Friday, December 31, 2004
The big news this week has been the Tsunami that hit the Indian Ocean. There isn't much anyone can say about this. I know that isn't true - people have been talking about it all week - but nothing much you say means anything. Not about the Tsunami itself. Rather than blog, I imagine the thing to do is donate. There are lists of organizations at the link I posted - Amazon and Google and the like have links for donations.
And, of course, this is the end of the year - I certainly hope to post something of a year end (or new year) wrap up here - or several, including notes on Whither The Blog? but you know how that goes... hope is not a plan.
Thursday, December 16, 2004
Looks like The Nationals are gonna be Les Expos again next year. From ESPN:
NEW YORK -- Washington's new baseball team shut down business and promotional operations indefinitely Wednesday as its move to the nation's capital teetered on the brink of collapse.
The decision by Major League Baseball followed the District of Columbia Council's decision Tuesday night to require private financing for at least half the cost of building a new stadium. The September agreement to move the Montreal Expos to Washington called for a ballpark fully financed by government money.
This is probably a very bad thing for Baseball - I should say, for Major League Baseball, the organization... But god, this is a great thing for the public at large. Someone stood up to the crap they sell. On something that makes sense, not the usual grandstanding Bullshit, like McCain on steroids. Jim Henley's Unqualifed Offerings has a couple posts up about it, and about the coverage of it. Jim Caple at ESPN agrees - and reminds us that the council still agreed to pay some $450 million, and that the real driving force here is MLB's desire to get all the sale money for the team for themselves. And after the fine fine job they've done the last couple years of raising the value of the franchise, who can blame them for wanting to make a modest profit off the deal?
Seriously - why should cities foot the bill? some of the bill, maybe, but all of it? No. And I should add - Henley quotes Mark Fisher uttering that old dead fish "Baseball was an opportunity to rise above those strains, to reach for world-class status, to lure suburbanites back into a view of Washington as the center, a place of pride." - a particular type of inanity I cannot abide . Baseball teams - basketball, football, what have you - do not make a place a world class city. Living in a city with some recent baseball success - winning the world series is great, but please - if we're a world class city, it's because of things like this, or maybe this (even if they are in a different city) - maybe even what lies across the fens from the baseball park. And, if we are a "world class city" - why the hell can't they get the trains running?
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Mumia buttons on our chests
We’d all fail a urine test
One hundred crowd the hip café
But only three score the Hemp Beret
Thank you, thank you.
Saturday, December 11, 2004
In response to one or more indecency complaints, the Federal Communications Commission has asked NBC to send it tapes of its coverage of the Summer Olympics Opening Ceremonies in Athens, the network confirmed late yesterday.
I guess there were people impersonating Greek statues - and the Greeks, the barbaric bastards, don't wear clothes. I guess. Hard to say. All told, this reflects badly on the United States. But will probably continue...
Thursday, December 09, 2004
It is very strange. Surreal and terrible. I am not a metal fan, I have heard the bare minimum of Pantera’s music - I remember it as being, like most thrash metal, kind of dull, with moments of flash that don’t quite justify its existence. But I don’t know how fair that is.
But I am aware, from reading various magazines, of Dimebag’s importance in that world. And the culture of metal is interesting in a way - it’s like superhero comics - something that I don’t much care about in itself, but which can be fascinating to think about from outside. And sometimes from inside. So somehow, this comes off all disproportionate to the place he had in my life. I mean - it is always horrible when something like this happens, when someone is shot and killed - but usually, even famous people are strangers to me. This is not like John Lennon’s death - not someone I, personally, cared about in any special way. But for some reason, it looms very large.
Larger, say, than Tupac - who, like Dimebag, I had heard of, heard some music by, considered good enough in his area, just not something I cared all that much about. I don't know why, but Dimebag's death seems more significant, somehow. Is it because it happened yesterday? December 8? Is it the fact that it was a bloodbath - a guy jumping on stage and opening fire on the band and the crowd? Is it because I’d read so many references to Dimebag? Or was I jaded about Tupac, after his arrests and stabbings and feuds and everything, his death came as the logical next step - while this comes completely out of the blue?
Probably a little bit of all of it. What this reminds me of is when I heard that Peter Tosh had been shot, back in the 80s. Tosh was an artist I’d heard a little, heard of a lot more - he represented a whole genre of music (far more than Tupac could) that I respected without knowing much about. And his murder was shocking and strange, came completely from left field - it was very discomfiting, it made me very aware of the sense of losing something I never had. It’s that odd sense of vertigo that comes from having someone who had been a vague presence I should know more about suddenly become real by dieing.
That's how I feel about Dimebag. I don't know how else to describe it. It's absurd and horrible all out of scale with what I knew of him when he was alive.
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
But then you come across things like this, at (shockingly) Michelle Malkin's blog. She's harrassing, and encouraging others to harass, businesses, cities, etc. who change Christmas specific signage and celebrations to more generic signs and parties. There is a word for what she is doing, and it has 7 letters, starts with f, ends with "ism" and is derived from the Italian word for a stick (as used in the symbol of the relevant political party, a bundle of sticks - symbolizing the old adage, one stick is easy to break - a bundle of sticks is hard to break.) Nor is this assertion of mine debatable. It is the case.
This is a link to something called The Committee to Save Merry Christmas.
You know, when I was a kid, the bad guys - Burgermeister Meisterburger and company - were always trying to stop Christmas. Now... ah yes... what times we live in. When roving bands of evildoers stroll the company demanding we sing "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem" on demand. Christmas is a good thing - things like this will put you off your gingerbread...
Saturday, December 04, 2004
I have to write something about Barry and Jason. Dumbfucks. But then again...
It has been a strange fall for this sports fan. The one greatest thing I could possibly ask for happened - since then - it's been nothing but bad. The big brawl ruined basketball for me. There hasn’t been much baseball news - until today, with Giambi and Bonds (and Sheffield and a couple others) exposed for their steroids use). Hell, even my softball team is embroiled in controversy...
On Ron Artest and company - I think that while I have no problem with what happened to Ron Artest, I also think it is disgraceful that the fans were not punished. Oh, a couple dinks were banned from the Palace - whatevah! What should have happened is that the fans - and the Palace - should have gotten the same kind of punishment the players did: in the wallets. Ban alcohol for a month or so. I think it is reasonable to hold the fans (and the forum - someone should be keeping the peace) to the same standards as the players - being rich should get you no privileges - not being rich ditto. The players got, roughly, what they deserved - the fans involved - and the forum - were just as responsible for the brawl, and should get what they deserve as well...
But enough... what about Bonds and company? None of it is surprising - it’s all been coming. It’s interesting too - was Charles Pierce telling the truth? That these things were legal - weren’t even against the rules? I do believe what he says about Len Bias - an overreaction to a terrible thing led to more bad things... I don't know enough here. I don't have any doubt that things like this - John McCain sticking his nose where it isn't wanted - are all bad. Worse - I can say that without reservation - than anything Barry Bonds or Jason Giambi or Ron Artest (for that matter) have ever done. The government has no place in this. It's bad enough that the NFL is testing poor Ricky Williams for pot - why is that relevant to the NFL? Of course, the fact that pot is illegal is highly troubling, and fairly ridiculous. But this is about sports...
The truth is, I am not sure what to think here. Why, exactly, are steroids illegal? (If they're illegal.) (are they illegal for you and me? if not - why should they be illegal for Barry Bonds?) Or against the rules? Medicine isn’t against the rules - they all get cortisone shots - why should cortisone shots be legal and not steroids?
