Friday, May 18, 2007

an observation

Phil Nugent makes a well-informed observation:
I guess there are just certain names that, by dint of some mystical connection of being just not common enough and being linked to some public figure who's just weird enough, take on a special power of their own. If your name is Newman, I don't suppose you have to worry too much about being asked if you're related to Paul. But if your name is Knieval...
In New Orleans, Helen Hill and Me discusses the death of his friend and the death of his city.

Gulp moments

Jon Stewart asks a good question about sodomizing the constitution. (via Atrios)

from the department of duh

Breaking News: Guerilla Tactics Work

Wikipedia has a nice article on the Irish War for Independence. It is a war well worth studying, as it was the first modern war against colonialism and relied heavily on urban terrorism.

Another war worth examining was the Algerian war for independence (not only is the film Battle of Algiers a masterpiece, it is also an expose of why defeat is inevitable if one side is seen as occupiers.

Given that the historical antecedents were there... the question then is: why did the advocates for the invasion believe that victory was self-assured? Especially when many of them knew that the case for invasion was based on lies?

The evidence available suggests that the answer is hubris. Given the nature of things, this is turning into a Greek tragedy--the kind where there are no victors, there are no lessons learned, there are only a whole lot of dead people and tears.

Rasoul Sorkhabi talks about Rumi

Master Rumi
Eight hundred years ago, in a northeastern town of the Persian kingdom, a boy was born. When he was twelve years old, he chanced to meet the great Sufi master and Persian poet Attar, who told the boy’s father: “The fiery words of this boy will kindle the souls of lovers all over the world.”

That boy was later to be known as Rumi. And this year, 2007, many literary, cultural and spiritual organizations are celebrating his 800th birth anniversary. UNESCO has issued a medal in Rumi’s honor. According to various sources, including The Christian Science Monitor (1), TIME Asia magazine (2), and the US Department of State’s Washington File (3), Rumi has become the most widely-read poet in North America, and translations of this Asian poet are increasingly popular in the other Western countries. For three decades, I have been reading Rumi everywhere I have been — India, Japan, and the USA. It is thus a personal delight to see the growing popularity of Rumi’s poetry.

the exposé

Her bra
     fell to the floor
into a tangle
          of dancing lines —
psychosomatic waves
               [DRIVERS: No exp. needed]
  first there was the jack,
then the five,
       a bitter-sweet king
           by the ace
with the knowledge
         that the jack
need not have been played
                [OFFICE SUPPORT: Immedi-
                 ate opening avail. for self start-]
a string of pearls
  a million petit moans
  a long cry to heaven
                [Thank You, Saint Jude for
                 favors received. S.C.]

Thursday, May 17, 2007


I scored a 10 on the Kamber-O'Leary "Are You Liberal or Conservative?" test. I answered every question, even when I disagreed with the premise or with the given answers (quite often).

But seriously, anyone who thinks that Reagan was a better president than FDR is historically retarded.

Inserting oneself into the culture...

Kevin Drum has an interesting bit on music placement in prime time TV shows. (I made a comment, woo-hoo for me...)

This is a subject that I find fascinating, because in any society in which there are de facto cultural gate keepers, there will arise subversive strategies to bypass the gate keepers. It is emblematic of our (perhaps hyper-) capitalist society, that the primary gate keeper for music is money. In 2001, before the War on Terror, Salon ran an excellent series on payola and the music industry in the US. Having that as background, you can understand why TV and advertising became such attractive avenues to reach an audience for many independent musicians. As I note in my comment to Kevin's note... TV and TV-advertising has been a significant outlet for techno for a number of years--to the point where there are awards for 'best electronic dance song featured in a television ad'.

I expect with the continuing boom of YouTube, that the internet and word-of-mouth will become ever more important in giving teenagers the music they want to listen to, and in allowing them to claim a cultural identity of their own. And artists and independent labels will continue to find crafty ways to insert their works in out of the way places where they can be found.

Rock and roll died a long time ago. But I expect in the next ten years we will see the beginnings of a new generational form--blending and bending current genres into a new fusion.

Somewhat related: WalMart as a cultural gatekeeper.

a fun waste of time

Al Gore's new book

Al Gore has a new book, called The Assault on Reason. The following is an excerpt (more at (via Atrios)).

Our Founders' faith in the viability of representative democracy rested on their trust in the wisdom of a well-informed citizenry, their ingenious design for checks and balances, and their belief that the rule of reason is the natural sovereign of a free people. The Founders took great care to protect the openness of the marketplace of ideas so that knowledge could flow freely. Thus they not only protected freedom of assembly, they made a special point—in the First Amendment—of protecting the freedom of the printing press. And yet today, almost 45 years have passed since the majority of Americans received their news and information from the printed word. Newspapers are hemorrhaging readers. Reading itself is in decline. The Republic of Letters has been invaded and occupied by the empire of television.

Radio, the Internet, movies, cell phones, iPods, computers, instant messaging, video games and personal digital assistants all now vie for our attention—but it is television that still dominates the flow of information. According to an authoritative global study, Americans now watch television an average of 4 hours and 35 minutes every day—90 minutes more than the world average. When you assume eight hours of work a day, six to eight hours of sleep and a couple of hours to bathe, dress, eat and commute, that is almost three-quarters of all the discretionary time the average American has.

In the world of television, the massive flows of information are largely in only one direction, which makes it virtually impossible for individuals to take part in what passes for a national conversation. Individuals receive, but they cannot send. They hear, but they do not speak. The "well-informed citizenry" is in danger of becoming the "well-amused audience." Moreover, the high capital investment required for the ownership and operation of a television station and the centralized nature of broadcast, cable and satellite networks have led to the increasing concentration of ownership by an ever smaller number of larger corporations that now effectively control the majority of television programming in America.

