Sunday, January 31, 2010

Matt Taibbi on David Brooks on Haiti: "Translating David Brooks"

Funny and interesting. The piece is a series of responses to large blocks of text of Brooks' article, so beyond the first paragraph you'll have to click on the link and read it since that format doesn't translate well into blog form:

"A friend of mine sent a link to Sunday’s David Brooks column on Haiti, a genuinely beautiful piece of occasional literature. Not many writers would have the courage to use a tragic event like a 50,000-fatality earthquake to volubly address the problem of nonwhite laziness and why it sometimes makes natural disasters seem timely, but then again, David Brooks isn’t just any writer.
Rather than go through the Brooks piece line by line, I figured I’d just excerpt a few bits here and there and provide the Cliff’s Notes translation at the end. It’s really sort of a masterpiece of cultural signaling — if you live anywhere between 59th st and about 105th, you can hear the between-the-lines messages with dog-whistle clarity. Some examples: "

An example of why 19th century German philosophy was more insightful than Anglo-American philosophy.

After putting it down for a long time I've come back to "The Romantic Imperative" by Frederick C. Beiser, a book all about the philosophical ideas of the early 19th century Romantic thinkers in Germany. These folks were taking on the world in general and weren't purely limited to aesthetic criticism. They followed in the philosophical tradition of Kant and of the current that would be known as Absolute Idealism.

In the section on Friedrich Schlegel, Beiser reproduces and condenses a fragment of a notebook that Schlegel wrote concerning the philosopher Fichte. Fichte proposes as a first principle that the Ego posits itself absolutely, meaning that the ego has to identify itself as the absolute ground of experience for the person involved, which is not the same as the cogito of Descartes. This means that the ego is a transcendent entity that trumps all experience because of it indicates a higher order of reality. Schlegel writes why not say that the non-ego posits itself absolutely, and there begins the real meat of the insight, an insight that goes beyond what comparable streams of thought bring to the table.

Although Fichte's idea is pretty abstract in that it's a modification of Kant's ideas about the nature of the self in relation to experience and to the outside world, the rough outline of it is recognizable to folks who are familiar with English and American philosophy: we have an 'I' that posits or has an idea of itself that it is absolute reality. What, though, does the idea that the non-ego posits itself as absolute mean? Isn't the ego the 'I', the mind, the self, the thing that thinks? How could a non-I posit itself or exist outside of the ego? Well here's how.

The Germans had a great tradition in the late 18th and early 19th century of taking apart the mind into its component parts in philosophical analysis in order to get a better handle on what exactly the basis for our experience of the world, and our knowledge of ourselves was. Complete abstraction in the sense of formalism was rejected and replaced by a more nuanced notion of how the mind fitted together, with Kant leading the way in his Critiques. It's a little strange to talk about the self and the nature of the self and yet dismiss as irrelevant the experienced portions of the self that contribute to what you're talking about. Anyways, through this process of analysis the idea came up of a difference between the ego and the thing that does the thinking. Descartes might have declared that "I think, therefore I am", but who's to say that the thing doing the thinking is the I? Couldn't it be that the actual machinery of thought itself exists independently of the I and is only brought into relation with the I at certain times, the rest of the time existing as a sort of function that exists outside of our self? And what is our self anyways? Are we conscious of being our self at all moments or just at certain times? Of course it can be said that the self is another faculty of feature that exists outside of both the I and of the non-I parts of thought. Do I as an I will everything that I do with full consciousness, or do I sometimes choose actions and respond to things with less than full self consciousness that I'm doing them. This could be seen as indicating another aspect of the mind altogether and not just a sort of Freudian take on subconscious wills and drives. In any case, following Kant it seems that in many cases the doer is not what we'd consider to be the I, yet its activity means that it could in fact posit itself as being the absolute. The non-I functions of the mind, the fact that we have them, could be indicators of the absolute reality outside of our minds, one that may be more fundamental than that which would be thought of if the I was used as the measure.

I think we've gone into territory that English and American philosophy in the mainstream has tended to avoid. It's territory that in my opinion is richer and more sophisticated than what we have today, and is possibly what we'd need to reinvigorate philosophy as a whole here.

What he said, Ralph Nader: "On the State of the Union"

Here: "First, Mr. Obama cited the Senate's inaction four times in contrast to the House of Representatives. To add to his frustration, he cited the Republican leadership for insisting that "sixty votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town." What he did not do was to urge his fellow Democrats to change the filibuster rule by a simple majority vote.