That is a serious question - though I don’t know who could answer. I don’t know the answer. Why are steroids illegal? The harm they cause people? Maybe - though I don’t know what harm they cause. And why would steroids, with the potential for long-term damage, be banned, and - say - Curt Schilling's ankle surgery - never tried before, so who knows the possible after-effects? - not? And the harm steroids cause - do they? We’ve all heard about it, though steroids seem to have been evolving - at what point do they become safe enough to allow, if that is the issue? And if that isn't the issue - are they banned because of the competitive advantages they give? Well - how is that different from laser surgery - cortisone shots - weight machines - protein supplements - all the things that athletes are allowed to use? The busybodies - the John McCain's - talk about the "integrity of the game" - but what the hell is that? it's purely arbitrary, in cases like this. They're athletes - their livelihood depends on doing certain things as well as those things can be done. You can't single out some of those things and ban them without good reasons, reasons beyond an abstract notion of "integrity". If steroids cause significant health problems - of a different order than, say, 27 knee surgeries - then ban them, yes. If not - maybe the answer is to face the facts and deal.
The second best argument (after the harm they cause) is technological - it may be justifiable to ban steroids for the same reason that MLB bans, and other levels of baseball limit, aluminum bats. (And golf regulates balls and clubs, and tennis regulates rackets and so on.) The game was designed to be played on a certain sized space - if the technology gets to be too good, it becomes dangerous, or non-competitive, to play in that space. That, I suppose, is what is (really) meant by the "integrity of the game" - to keep the technology within certain limits. (The semiotician in me sees this and wants to note: see how long it is before someone refers to this as a "technological" issue in public. They will frame it in abstractions - "integrity" or "cheating" - second order words at best (it's only cheating if it is illegal - the question here is, why is it - why should it be - illegal?). Even when technological issues are discussed directly - corked bats, say - they are always framed as questions of integrity, not technology...) It will be interesting, I think, in coming years, when the Mechanists start impacting the games as much as the Shapers. It's a matter of time, I'd guess, before someone comes up with machines that improve performance - then what? (More of the same - who's kidding? even when every schmuck on the street can get some nifty toy that lets them see out of the back of their head or something...)
All right, all right.... Getting back to the point.... If steroids were legal - what would that mean? Probably that to compete in the game, you would have to use them - to some extent. And that - I suspect - would not be a good thing. For all kinds of reasons. But - at some point - I have to guess it will happen. Though if you get enough rules in place, the athletes will be the weakest people on the planet - everyone else will be using the cream and the clear and only poor Barry Bonds III will be getting in trouble for it...
So to conclude this [very hesitant and waffling] rant... Just a note on their actual effects. I guess if you take someone who is already the best hitter of his generation and give him drugs to make him stronger - well. We see the results. The truth is - I don't know how much difference these things make, in the long run. I mean, they change things - they make these guys bigger, and add a lot of distance to their hits - but, even looking at the other guys who were using... Sheffield and Bonds were hitting way back in the 90s - unless they were using all along, all it did was keep them going a bit - though Sheff isn't much better than he ever was. None of the other overmuscled brutes were able to maintain the level of achievement Bonds did. Hacks like Jeremy Giambi could use all the dope they wanted, they never hit like Barry - or Jason. (Couldn't hit enough to keep himself in the game.) The dirty secret is that, when you get down to it, it's still the skills that count the most.
Though if you have that, and have a magically enhanced body to boot - I guess the results are terrible to behold.
I've lost the plot. This is the point. I started reading Triton for a class - read it - liked it, very much (did I love it? in a way. But Delany is an odd case - I have tried reading his science fiction in the past, and not been able to keep at it; something about the self-consciousness of it, makes it, somehow, seem smug - he's too good - and somehow too smug about what he's doing... But that's not fair,a nd part of the point of this post is to note how I lost that feeling.) (So did I love it? in a sense - yes - but Delany's books tend to split, a bit - on one side, a text - sentences running together, creating a story and a world and people - all of this utterly engaging; on the other side something of a treatise on Science Fiction, or The Paraliterary, or, The Novel, or... not that that bothers me as such - I like metafiction as much as the next man, but...)
I can't get this started. And the irony is, originally, I wrote this not to discuss Samuel R. Delany, and still less, my (emotional? or critical?) reaction to him - but because I was reading Delany, and some criticism of Delany, and - coincidentally - via Pandagon - found this: Gender News - a conservative site about gender issues. A week or so ago (getting on to 2 weeks now, I think - I started this note almost a week ago), they had an article up called Deliberate Childlessness: Moral Rebellion With a New Face - which basically says it all. Reading within, one finds:
The church must help this society regain its sanity on the gift of children. Willful barrenness and chosen childlessness must be named as moral rebellion. To demand that marriage means sex--but not children--is to defraud the creator of His joy and pleasure in seeing the saints raising His children. That is just the way it is. No kidding.
With that, I'd say, we are halfway, at least, to the line of thought presented in Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand (which I have started reading in the wake of Triton: (as described in this essay by Earl Jackson Jr..) "In such a circular patriarchal theology, nonreproductive sexuality becomes associated with blasphemous treason." That's not far from what our Gender News writer, R. Albert Mohler, Jr., said - not far at all. The blasphemy part is there. The treason is implied - but those guys (the religious right) are increasingly pushing for a union of blasphemy and treason.
And doing it all in terms that Delany parodied 20 years ago. They're a creepy lot.
(Jackson cite via Long Story, Short Pier - specifically, this post from almost 2 weeks past...)
Saturday, November 27, 2004
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
It was a matter of time, of course. All it needed was something like what happened this week - a blown fuse - and now, it won't do a thing. No life. That is typical - these machines, macs from the mid to late 90s, were notorious for that very problem. Actually, for two problems - losing the ability to power up, and hard drives that stop spinning. This is the second 4400 in my experience to suffer this fate - the power supplies stop working.
I may get it back someday - or find a working chassis and move the hard drive... But I am resigned to accepting the end. I loved this machine, as much as one can love a machine. I have not used it in the last year - this one (17 inch i-mac - another fairly wonderful machine, that has given me no trouble and better, is a positive work of art) is actually fast enough that I can stand to use it for routine word processing. Amazing. Anyway, in honor of the passing of this wonderful machine, I will post my top 10 favorite pieces of computer related hardware and software. Appalling sentimentality! but if you can't be sentimental at a time like this, when can you be?
1. Microsoft Word 5.1b - this is number 1. Other than spelling, it is still the best word processing program I have ever used. I would probably still prefer it to Word for OS X if it had comparable spelling and macro features. Hell, it had them, back, pre OS 7 or 7.5, or something - somewhere in there, the add ins I was using stopped working. That was when I had to move to another machine to be able to spell... But even without it - it ran on that 4400 as well as Word for X runs on this machine - and probably (with its complete customizability and its magnificent full text searching) had a better feature set. It is by far the best piece of software I know of.
2. Mac 4400 - this machine lasted 7 years. I used it for 3 years at work, then brought it home (we switched to Windows), and used it 4 more - 3 of those years as my main writing computer. I switched tot he internet on other machines maybe about 2001 - but used the 4400 to write on. Great machine. Reliable, fast... it did have power problems sometimes, so I left it running all this time... I knew it could not last forever. I managed to wean myself from it okay - but I will miss it. And - it had word 5.1 on it - and I will miss that more.
3. Mac II-ci: I had one of these for a couple years at work. Most of those early 80s macs had their issues - some because of their architecture (something about their bus capacities, I think); some had bad hard disks, some had unreliable power supplies.... This machine did not give me trouble. I beat on it - I crammed everything I could get into it, used it hard - the system got corrupted every 6 months or so and I would have to reinstall everything - that was a fact of life in those days. But the machine - wonderful thing. Reliable, and probably just as quick with word 5.1 as the machine I have now is. I had to give it up when the powermacs came out - I was disappointed. Partly because I knew that getting the first powermacs off the line meant I would have all the problems, and be the last one to get a new, good one - but partly just because I loved my CI.