In practice, what television's dominance has come to mean is that the inherent value of political propositions put forward by candidates is now largely irrelevant compared with the image-based ad campaigns they use to shape the perceptions of voters. The high cost of these commercials has radically increased the role of money in politics—and the influence of those who contribute it. That is why campaign finance reform, however well drafted, often misses the main point: so long as the dominant means of engaging in political dialogue is through purchasing expensive television advertising, money will continue in one way or another to dominate American politics. And as a result, ideas will continue to play a diminished role. That is also why the House and Senate campaign committees in both parties now search for candidates who are multimillionaires and can buy the ads with their own personal resources.

practical cartography

xkcd draw the internets...

The Stars and Moon

They roll in mud—because it feels good.
They smell each other, they smell you—
     they like the way people smell,
     but prefer the way they smell.
When wet, they shake their bodies
     twisting contorting—
    the world around them is the world around them—
when happy, they shake their tails,
     sometimes, they drool.

They roll in mud—it feels good.

Interview with Hubert Védrin L'Orient-Le Jour, translated by Nur al-Cubicle:
The overall theme of my book is that after the fall of the Soviet Union, the West went overboard with euphoria in the notion that it had won the battle of history. It believed that its notions would then be automatically applicable everywhere : its ideas of democracy, its conception of the market economy, its values –which it believes are universal. In its mindset, there will be no more policy problems because there will be no more fundamental disputes on anything. All that would remain is how the world would be organized. It has even been adopted World Bank jargon, talking about things like "governance" which suggests business management rather than policies.

This Western illusion is split into two branches: one is American and the other European. The American branch attributes primordial importance to military superiority. It is here where the Neocons suceeded in hijacking US foreign policy with their very peculiar understanding of the Middle East –an interpretation which they tried to foist on the rest of the world. In their minds, the Palestinian question is of no importance –it is merely a pretext invented by the enemies of Israel– and therefore it is necessary to transform Arab states willy nilly and make them democratic, which would naturally make them pro-Western. But this type of reasoning is borrowed from Dr. Strangelove. How in heaven’s name did the United States, a great country, –certainly very nationalistic but overall very smart– get hijacked in this way ? This is worth investigating.

The other branch, the European branch, is very different but I would lable it ingenuous. Modern Europeans believe that the world is made up of Boy Scouts who want to protect the overall well-being of humanity. They believe that we are part of an international community that works to prevent conflicts through the United Nations, etc.

These two irrealistic branches of thought, which are very different, really don’t work. Actually, a kind of multi-polar world is in the process of forming.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Richard Wilbur


Advice To A Prophet


Video of the week

I am quite taken with this song by the Fountains of Wayne.

Bush finds a patsy

Lt. Gen. Lute to be named War Czar.

My take is the same as Atrios's... this will be another excuse to give the war another 4-6 months.

More at Carpetbagger.

Room 47

My neighbor is searching through the drawers of his dresser
      and perhaps
          he might find,
  since the clumsy way seems to be the only way,
      those things I am trying to find
               would try to find
if I knew the way.

I changed, without realizing that I changed—
      it wasn’t the mirror that told me—
strange how no one tells you anything to your face—
   but a whisper that I wished I was whispering
            into someone’s ear. . .

I stopped singing the blues some time ago,
    but you told me that if I sang you would dance,
            and even though this is
                  the Age of Lies
      I want to believe you,
         I need to believe you,
              I need that chance.

Maybe you’ll have reservations about your reservation
  to hear the strange song I will sing—
      barely a whisper—
  what words, what notes, what phrases. . .
perhaps you will hear in them
            the things I’ve lost
     and the things
I’ve gained.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

August Kleinzahler

Ruined Histories

four poems

A Baroque Scot's Excess

Silence (10 of 10)

Both the broth
      in a cup of noise
and cup
      that holds a broth of noise—
we sip
      eye to eye
knowing that nothing is complete
      except this moment
and moments are fleeting.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Metamorphosis 3: A Passage from Philip K. Dick’s VALIS

In my interconnected dreams
I live another life—sometimes
I drive north in my red Capri
to my house on the shore of the lake—

I enjoy working with my wife
in the garden—she is slim and
attractive and loves to smile—
we tend to the wild roses planted

near the retaining wall in our
back yard—the house next to us is
a mansion—we’re quite modest in
comparison. And for an hour

after I awake from these dreams
I can still see in my mind’s eye
my wife in her blue jeans, dragging
the garden hose across the driveway.

And yet I am not married—I
have never loved anyone as
deeply as I love my wife in
my dreams—I live in an apartment—

I would never feel comfortable
in an upper-middle class life—
and to my knowledge there is no
such lake in the north one could drive to.

I am different from how I am
in these dreams. These dreams baffle me—
I awake disoriented,
living a double life—wondering

which one is really more fulfilling—
the life I have when awake
or the one which seduces me,
those long peaceful drives north, to the lake?

I may have more to say about these metamorphosis poems later. But I felt compelled to share this given the news that Dick has been given a volume in the Library of America series (see below).

Canonizing Dick

From Danny Yee I find that Philip K. Dick is being canonized into the Library of America. The Library of America volume includes Man in the High Castle, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and Ubik. Wow. Just wow.

I've always found Philip Dick a guilty pleasure. His writing was not particularly polished. His plots went in bizarre tangents and didn't necessarily mesh. His characterizations could be cold. And yet... it worked. He presented some much needed truths, holding a mirror to the world around him and within him.

Silence (9 of 10)

In this ragged breathing
as we nuzzle
fresh smells of sex and sweat
me with you, you with me
there is no need to explain
explore or negotiate.
Everything is evident.
You smile.
I brush your cheek.