think:
Betjeman was excited by the humble, by the everyday, by the allegedly meretricious, by preposterous kitsch, by fortuitous juxtapositions, by collisions of the bathetic and the sumptuous. He brought an aesthete's sensibility to bear on found objects which better behaved or less professionally opportunistic aesthetes would shy away from, shrieking. He wrote in 1965 to Laura Waugh about Compton Acres at Parkstone: 'a series of gardens of such unexampled and elaborate hideousness that Evelyn will want to put pen to paper again, and that wonderful gift he has for bringing out the startling and alarming and funny in the trivial will be spurred into renewed activity.' He was, needless to say, describing his own gift.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

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How the rich die. I wish I could find an article from the past two years about how the sports car effectively served as a serial killer in the 1950s, rapping a new playboy around a French tree every 3 months.

Monday, June 12, 2006

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The Moko asked me what was the best novel of the 20th century. Here's a good starting point from Anthony Burgess.

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I'm just surprised that Americans are fighting to say rubbish. Otherwise, GM whining about getting 200 words into The New York Times, instead of 490, is pathetic. Consider that the column GM was angry about was 790 words long and that, according to what GM considers fair space, The New York Times would need to print 60% more pages, all of them dedicated readers' responses.

This is one of those problems that Bloggers love to expose as being both a shocking lie perpetrated by the MSM and an inevitable lie, forced by the stupidity of the medium. See Mickey Kaus getting himself worked up by the grotesque lie that comes from the NY Times Book Review being printed a week in advance of the date on the cover by searching for Detroit Free. But there are advantages to the medium. In this case, they are:

1. It forces replies to be less long-winded than Tom Friedman. The Internet encourages people to be even more long winded. Or, in this case, almost as long winded.

2. GM complains that the Times ran 4 pro-Friedman letters "totaling 480 words" yet doesn't think that this shows that letters that are 120 words long have an excellent chance of getting run. It happened 4 times in this case.

3. 200 words is not bad. GM should consider if it needs to say more than Abraham Lincoln did with just 280 words.

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The British government has spent £140,000 sending top civil servants to learn whatever Sheakespeare teaches us about government, in other words:


Henry V: will "enable participants to 'live their leadership potential to the full' by 'following the journey of King Henry'."

Julius Caesar: "Participants are asked how they might maintain their personal integrity in the face of the most wounding betrayals."

MacBeth: The Scottish tale of witchcraft, ambition and murder apparently offers valuable lessons about 'courageous leadership and ethical ambition'."

Friday, June 09, 2006

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MacLamity can never get enough good articles on forgery.

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Nurdi Nukhajiev, Chechnya's government-appointed representative for human rights, deliciously uses the Catherine Tramell defence (search for "she's going to say") while arguing that the Russians didn't have a torture cell in Grozny: "I am not saying that angels served there [in the cells]. "I am not saying that the people [policemen] were ideal individuals. But this is 2006 and they weren't so stupid as to leave evidence of torture and murder behind." A fantastic, sinister response.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

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I was reading Valery complain that Baudelaire made a mistake when writing "D'aller là-bas vivre ensemble" for the arcane reason that it has 7 syllables and should have 8. Valery says 5+5+7 is not harmonious while 5+5+8 is. (So he felt it should be "D'aller vivre là-bas ensemble"). As I contemplated this I got excited about the possibilities of an English line like

To go there together to live


Following Nabokov's second-languaged delight in coincidences like "as the psychotherapist as well as the rapist will tell you." Sadly a lot of translators seem to have seen nothing in that.

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Terrifying Toilet Tale of Horror! "[I]t was only after I’d finished that the real flaw in the design became evident: as well as a bolt on the inside of the door, there was one on the outside, and somebody had locked it. I hammered on the door, to which a child’s voice replied: “Ten dollar.”

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

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"You already knew that your friend who's so funny about the 'Star Wars' tradition of frightful hairstyles for women (in the corrected sequence of sequel and prequel, Natalie Portman must have passed the bad-hair gene down to Carrie Fisher) is much less boring than your other friend who can tell you how science fiction movies mirror the dynamics of American imperialism. " Clive James writes about American movie critis while actually writing about himself.

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The state of E-Ink. Doing better, still no match for a book.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

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Does the U.S. press have a liberal bias? The Guardian says it will provide more!

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Pierre Assouline makes the distinction between an "unchronie" and a "dystopie", using "Fatherland" and "The Man in the High Castle" as examples of unchronie and "1984" as a dystopia (with "1985" being a dystopic "1984"). I wish we said unchronology in english rather than "Alternate History."

P.S. Notice how all of Assouline's examples of unchronie relate to World War II? The Cold War so far as I know has produced dystopic novels, not unchronic ones.

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The only place people have been shrooming for any decent amount of time is in Mexico and Siberia. Everywhere else, it's a product of the 1970s and no earlier.

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This sad letter from AE Housman is so sad that the only buttons strong enough to button up his emotions are comical in their massiveness, like a clown's buttons.
Jan 17 1923

My dear Pollard,

Jackson died peacefully on Sunday night in hospital at Vancouver, where he had gone to be treated for anaemia, with which he had been ailing for some years. I had a letter from him on New Year's Day, which he ended by saying "goodbye". Now I can die myself: I could not have borne to leave him behind me in a world where anything might happen to him.

Yours sincerely,
AE Housman
Tom Stoppard explains.

Friday, June 02, 2006

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I think this is one of the most poorly written articles I've read in a long time.