4. I have to give props to what I have, though - this 17 inch i-mac is perfectly reliable, and by god - it is beautiful! It really is. Every couple years apple comes out with something just stunning. This is the model. And it works.
5. Powerbook 170 - these were sweet machines as well - great keyboards, reliable, sturdy. I still have one, sitting around somewhere. Unlike my beloved 4400, it still boots up. And runs word like a charm. Surprise surprise!
6. Compaq Armada: There is not much in the windows side of the world that I think is even remotely worth using - but this machine is one. Looks like one of those old PB170s - black, blocky, kind of heavy, but indestructible, reliable, powerful enough. You can’t break them. Great computers. And the last machine of any importance with both floppy and CD bays built in. There are times, even now... Thank you Compaq!
7. SE30. Indestructible little things, quick, functional, and you could get a real monitor on it with a little work. But even without it - those luggable macs had some merits. I would not turn one down now.
8. My new 12 inch powerbook. I know. I love it. Sorry. Tiny, sleek, quick, beautiful. Wonderful machine.
9. Hypercard - this is one I would have to think about some. But when I started using computers - macs - at the end fo the 80s - this was a hell of a program. You could do things with hypercard - I remember building my own spreadsheets, back when I was starting out, and didn't have excel for some reason. I built databases that still work better than databases built in access. It was a great piece of software... I did end up using it mostly to build databases - these days, File Maker has a lot of the same functionality and works about as well - efficient, quick, reliable, easy to work with. I don't know if I can put FileMaker here, but it has a lot of the same appeal. Especially compared to crap like Access.
10. Mosaic. Less because it was a perfect piece of software than because it did things that pretty fucking literally changed the world. The way we interact with the world. Obviously, the way you and me right now are interacting in the world. There may be software that did this back in the 80s - excel maybe - but since I started using computers, this is the one program that, single-handedly, just changed things. And hey - it worked. It did what it did.
After years of finger-pointing and tension within his foreign policy agencies, President Bush is moving aggressively to tame the two most unwieldy agencies -- the CIA and the State Department -- by installing reliable allies at the helm with instructions to clamp down on dissenting career officials, advisers to the president said.
I suppose no one will disagree witht he basic facts and basic interpretation of the facts in that statement, but the evaluation of those facts and interpretations will vary widely. Joshua Michael Marshall, for example, offers a somewhat different slant than the White House insiders quoted in the Globe article:
There has been a running battle along these 'political appointees' versus 'the professionals' lines at the Pentagon, the CIA and, to a much lesser degree, the State Department for more than three years. And by and large the Bush administration's 'political appointees' have been wrong almost every time. There are a few exceptions at the Pentagon -- the early stages of the Afghan campaign being the best example. But at the CIA it's really been pretty much a shut-out. And a number of those screw-ups have been ones of catastrophic proportions.
* * *
And the upshot of all that we've seen, the result of all those struggles over the last three years is that the 'appointees' are purging the 'professionals'. Another way to put it is that the folks who were always wrong and often catastrophically wrong are rooting out the folks who were often right and sometimes somewhat wrong. The answer to politicized intelligence, it turns out, is a more thorough politicization of intelligence and the elimination of those who resisted political pressure.
Given that -and it seems pretty much the truth - it's hard to read about the President "reining in" anyone without a feeling of dread.
(Should I explain the title? I may. The north during the Civil War was plagued by politically appointed generals. On the whole, they may not have been any worse than the regular army generals and various volunteers who rose to power, but at the top, they were a disaster. A few of them - some purely political, some regulars who were in the politicians' pockets - held real power, and made hash of it. Benjamin Butler - John C. Fremont - quite a few more. The story of Lincoln winning the war was the story of the political generals being replaced by professionals. So - Bush - compared, in some circles to Lincoln - follows roughly the opposite track. For while the balance of competence is about the same in the civil war - political generals are incompetent and dangerous to our cause, professionals (while they cover a range of abilities, and are often an unimaginative lot) more or less do what they are supposed to do - the direction and results are the opposite. The story of Bush losing the war is the story of Bush purging the professionals for the politicians.
Monday, November 15, 2004
UPDATE: Looks like Powell's replacement is going to be Condeleeza Rice. I'm sure Bush could have done worse, though perhaps the greatest indictment of this administration is that there's simply no one anywhere near the white house who would be a good choice. It's not as bad as Gonzales, I guess.
Sunday, November 14, 2004
Thursday, November 11, 2004
I don't expect this issue to be laid to rest for some time. Bev Harris is up in arms. (So is Black Box Voting, a different site doing the same kinds of things. I'm not sure what their relationship is, or was...) The meme stays alive in cyberspace (Greg Palast say; Long Story, Short Pier - where Kim seems convinced.) I don't know. I worry, though, that the fact that the election results can be ascribed to other things, that they weren't absurd on the face of them, that the Voices of Reason will insist that we have to Move On and stop indulging in Wishful Thinking. All that may be true - but prove it. At least, let's get as much information out there, where we can look at it and think about it ourselves...
. . . Contrary to those Le Monde intellectuals who see the US as a super-superpower, a hyperpuissance, Todd, a French demographer and author of a book correctly foreseeing the fall of the Soviet Union, says the US has become a "big little bully" incapable of picking on anyone its own size. It makes a show of force attacking the weak--dirtpoor countries with no air defences, such as Iraq and Afghanistan--because a "show" is precisely what it is.
"These conflicts that represent little or no military risk allow the United States to be 'present' throughout the world. The United States works to maintain the illusory fiction of the world as a dangerous place in need of America's protection."
Wolcott cites this in the context of the Fallujah assault - "Operation Phantom Fury" apparently. Wolcott at length:
The US assault on Fallujah is a prime example of what Todd calls "theatrical micromilitarism." I mean, calling it "Operation Phantom Fury"--it's a sick joke. What's "phantom" about it? For months the US has been touting this incursion and publicly built up forces outside the city for weeks, giving the enemy plenty of time to rig explosives and/or skip town. Billing it as a "decisive battle"--another fraud. Guerrilla warfare operates on an entirely different set of rules; as has been oft pointed out, America won every major battle during Vietnam and still lost. What's unfolding is not a decisive moment but a ghastly production that trains hellfire on a symbolic target and "plays well" to American citizens as a flex of muscle, as witness the NY Post cover today of an American soldier with a cigarette dangling from his mouth with the headline "Marlboro Men Kick Butt." Civilian casualties, the destruction of homes and livelihoods, the absence of any significant capture of insurgent ringleaders, these are secondary to getting good action footage over which benedictions can be said.
He is right. This war from the beginning had the stink of being fought because it would be easy to win - not that this comes as any great shock. There's a lot of tough talk from the Bush administration about our foreign policy goals, but even in the middle of the tough talk, there always seem to be a few of the wonkier ne-cons smugging around the sidelines explaining how invading Iraq would send a message to someone that we weren't to be trifled with. That it sent the message to make sure you have working nukes seems to have slipped past these giant brains...
What it means? In the end, it means that these guys really do run everything as theater - as long as they keep the American casualties relatively low, as long as they keep the pictures of American dead off the TV screens, they figure they can hang on to power at home. Use real heroism (and whatever you say about the war, the people on the ground fighting it are running risks and deserve respect) to prop up the image of our strength. Good old "Decisive George Bush" again. Maybe they think they are also projecting power abroad, though Wolcott and Todd don't think so, and I have to suspect they are right. Which is a source of some comfort, since it means they (I mean, Bush and company) are not likely, tough talk aside, to start up any new wars. Just try to flog the one they have. And keep gettign reelected, because Americans don't want to think about the reality of politics or war or the rest of the world. Well - 51% of Americans...