...

Second, since dollars invested in energy efficiency and renewable energy have greater, safer, returns than money going into what Mr. Obama calls “a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants and clean coal technologies,(which require heavy government subsidies), why did he accord the latter the same priority as the former?

...

Fourth, on health insurance reform, Mr. Obama said: "If anyone from either party has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors and stop insurance company abuses, let me know." Well, Mr. President, try what you supported before you became a Presidential candidate--single payer, full Medicare for all, with free choice of doctor and hospital. Remember you did not allow single payer adherents to have a seat at the table, the way the CEO of Aetna did five times in the White House. (For more see SinglePayerAction.org)"

And of course the solution is small business

The one part, actually not the one part but possibly the most glaring part, of the State of the Union speech that was outright offensive was the suggestion that government should create new jobs by providing new incentives for folks to start small businesses. Reading the text of the speech I saw the lead up to a section where the direct job creation on the part of the government would be outlined and held my breath. What I was holding my breath for looks silly, thinking about it: a direct funding of large scale industrial manufacturing companies in order to really put people back to work and help the economy recover. But no, small business it was. Considering that small businesses go into and out of business at a high rate it's hard to see how exactly enduring jobs with enduring economic impact are going to be created by sponsoring small businesses. Plus, lack of small business isn't what's weakened the economy. What's weakened the economy is manufacturing jobs, which tend not to be associated with small businesses, going overseas. Small business in the sense that Obama used it in his speech is just a construct used by conservatives to make themselves feel better whenever they're confronted with a crisis. The economy is bad? Small Business! Jobs have fled overseas? Small Business! My dog needs a hair cut? Small Business! So this usage follows in an august line.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Abebooks.com Weird Book Room

Check it out. Selected titles: The Thermodynamics of Pizza, Monk Habits for Everyday People, Knight Life: Jousting, Bombproof Your Horse and The Pop Up Book of Phobias.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

And the Huffington Post has nothing on Howard Zinn's death

Me and the Huffington Post have a love hate relationship. I've grown to rely on it for daily news and it's not really as progressive as I would like it to be. In the past, I've seen its connection to pre-blogging era progressive politics as being tenuous at best. This would seem to confirm it. By pre-blogging era progressive politics I mean that the definition of progressive changed, became watered down, after the start of the era of the blog. Although blogging opened up the floodgates for personal expressions by anyone, it turned out that there were a lot of conventional or just outside of conventional political people who wanted to write and share what they felt with the world. It makes sense. Progressives, people who like Howard Zinn, read The Nation (and The Progressive), know what Democracy Now! is, have been a small minority in U.S. politics for quite some time. But it was disheartening none the less to see a new medium taken over in large part by people who were just a hair's breadth away from the folks that the old medium served. Huffington post only goes so far in its coverage, but the distance it goes is far enough to justify coming back and reading it again.

Howard Zinn has died.

I'm trying to remember when I first read Howard Zinn. I think that it was when I was at NYU in my Freshman year and I found "A People's History of the United States" in the history section of a Barnes & Noble located off of Broadway in the Village. I spent something like over half an hour down there just going through it and reading highlights that caught my eye. Later, when I got the book for myself, I read it cover to cover and used it as a guide to researching parts of American history that I wanted to know more about.

Like Chomsky, Zinn was like a voice in the wilderness, providing one of the few really comprehensive pictures about American life from radical angle in the '90s and into the 2000's.

He'll be missed.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"Presidential Assassinations of US Citizens" by Glenn Greenwald

Here. It's hard really to know what to say about this because it breaks so many fundamental norms of conduct. This takes us to a very bad place. The upshot, if there is one, is that only three U.S. citizens are on a list where they can be killed without trial.

Quoting a Washington Post article:

"After the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush gave the CIA, and later the military, authority to kill U.S. citizens abroad if strong evidence existed that an American was involved in organizing or carrying out terrorist actions against the United States or U.S. interests, military and intelligence officials said. . . .

The Obama administration has adopted the same stance. If a U.S. citizen joins al-Qaeda, "it doesn't really change anything from the standpoint of whether we can target them," a senior administration official said. "They are then part of the enemy."

Both the CIA and the JSOC maintain lists of individuals, called "High Value Targets" and "High Value Individuals," whom they seek to kill or capture. The JSOC list includes three Americans, including [New Mexico-born Islamic cleric Anwar] Aulaqi, whose name was added late last year. As of several months ago, the CIA list included three U.S. citizens, and an intelligence official said that Aulaqi's name has now been added."