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
Update: Already! changed my mind! added another 5 sites! Culture! A Libertarian! A Real Live Preacher! Enjoy!
The election proves that the goals set forth in the Bush Doctrine essentially reflect what most Americans want their government to do.
With this mandate, the goal of the second administration is to put actual meat behind the lofty goals expressed by the Bush doctrine. By Donnelly’s estimation, this means expanding the Bush doctrine beyond the greater Middle East and -- here’s the kicker -- integrating our China policy into the Bush Doctrine. While the Bush administration confronts rogue regimes in the greater Middle East, the likelihood of a future great-power confrontation with China is increasing substantially -- so we must act.
Ah, the American Enterprise Institute! Where else could we turn for such wisdom? There's more - after calling someone "Panda huggers", Donnelly adds, “Negotiating with ourselves over China,” said Donnelly, “is even dumber than negotiating with Democrats over social security or tax reform.” He is not, apparently, likely to claim the Reality Based Community as his own...
U.S. Army and Marine units thrust into the heart of the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah on Tuesday, fighting fierce street battles and conducting house-to-house searches on the second day of a major assault to retake the city from Islamic militants.
Why are the people we are fighting called "Islamic militants"? This is odd - granted, they are Islamic, and they are obviously militants - but is that an innocent combination? Because Al Qaeda, for example, are clearly "Islamic Militants" - their militancy and their religion are inextricably linked. But the Iraqi insurgents are motivated by other things, aren't they? Nationalism or tribalism or their own desire for power or whatever it is - including some degree of Islamic ideoloty... I don't know. Semantics and war are a dangerous combination, but it seems likely that terms like this carry some pretty strong propaganda implications, that I'm not sure I like.
Monday, November 08, 2004
I will take this opportunity to note what I have seen recently, very briefly: Sideways - quite funny at times, interesting enough, even if it is about another 40ish white guy moping about self-inflicted wounds. Thought his guy is affecting - maybe in the ways he comes off as more real than most people on movie screens. Being played by Paul Giamatti is always an advantage, but it's more than that - it's details, like his apartment, his car, the fact that he doesn't have a cel phone. And the wine. Wine is what is best and worst about the man - his passion, but a passion he can't quite indulge in without lording it over people, and a passion which hides, not too subtly, some nasty stuff (the fact that he is a drunk.) So this may not be brilliant, but it is a fine movie, with many surprising virtues... And many big virtues - especially the performances, universally fine.
And Undertow - new film by David Gordon Green, starring Jamie Bell and Dermot Mulroney. Very nearly a remake of Night of the Hunter - here the villain is Josh Lucas as Mulroney's brother, just out of the pen - he shows up, tries to act ingratiating, Mulroney tries to do the right thing - but it doesn't take long for the two of them to be fighting over their father's "treasure" a collection of gold coins. This does not end well, and soon Bell takes to the road with a little brother. They pass through a really down and out south, a step or two ahead of Lucas' thug, passing out books as they go. It's a little bit too derivative, but quite gorgeous and moving anyway.
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
The feeling I get from all this is that in the end we (the majority of voters in the country) ended up voting for an imaginary candidate. "Decisive George Bush" - as fictional as Giblets - an image of toughness and resolve that no facts, no revelations of lies and shenanigans, no pictures of the President of the United States unable to act with the country under attack until someone tells him what to do, can ever shake. Could shake. They (not me) voted for this chimera - they voted for what they wanted him to be, pretending, wishing, that he was what they thought they needed.
The fact that John Kerry largely was that man - the war hero, the senator with the guts to take on the administration, organizations like the BCCI and such - made no impression. I don't know why. Mabe because the GOP stayed relentlessly on message. Maybe because the democrats, across the board, saw John Kerry for what he was - their opinions of him ranged from enthusiasm to Anybody But Bushism, but they were all interpretations of the actual John Kerry... Can a real man, good bad or indifferent, compete with an imaginary man? You would like to think so, but the evidence before us says no.
Anyway, now, let's just hope the democrats decide that this is the time to fight. That they get tough - call Bush on his crap, resist wherever they can - this is not the time to whimper, well the people have chosen... The people chose a lie. The people were wrong. It is our responsibility to wake the fucking people up and get them to stop doing things like this to themselves.
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
On a more personal note - I voted in my current town for the first time. Some kind of club, a VFW or American Legion hall. Paul Krugman has a nice article - "The humbleness of the surroundings only emphasizes the majesty of the process: this is democracy, America's great gift to the world, in action." It's true. The talk about freedom and all in grand abstractions hides the fact that freedom and democracy consists in a bunch of old men and women leafing through sheafs of voter rolls, checking your name off, handing you a ballot... prosaic as hell. It gets you right here!
So off we go! And hope it's clean, and the voting itself is what continues to matter, and not the lawsuits and posturing when it is done. Keep this power in the hands of the voters - don't let it turn into spin, like damn near everything else.
Thursday, October 28, 2004
We had some fun with him last week. He got as taste of what it's like to be us. And tonight - I ended up watching the game alone (we'd been planning to watch the game together, but he had to work) - and I was thinking, in the ninth, this is exactly what happened in 1986. I watched it alone, just like this - so alike, but so completely different. The way it felt. In 86, with a couple outs, when the Mets got people on board, I was terrified - the Sox were so capable of losing. And I remember distinctly saying to myself (and anyone who might have wondered by), just let them hit a pop up; no grounders, no fly balls, a pop up, someone can catch that. Those who would defend Buckner - or rather, MacNamara (I don't blame Buckner - the man was in worse shape than Curt Schilling this year!) - should take note. Everyone saw that disaster coming. I saw it coming. I knew Buckner was not capable of fielding his opsition - in truth, of course, I didn't trrust any of the other infielders, or the outfielders either. But this year? With Cabrera and Reese and Mientkevitch (there's no chance that's spelled right, but hey) out there - with Damon and Kapler int he outfield - they could hit it almost anywhere and someone was going to catch it. Hit it where you want,, I thought, just keep it in the yard - this game is over.
It's a magnificent thing. Baseball is an integral part of my life, as much as religion is for some people. It is all that. What can I say? The Red Sox have won the world series. May they do it again, and again and again.
And they did it fast - I can get some sleep! eventually. They did what I hoped - they marched through the opposition like a bunch of batting practice pitchers - well, the Cards anyway. Or more to the point - stifled them, the way Pedro Martinez or whoever will mow down the Boston College squad in early spring training. They made everyone they faced look overmatched. Looking at it now - the gutsy team playing over their heads looks like the Yankees - keeping in a series they had no business being in... Just doing it all at the beginning of the series. Exciting stuff.
One last thing - for now. As has happened through the whole post-season - whenever someone has a bad stretch, they broke out of it at a key moment. Tonight (and yesterday, a little bit) it was Trot Nixon - a huge double - a couple other hits. Just like Bellhorn and Damon at the end of the Yankee series, or Lowe, or Manny after not getting any RBI in the Yankee series, all along - everyone on the team had a huge game or two in the last week. It's wonderful. Indeed it is.
Tuesday, October 26, 2004
Meanwhile, out in blogland, I have been finding James Wolcott's blog to be about the best read out there. He might make the mighty "blogroll" soon, if I ever go in and add some more links.
Thursday, October 21, 2004
Sweet Jesus, look at this. The Sox come back - with the guys who weren't doing it all series suddenly doing it - Bellhorn with another Home Run - and Johnny Damon! just unbelievable.
I got nothing to say but uh - yes! fucking yes! yes yes yes yes yes!
Now let's get the Rog.
Wait - I do have more to say. It's this - one of the things that makes this team so great is the fact that they love winning. They got a lot of crap last year for celebratiing the wild card, then celebrating the short series - the twits whined that they were getting too worked up over the intermediate steps - the real champs, they say, don't celebrate til the end. Well - this gang - celebrate everything. And that, I think, is part of what gives them an edge - they just go out and play and... keep playing.
This is mind blowing. Really is. Wonderful. Amazing. God almighty. Stunning. Stop!
Saturday, October 16, 2004
Could they have? I can think of things they could have said - like, "we have to walk a tightrope - we have to make it so politicians keep coming on the show - we try to get past their shields, but we can't do it directly. We have to play the games with them, to get them here, to try to get past the games." I don't know if that is a defense - but it's something. Realistic challenges require access - access requires at least some pandering to the theater. The trick is to get past the defenses, sometimes, just a bit. The problem there is that the show most likely to get at something legitimate behind the spin is the Daily Show. Comedy has always allowed criticism of those in power - Stewart uses it pretty well. Fake debate shows like Crossfire have never done that sort of thing - they allow posturing and scripted outrage. Pro wrestling....
And finally - the Crossfire guys, trying to defend themselves as "hard-hitting" - as not being part of the system - were utterly exposed by Stewart. He did to them exactly what he said they should do to politicians, and they were utterly unable to respond.
Thursday, October 14, 2004
Well, as I say, we haven't heard much from him. And I wouldn't necessarily say he's at the center of any command structure. And again, I don't know where he is. I--I'll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him. I know he is on the run. I was concerned about him when he had taken over a country. I was concerned about the fact that he was basically running Afghanistan and calling the shots for the Taliban.
This is a very clear statement of what Drum is talking about - Bush looked at even Bin Laden as dangerous because he was running a state. When he lost the state - Bush stopped caring. Drum makes the distinction that liberals indeed do tend to make:
But as dangerous as they [rogue states] are, they're still states, and they still have an interest in continuing to exist — which means they're unlikely to directly threaten the United States. What's more, since central governments dislike competing power centers, they have a fundamental interest in preventing terrorist groups from amassing too much influence within their borders.
Failed states, by contrast, don't, which is why terrorist groups seek them out. And since terrorist groups like al-Qaeda do directly threaten us, it's failed states and non-state terrorist groups themselves who pose a much greater danger to the security of the United States. John Kerry understands this. George Bush and his advisors don't.
This is right, I think. And it has been at the center of a lot of the disputes that have arisen over the last 3 years of foreign policy. The "law enforcement" model some leftists favor is based on the notion that terrorists (the ones we have to worry most about) do not operate through states. Opposition to the Iraq war obviously is built around this. I can speak for myself - when we were attacked, in the early days, when no one quite knew who had attacked us, and people wondered if it could be Saddam Hussein, I was convinced it was not. Because of this - Saddam had a country - he had a political entity that he could lose - that could be attacked and destroyed. To attack us would justify our attacking him and destroying him. He existed, in 2001, at our sufferance - and he had to know that anything that any direct move against us would result in getting him run out on a rail. And - again, speaking for myself - I am convinced that by attacking him we seriously weakened that very real deterrant on state villainy. Rogue states - (pre-conquest) Iraq, North Korea, whoever - had to know that if they messed around too much they could be taken out. But now - they have to think they can be taken out no matter what they do. So - clearly, this is not going to encourage better behavior. This encourages antinomian behavior!
Saturday, October 09, 2004
I read Derrida in grad school, back in the 80s. Most decidedly tough sledding, but fascinating. The first piece of his I read (or tried to read) was his "Living On/Borderlines" essay in the Deconstruction and Criticism book, collecting the "Yale Mafia" inside one set of covers. Derrida's contribution ran an essay on Blanchot on top of a long footnote consisting of an essay on - long footnotes? It's been awhile. The way it looked on the page, though, was instantly addictive, and I kept reading Derrida in hopes that I could understand some of it. Eventually I did, though I had to read a lot of Nietzsche and a fair amount of Hegel first.
But understanding aside - the way he wrote suggested things, ways of writing, mixed registers. You don't see that sort of thing in academic writing all that often. You see it, instead, in works of genius like The Third Policeman . It is pleasant to imagine Derrida as a kind of gallic, "serious" Flann O'Brien. It's only slightly far-fetched - O'Brien's japes are very serious; Derrida in turn seems, if not precisely comical, certainly delighted in the sheer oddness of his writing. The puns and wordplay and elaborate typographical trickery he occasionally indulged in cannot be completely rationalized as high seriousness.
At any rate, it was that - the sense of excitement in the act of writing and thinking that his work gave off - that drew me to him first, and kept me at it, long enough to get some clue what was going on. And then - frankly, it made sense. A lot of what he said simply makes sense. Not that I can possibly justify that conclusion at this hour of the night. But as far as I am concerned, Derrida made the world a better place.
Tuesday, October 05, 2004
Meanwhile, I shouldn't post a link to this, but what the heck? Something about Dick Cheney compels me. "A elderly Romanian man mistook his penis for a chicken's neck, cut it off and his dog rushed up and ate it, the state Rompres news agency said Monday." He should have just choked the chicken....
I also suggest that even if no one articulated the "curse" idea before 1986, a lot of people held some version of the idea. I am struggling to remember this now - it seems to me the decline of the Red Sox, and decades of failure that followed, were always associated with the sale of Ruth... But I don't know how explicit the "curse" idea was. Seems to me, pre-86, the terms of the divine punishment against us were usually Puritan - fate, the elect, sinners in the hands of an angry god. I remember the "curse of the bambino" as a cheap, new-agey revision of that.
It's time for the Sox to be favored for something - maybe the Patsies can win as underdogs, but the Red Sox have been underdogs all these years - kick some ass, boys! March triumphant through the buttery opposition and their triple A/oldies league pitching! Rack up those three run homers! 9-3 is a good start.
Thursday, September 30, 2004
What I saw was this: Kerry addressed issues, consistently - talking about actual issues, addressing every question with a good deal of substance.. Speaking in complete sentences, stringing thoughts together, connecting them. Bush? My God - he was horrible. He slumped, he all but twitched. He kept acting like he wanted to go home, there were times it sounded like he was about to cry. His answers were horrible - over and over, he sounded like he was grasping at straws - the worst answer I think was after Kerry whacked him on North Korea (and whacked him hard.) Kerry brought that up - brought up Bush backing off alliances and treaties and so on - Bush couldn't come up with an answer. He stammered and hesitated and hedged and came up with something about an international criminal court. It was amzing.
Most of the debate, Bush kept looping back to the "mixed messages" line - which is all it is, a line. He would try to say something substantive - get lost - and jump back to Kerry's "inconsistency." It had the quality of someone hoping they could make it true by saying it often enough. An amazingly bad performance.
So - I don't know how prejudiced I am. I should note - if I were a Bush fan, I would hardly change my mind - but I think, if Kerry looked or sounded that bad tonight, I would be in a very bad mood. As it is - it will be interesting. I am not sure what to think of the spinners - I saw a bit of Mark Shields and David Brooks - Brooks said it was even; Shields said when Clinton and Reagan got reelected, they ran on optimism, morning in America - Bush can't do that. So - does Brooks saying it's even in fact mean, slam-dunk Kerry? (On the local channel, one guy said Kerry hit it out of the park - the other guy said on substance, it was a draw - the first guy laughed at him.) Interesting. But a late night. I bid you farewell.
UPDATE: I have come in and corrected some of the more egregious spelling errors - that post will show you what typing on a laptop at 11 PM will do... I have also been looking around the net - looks like I got it right. Links later. Spoke with a Bush supporter - even he seemed quite subdued.