...

"Just think about this for a minute. Barack Obama, like George Bush before him, has claimed the authority to order American citizens murdered based solely on the unverified, uncharged, unchecked claim that they are associated with Terrorism and pose "a continuing and imminent threat to U.S. persons and interests." They're entitled to no charges, no trial, no ability to contest the accusations. Amazingly, the Bush administration's policy of merely imprisoning foreign nationals (along with a couple of American citizens) without charges -- based solely on the President's claim that they were Terrorists -- produced intense controversy for years. That, one will recall, was a grave assault on the Constitution. Shouldn't Obama's policy of ordering American citizens assassinated without any due process or checks of any kind -- not imprisoned, but killed -- produce at least as much controversy?"

"US Households Struggle to Afford Food: Survey"

Here:
"WASHINGTON - Nearly one in five U.S. households ran out of money to buy enough food at least once during 2009, said an antihunger group on Tuesday, urging more federal action to help Americans get enough to eat.

....

Nationwide polling found 18.2 percent of households reported "food hardship" -- lacking money to buy enough food -- in 2009, according to the group. That is higher than the government's "food insecurity" rating of 14.6 percent of households, or 49 million people, for 2008."

Monday, January 25, 2010

Capitalism and Technocracy

One of the developments of late capitalism that's been treated earlier in the 20th century but hasn't popularly been given good coverage lately is the rise of the technocrat in companies. What this refers to is the growing specialization of design and engineering done in order to plan complex products then manufactured by workers. Capitalism has grown to depend more on the engineers and designers, as well as on the management that coordinates the implementation of the ideas and that coordinates the work of the different departments themselves. Some of this has been referred to as the birth of bureaucracy, but I think that that's an a-historical term that's too general to really have relevant meaning. What we're dealing with is a capitalist bureaucracy with a technocratic element subordinated to capitalist demands. Technocracy isn't necessarily a capitalist creation; the Soviet Union had a well developed technocratic elite. However, the existence of a class of people being in charge of developing products for society, while the rest of society works to make those products or passively consumes them, perpetuates a division of labor that could potentially be as damaging as that of capitalism itself. If I'm making fundamental decisions on behalf of someone else, with only minimal input being received in return, then I'm essentially controlling them. If we want a society where corporate exploitation is abolished and where people manufacture goods based in large part on social utility as opposed to personal self interest, we should also be thinking of how decision making power structures society as well. Direct popular input and a means of inculcating social responsibility into the technocrats could go a ways towards mitigating some of the potential contradictions (in the Marxist sense of the word) that could arise.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Corporate power won two days ago...Supreme Court ruling on campaign donations

On the 21st the Supreme Court augustly declared that limitations on how much money corporations can give to campaigns is an infringement of their 'free speech' rights. I'm putting free speech in quotes because it's absurd to believe that businesses have rights like human beings, especially that of free speech. What business has been prosecuted on obscenity charges? What business has had their 'speech' censored due to political concerns, I mean in the sense that actual people have their speech censored not in the sense that the Supreme Court made up on Thursday? Now there's zero oversight on how much corporations can give, meaning that they can buy and sell candidates with freedom, and that no matter who is running they now have to genuflect to the corporate interests that can defund them if they fall out of line.

All of this demonstrates that the Supreme Court has too much power in American society. We've seen how the Senate has too much power as well in relation to health care. Our system is broken and it will take fundamental change to fix. The Constitution is in certain respects outdated. But, as Bob Black says, the Constitution is the white man's ghost dance, meaning that people with no idea what the Constitution is about clutch it like a talisman in the hope that it will protect them. Other countries have had fundamental reform of foundational documents and they haven't collapsed.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Smash It Up by The Damned



From the venerable punk band. Notice Rat Scabies on the drums. He was the subject of an interesting book called "Rat Scabies and the Holy Grail", written by a friend who went with him on a quest to get to the bottom of the whole Dan Brown Rennes-le-Chateau mystery. I have "Machine Gun Etiquette", where "Smash it up" is from, on repeat in my car again, so that's why all this is on my mind. That and that they're a good band.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wow, Bible rifle scopes

New story all over the place is that rifle scopes made by a company called Trijicon have references to bible verses in their serial numbers. These rifles are used by troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. A set of ABC news photos shows JN8:12 and 2COR4:6, so not exactly obscure if you know where to look for them. According to ABC, a Central Command spokesman compared the use of the scopes to "In God We Trust" on coins. Well, you know what? The U.S. military doesn't speak for me. And it doesn't speak for large sections of the American people. It likes to think of itself as being more American than America, and maybe that's part of the problem. We are America, not you. When the military is thought to be the repository of national values we'll have come pretty close to fascism. And the UK has decided to drop the use of the scopes just days after this surfaced, by the way.