I'm neither as shocked or appalled as I should be. The debates are a charade. I have no intention to watch them - what point would there be? I have a pretty good idea where these guys are going to take us - what could change? Now - if I were on the fence, sure - but I'm not... I don't really expect anything inspiring or horrible to happen - in fact, I don't expect anything real to happen. The debates are a pretext to the discussion of the debates (which I refuse to call "spin"), which is mostly - on the blogs, on the cable channels and radio and whatever - a game among political junkies that is no more related to actual politics than arguing about your fantasy team is to the world series. Except that the world series is, itself, something of a real event - and political campaigns have been pretty well emptied of any content.
Once someone gets in office, of course, they can start to do some harm (or, potentially, good, though who expects that?) - but that's almost an accidental by-product. You might have thought that in this day and age - in the middle of a (stunningly ill-advised) war, etc., that things might have swerved toward seriousness, but I'm afraid not. JohnKerry, I suppose, sort of tries to feign seriousness, but even he seems more like he's playign a politician than he is one. I miss Howard Dean - who shot off his mouth and went after actual issues. But that's not what we have. Though I wish we geta bit more of that - get on the issues and stay there and get people to think about the issues, at least hear about the issues, every day.
"I wouldn't be surprised if he appeared in the next month." Teresa Heinz Kerry to the Phoenix Business Journal, referring to a possible capture of Osama bin Laden before Election Day.
This is "Deplorable, detestable, unforgivable" he says - though he, unlike Mrs. Heinz Kerry (or me) would apply those terms to her, rather than George Bush. She is expressing, after all, the notion that Bush would cynically produce OBL at the last minute. Hitch finds that a dreadful slander:
The plain implication is that the Bush administration is stashing Bin Laden somewhere, or somehow keeping his arrest in reserve, for an "October surprise." This innuendo would appear, on the face of it, to go a little further than "impugning the patriotism" of the president. It argues, after all, for something like collusion on his part with a man who has murdered thousands of Americans as well as hundreds of Muslim civilians in other countries.
* * *
The unfortunately necessary corollary of this—that bad news for the American cause in wartime would be good for Kerry—is that good news would be bad for him. Thus, in Mrs. Kerry's brainless and witless offhand yet pregnant remark, we hear the sick thud of the other shoe dropping. How can the Democrats possibly have gotten themselves into a position where they even suspect that a victory for the Zarqawi or Bin Laden forces would in some way be welcome to them? Or that the capture or killing of Bin Laden would not be something to celebrate with a whole heart?
This is a fine example of missing the point. He was closer up above - this sentiment is a direct attack on the integrity of the president. It is not hoping for bad news - it is suspecting that if there is good news, it comes with a twist. It's achieved by abandoning substative policies in favor of a quick propaganda hit; it's done in the face of the real bad news that exists...
This, then, is the central statement: "But I also know the difference when I see it, and I have known some of the liberal world quite well and for a long time, and there are quite obviously people close to the leadership of today's Democratic Party who do not at all hope that the battle goes well in Afghanistan and Iraq."
This is not a serious argument. It never is. It is blinkered. Kevin Drum illustrates the point well - reminding us that Bush's administration are the ones "dicking around":
After all, Hitchens has chosen to ally himself with the most unserious group of war leaders this country has ever seen. They treated the runup to war like a marketing blitz for a new soft drink; they have trivialized critical issues of national security because doing so made them into better partisan cudgels for congressional campaigns; they have ignored the advice of military professionals because it was electorally inconvenient; they have repeatedly misled the American public even though they surely know that this is disastrous for long term support of the war; and they have refused to seriously address the exploding guerrilla war in Iraq for months because they're afraid it might hurt their reelection chances.
The left does not root for the enemy - they do not excuse the enemy or hope the enemy wins. What the right calls "rooting for bad news" is more of a prediction. We say - because of Bush's policies, bad things are going to happen. It is true that, in the heat of the argument, sometimes predicting disaster will look like hoping for disaster - and especially when disaster comes, the urge to say "I told you so" can be hard to resist... But still" we do not want to lose. We want to see Al Qaeda undone and Iraq made safe and stable and peace restored - we just don't think those things are likely to happen with Bush and company in charge. "Hope is not a plan." Doing things that are clearly misguided and foolish and then hoping it will all work out all right is obviously worse than calling foolishness what it is, even if that means you have to emphasize the odds against us. Ultimately, what this amounts to (in the broad sense) is holding Bush and his administration responsible for the damage they have caused.
Wednesday, September 29, 2004
Freshly unearthed public documents, ranging from newspapers to cabinet-meeting minutes, seem to indicate large gaps in George W. Bush's service as president, a spokesman for the watchdog group Citizens for an Informed Society announced Monday.
* * *
According to Rocklin, the most damning documents were generated at roughly one-day intervals during a period beginning in January 2001 and ending this week. The document's sources include, but are not limited to, the U.S. newspaper The New York Times, the London-based Economist magazine, and the well-known international business and finance record, The Wall Street Journal.
"Factual data presented in these publications indicates that Bush took little or no action on issues as widely varied as the stalled economy, increasing violence in post-war Iraq, and the lagging public education system," Rocklin said. "The newsprint documents also reveal huge disparities between the ways Bush claimed to have served Medicare patients, and what he actually did."
I am not sure what to add.
Saturday, September 25, 2004
Dear Religious Americans. How are you? I am fine. Have you notices that the Republican Party thinks “You are all a bunch of morons.”
(Think I exaggerate? Liberals “banning” the Bible? Can anyone but a paranoid lunatic believe such a thing is possible?)
And down below, Charles Pierce launches a defense (of a sort) of Dan Rather. First by very logically pointing outL
Riddle me this: if I forge a letter from U.S. Grant in which are described the events at Appomattox, and I sell it to someone, and I get caught and tried for fraud, and they prove that the document is fake, does that mean the Civil War never really ended?
Then trashing the degraded set that pass as TV journalists these days, and concluding with this:
So, as Dan Rather becomes everybody's dinner for a while, it's important to remember that he had some very big moments in a media culture that was not yet so corrupted that it would give voice to liver-spotted bagmen like Pat Buchanan and William Safire. It's important to remember that he had these moments in a media culture that was not yet fully tolerating the likes of George Will, Conrad Black's poolboy, his cabana full of purloined debate materials. It's important to remember that he did so in the days when the media culture at least tried to keep crazy people at bay, where the likes of Jonah Goldberg would be covering the sewer commission in Plattsburgh, if he were lucky, and Ann Coulter would be screaming at people on a subway platform.
I'm a reporter. That's all I've ever wanted to be. So is Dan Rather, so I feel comfortable in saying that he screwed up in a very big way. But he doesn't deserve to have an aging hack like Dick Thornburgh as a professional proctologist, and he really doesn't deserve the cheap shots that are coming his way from people unfit to fasten his kaffiyeh.
It's all good. But Alterman - and his correspondents - usually are.
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
But we’re you and me both at once tenacious and fickle: once we’ve named a thing, we balk at the idea of changing that name—but that very truculence lets black-garbed stagehands work some magic by changing the thing just enough when we’re looking somewhere else. I’ve seen previous attempts to do what Eddie Campbell wants, from “comix” to “drawn books,” and while I’d never say never or not in a million years, nonetheless: my money’s on “comics.” Sad as it may seem, it’s much, much bigger than the longjohns—and it always would have been, if only we’d known how to look.
Now in the company of these giants who am I? But my money's with Kip. Cause to me it seems what is unique in that art form - the thing that makes it an art form itself (whatever you call it - format? medium? something) is - well - what Kip said, just above what I just quoted: that "all they have to work with is one picture after another". Everything else - the drawing (or photos or whatever), the words, the stories, the plots, the themes and ideas and characters and - getting back to Professor Kakoudaki - even the idea of transition itself - belongs to something else (all of them, maybe, something different, though often overlapping and etc.) What makes it comics (or whathaveyou) is the series of pictures - which exists as much in Rose is Rose as Maus. So - I'm for comics.
Tuesday, September 21, 2004
Ai-yi-yi. The main offense was saying that if Kerry had really been hurt, he'd be in "a real nice wheelchair" now. It's sad to bring in facts to batter a poor bastard like this Ben person, but I have an uncle who was wounded in WWII. Machine gunned in the legs, if I remember the story right. Who came home, rehabbed, and worked for a living for the next 50 years or so, worked - in the woods, in sawmills, on farms.
It goes without saying that this little dung heap Ben Ferguson isn't about to risk his sorry ass fighting this war he undoubtedly is so hepped up about. That isn't enough to stop him taking shots at a man who did fight in the war he was faced with, and fought with distinction. I am tempted to suspect that this Ferguson creature has never done a lick of work in his useless life either. And if he knew anyone who fought in a war - was wounded in a war - he would not say things like that.
Except - he probably would. The part I don't understand - often, these people do know people who fought, who suffered, who worked - and they still don't care. They still are able to pretend to honor their relatives or friends and yet piss on people like John Kerry or Max Cleland. It is that complete lack of empathy, or willingness to acknowledge what the other guy has done that is fucking us all over, really.
Sunday, September 19, 2004
It’s odd, feeling sentimental about Johnny Ramone. Joey made sense - but Johnny? He was an asshole - no one liked him. He comes off very badly in the film - a sour, mean, bitter man, with a cruel streak - the way he turns to his wife and puts her on the spot about whether there was any tension between him and Joey, and won’t let her get away with uttering a platitude or too. His wife - the woman he took away from Joey, causing that break. Classy. But at the same time, he comes off as someone who knew what he had in the band - who knew, maybe even better than the others, how fucking good they really were (he says in the film that only the Clash were close to them - the only way to dispute that is to note that the Clash aren’t in their league.) He knew what he had, and respected it (The Ramones) immensely, to the point of realizing it was worth more than his petty feuds.
So, yeah, he was an asshole, but he was also a genius. Everyone says he inspired a raft of guitar players - true. And he and his band (but in a lot of ways, that is him - the sound of the band, if not their material, is really Johnny’s guitar, fully formed from the very beginning, pure and unwavering from that point on) did inspire a raft of musicians, making simplicity possible, making it possible for anyone to be in a band. I myself - I fiercely regret that I did not hear them in time. If I had heard them, instead of Kiss, in 1976? Where would I be? Better than I turned out, right? They were cool, they were simple, they were honest, they were perfect.
That is the last word on them: they were a perfect rock band. Very possibly the perfect rock band. And Johnny Ramone was, probably, the perfect rock guitar player.
Now - perfection is not everything - perfect things are not necessarily the best thing. Perfection, purity, these things are limits - not weaknesses, really - but limits. You have to get past perfection at some point, to be the best - so all this sentimentality can’t blind me to the fact that if I were choosing, I’d still take Pere Ubu or the Velvets or the Beatles, possibly P-funk, maybe the Stones... it’s a short list - the bands I like more, or who were “better” than the Ramones - Beatles, Velvets, Pere Ubu, maybe (by some criteria) Beefheart, Can, P-Funk, maybe the Stones, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles and the Byrds, maybe Fairport Convention/Richard Thompson, maybe even Bob Dylan - but that is about all. There are guitar players I like more, though that list isn’t much longer: Hendrix (though I don’t listen to him as much, and often feel almost intimidated by him), Thompson definitely, Clarence White and Michio Kurihara (the secrets), maybe Roger McGuinn - Jimmy Page, I’m afraid, Wes Montgomery and probably Charlie Christian, with Pete Cosey, Sonny Sharrock, Michael Karoli lingering around the edges. There could be others.
That’s not as long a list as I thought. I started, the morning he died, as it happened, making a list - my top 10 favorite guitar players of all time:
...say. There's Johnny, quite high up there. I was thinking about this stuff before he died - the movie had me thinking about him, and writing about him - which is obviously part of why this news was so devastating. They were on my mind...
So back to the Ramones - their place in the world of rock and roll, my reaction to them. About what they did - their sound, their importance...
The dirty secret is that I am ambivalent about them. I mean, the last 2-3 years, I have gone rather far in the other direction - listening to art bands, from Can and Soft Machine and Van Der Graf Generator to Derek Bailey and Keiji Haino to David Bowie and Radiohead. Yet - I have also gotten into punk a bit more, the edges of punk, bands I did not hear at all the first time around - the Buzzcocks (minimal airplay), Stiff Little Fingers (I had never heard them, knowingly, til I got the record - only 2 or 3 years ago.) Minimalism and avant garde and noise and - those things feed off one another, but they do it in a way that kind of pisses on the rhetoric of punk. I have never trusted its Puritanism (it is not accidental that it devolved into real Puritanism, pretty quickly, with straight edge hardcore and the like), its trashing of what came before. I loved AOR before I heard of punk, and continued to love it after I started liking punk, and still love both... so I don’t know.
Still - it is not really the Ramones I am ambivalent about. I am ambivalent about the propaganda that surrounds punk. You never hear anyone talk about the Ramones without talking about killing off the dinosaurs - and about simplicity and fun as if that were somehow antithetical to “seriousness” or virtuosity. That was not part of the first wave of punk. The Ramones' contemporaries were bands like Television - guitar noodling eggheads; Patti Smith - poetess; the midwest bands - Rocket From the Tombs, The Mirrors, the Electric Eels - coming out of the 60s bands, Stooges, Velvets, MC 5, the garage bands, the art bands (Captain Beefheart, Red Krayola, the Mothers, etc.) It was not monolithic - it was just devoted to freedom, aggression, to expression. The Ramones were part of it - it is a bitter pill to hear them being turned into another force of conformity.
I have to stop somewhere. I have the luxury here in blogland of developing whatever it is I'm saying over time. So I can come back. But I want to finish with this - something I wrote down back when Joey Ramone died. Punk changed everything - but it did more than kill off what was on the radio and replace it. (It didn't really do that - just exposed so much of what was on the radio as the shit it was.) It created plenty new - but it also changed what was already there. After punk - and when I say punk, I mean The Ramones - you could, if you were listening, hear the rock in the bloat of what came before. It didn't so much kill off all the Led Zeppelins and Black Sabbaths of the world as redeem them. Robert Plante once said that "God Saved the Queen" was a slowed down version of "Communication Breakdown" - which it is. But you needed punk to hear it again. It changed the way people listened to heavy metal - after punk, people could hear Bonham's drumming, Sabbath's drive and AC/DC's punch again. That is what punk did for me - I started listening to punk in earnest in the mid-80s - and it sent me as much for my old Zep and AC/DC records as for the punk-derived bands around at the time (The Replacements, Husker Du, Butthole Surfers, The Meat Puppets - my personal mid-80s favorites). I was not alone - as grunge would soon show us...
I am very grateful. Thank you Johnny (and Joey, Dee Dee and Tommy).
The literature shows a Bible with the word "BANNED" across it and a photo of a man, on his knees, placing a ring on the hand of another man with the word "ALLOWED." The mailing tells West Virginians to "vote Republican to protect our families" and defeat the "liberal agenda."
Now, if I were an intelligent (though unscrupulous) republican, this is where I would say, "It's a metaphor, people! it's symbolic of the idea that by passing these laws, antithetical to the bible, the liberals are removing the bible from the public discourse!" I would then add, "sheesh" and go make fun of paranoid democrats with my conservative friends. (I would try to hide the smirk until that point.)
However, that answer is a cheat. Because, in fact, liberals (not all liberals everywhere, of course, but some liberals - not the ones running for president, probably not the ones running for any office in West Virginia) are in fact the ones advocating that gay marriages be allowed. So that part of the mailing is, in fact, literally true (if you discount the fact that the liberals doing this terrible thing are in far off Massachusetts and Northern California and places like that, and are not running for president.) So - if you combine two ideas - banning the bible and allowing gay marriages - and one refers to something that is literally true (in some parts of the country) - can you then claim that the other does not refer to something that is literally true? At which point - since no liberals anywhere are trying to ban the bible, in any literal, symbolic or other sense - doesn't this letter become a base lie and a dirty trick?
The last word then, to an ACT spokesman:
Jim Jordan, a spokesman for America Coming Together, described the mailing as "standard-issue Republican hate-mongering."
Thursday, September 16, 2004
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
And even I can draw lessons from this fiasco. Lesson #1: even a stopped clock is right twice a day! the right wing bloggers were right for once! They even have facts and truth on their side. If only they had applied their investigative talents to the Swift Boat Liars' stories, which were about as quickly and easily debunked without the assistance of all those internet revolutionaries. Lesson #2: This shouldn't require a huge leap of faith, but who thinks television is a reliable source of news? All the bad things people say about the "media" probably do apply to TV -television is almost inevitably a means of presenting an argument, a story - a conclusion. It is not a place for evaluating evidence - what you see or hear on TV should be supported by evidence from somewhere else. TV is close to useless, yes, it is. Lesson #3: As with the Swift Boat Liars story, the real work was done by the newspapers. If these two stories have shown anything significant about the media, it's the role of newspapers, and reporting, at getting at the truth. TV comes off as pathetic, in both cases - the bloggers come off, really, as down the line partisans, a bunch of people who know very little about the issues under discussion, but have strong opinions which they post with all the confidence of a Counter-Reformation Pope - and the newspapers come off as the places where you can, if you're lucky, maybe find out what's really going on. The bloggers like to claim they make great fact checkers - they don't. What they might do is make enough noise about issues that reporters stay engaged, rather than letting the story slide. Maybe. I don't know for sure. Neither of these stories had much going for them, I guess - it didn't take long to take them apart... So we may not have needed Glen Reynolds on this one....
Now, two broader points. First - it doesn't seem to me that bloggers aer all that likely to do any fact checking. Digby commented on Andrew Sllivan's self-congratulatory bit about how bloggers' advantage is their ability to quickly correct themselves. He says it so I don't have to:
Here on planet earth even if writers correct their errors, readers pick and choose which versions to believe and continue to battle the arcane details long after everyone else has lost interest, clinging to their own version of reality as if it is a life raft. The "transparency" of the blogosphere is as clear as orange juice with pulp. Nobody gets stuff "right." They just get stuff. Errors are sustained forever. The "collective mind" is schizophrenic. The blogosphere demystifies the craft of journalism all right and turns it into an endless self-referential loop of The Osbornes.
They take their credit when they are right, they don't take their lumps when they are wrong. And they make no, real effort, to get past the position they take when they start.
The second point, which may seem to contradict my general mockery of the blogoboosters, is that they might very well be right - there might indeed be a shift in media paradigms. But Sullivan and the people quoted at No More Mr. Nice Blog are claiming that blogs, and the internet, will somehow take the place of the mainstream media we have today. They will do what TV and newspapers do (or are supposed to do.) That is not likely. If they do indeed take the place of other media forms, they will do so not by reporting better than newspapers, but by making what they do - pamphleteering, essentially - replace what newspapers do. I suspect this is a difficult and tangled subject, so I will get out of it as quick as I can. But just the fact that they lump TV and newspapers together is a sign - they are thinking they do what TV and newspapers do - but TV and newspapers already are so different as to be almost impossible to link. So....
UPDATE: Heh heh, just like the real bloggers, I'll "update" this, rather than just repost it, secure in the knowledge that no one but me will ever read it. Um... okay.
There is a third point, probably the most important one. It is this: the Killian memos made no difference whatsoever. They offered the possibility of pretty clear proof that George Bush went AWOL in 1973 and got away with it because his daddy pulled strings. But this case was pretty strong before the memos appeared, and remains just as strong now. Just that, having introduced those fakes into the debate, the right will be able to attack anything that appears against Bush as fake. This is why people form Karl Rove conspiracy theories about these memos - because it inoculates Bush against other documents, and other evidence and stories. For example - and is the timing just a coincidence? - the Kitty Kelley book.
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
The last of the unstated reasons, however, is by far the worst. Apparently, the governments of Israel and Pakistan weren't big on making an enforceable treaty because they want to expand their arsenals and Bush wasn't too hot on putting capital into overriding their objections. Ah, Pakistan. The land of the pure. Also the land of egregious violations of non-proliferation norms, the land where the military sponsors terrorist organizations, the land that helped organize and sponsor the Taliban, the land that helped set Osama bin Laden up in Afghanistan, and the land whose intelligence services are shot through with al-Qaeda sympathizers. Just the sort of place you'd think we should be helping to get some more nuclear weapons.
There's a good deal more of the same in there. As he puts it on his blog: "Now in a rational world the Bush non-proliferation record would be all she wrote as far as national security concerns." There you go.
"Bush has his flaws," says Ted Stout, 39, who runs a bus company in Scranton, Pa., where Bush and Kerry made stops after their respective conventions. "But there's no question that when he says he's going to do something, he does it. That's what I like about him." Stout, waiting to bowl on league night at Scranton's Southside Bowl, adds: "He might seem a little dull-witted, but he's an average person. He makes the right decisions when he needs to."
Sporty. "We can't be girlie men" about the war on terror, says Michael Bidwell, a 38-year-old Republican dining at Scranton's Stadium Club with three male coworkers. "We need to go after terrorism. Terrorism isn't going to go away, and we can't put a blanket over it." Bidwell says he has a son and a daughter serving in the Middle East and adds: "I don't want to see them over there on a mission that's not finished." Steve Pasternak, a retired utility worker standing among "Sportsmen for Bush" signs at a pro-Bush rally in Johnstown, Pa., says he will vote for the president "because he thinks like sportsmen do. He's a hunter going after the people who need to be hunted."
It's terrible. It's sad. These guys look at Bush and see what they want to see, what Bush tells them to see - not what's there. Bush, a regular guy? George Bush? Of the Kennebunkport Bushes? With his toy ranch and his powerboats and his Segway? That George Bush? And Bush is decisive? George Bush is not decisive - he has never been, except deciding to invade Iraq, without provocation, reason, and in spite of the (purported) urgency of the "War on Terror." Maybe nothing he has done has been as weak and indecisive as his behavior toward North Korea - which is disgraceful in the extreme - but what has he done that showed any guts? Even Iraq, he didn't have the guts to rick losing the argument for the war - he lied about it, bullied the press into ignoring the fact that he was lying until we were neck deep in the shifting sand...
This stuff drives me crazy. All this bluster about Bush's "manliness" - "strength" - "decisiveness" - if decisive means, choosing based ont he polls and pandering to the Religious Right, then he's decisive. This was going around the blogs a few weeks ago - MAtthew Yglesias had an article in The American Prospect about the effect of Bush's being - well, our friend the white guy put it best - "a little dull-witted" - on his ability to make a decision (or get anyone around him to make a decision.) Stupidity, incuriosity, mixed with that sense of entitlement, the pure love of power, and the desperate need to constantly look tough - god, what a disaster....
But somehow this comes off as decisive. A man unable to think of anything to do for 7 minutes after learning that someone had blown up 2 buildings in New York City - who sits there looking like a little kid watching his parents have a fight - is somehow considered decisive. Tough. Tougher than the actual war hero. And people buy this bullshit.
I feel lost.