"Inferno" by August Strindberg

Where the quotes from Strindberg and Helium come from. I've just finished it, having gotten it print on demand through a local bookstore with an experimental POD machine in it. What the book is is a chronicle of the author's mental breakdown and then recovery, well almost. The thing is that the first part of his degeneration takes place in another book called "The Cloister", which I was lucky enough to find in the Seattle Public Library. After breaking up with his wife and leaving his new born child in that book he comes to Paris where he starts on alchemical experiments. Soon, though, alchemy and transmutation give way to more and more interference by what he calls the "powers", a shadowy category that stands for both people inspired by unseen forces to conspire against him and those unseen forces themselves directly interfering with his life. He hallucinates that people around him in the rooming houses that he's living in are plotting to interfere with his sleep, are watching him, are talking about him, that his from Przybyszewski (Poppofsky in this book) is conspiring to kill him. Signs and portents are everywhere, indicating the state of the universe in relation to his life. Nothing is chance.

All of this intensifies until he's brought out of it through being called back to his wife's parents' home in Austria to be with his wife and daughter. The wife doesn't show up but the daughter becomes his beacon taking him out of the darkness.
However, the most stunning part of the book, the part that ties it all together, is the spiritual insight that comes at the end and that brings him the rest of the way out.

The spiritual insight comes from Swedenborg. All of what he's been experiencing has been a living version of Hell where his torments have been real enough but have been inflicted on him not by some sort of conspiracy but by the spiritual universe itself in revenge for sins committed before his birth. It's understood both as a test and as a kind of meaningful hallucination, something superimposed over the world that gives it all a significance that's uniquely his own. The solution isn't to either believe or disbelieve in but to work with the spiritual experience in order to get from the negative pole to a positive one. Unfortunately this means repentance for supposed sins that he committed earlier in his career, with the saving grace that he obviously isn't throwing everything overboard if he believes in unconventional spirituality.

A nice read.

A new shiny thing

Our culture is so media driven. First, everyone was talking about Yemen and war on Yemen, now with the Haiti earthquake everyone has forgotten about Yemen. If my guess is right Yemen won't get back into the picture since the forward momentum of a push for war has been lost. There'll be something after the Haiti earthquake that will take people's attention, some new shiny thing to keep folks occupied. People are like ferrets here: you throw something interesting in their faces and they go crazy for it.
It isn't necessarily that people are stupid, but that our culture is so vapid and superficial that folks can be manipulated like that, with a snap of someone's fingers. Most people are trained to buy into the media sphere and not question it while the elite, the people who run the world, are taught how to really analyze things, how to really understand current events even though they may have a biased view of them. They often times end up creating the media sphere, consumption illusion that folks are trapped in. So you have the stage managers and the proles. But all of this doesn't excuse folks from the personal responsibility they have for the actions they approve of through the consent to the media manipulation.

The Republicans put all of this to wonderful use, creating and sustaining constant campaigns of fear and outrage throughout the Bush years, making media driven manipulation a feature of everyday life. And people ate it up. They ate it up like dogs.

As has been said before on this site, none of all of this would be cause for alarm if the United States was a small enclave in the middle of nowhere, with little power. It would be funny, and people who were intellectuals could just sit back and lament on the idiocy of their countrymen without there being urgent concern attached to it. But the United States is a superpower, now waging war on two countries while staging attacks on several more and stationing its troops all over the place, Germany, Japan, Korea, Italy, the Balkans, Uzbekistan...It's also of course one of the major economic powers in the world, a place that drives consumption of natural resources and produces pollution like nobody's business. In other words, our stupidity has vast consequences for the world around us. It's not just something to joke about or sigh about, it's something that needs to be changed for the benefit of the world at large.

How to do that is something that I'm not sure about. But one thing I know for sure is that on a personal level, after a Bush reelection and four more years of an ultra conservative regime, I'm not going to romanticize folks and let them off the hook for their illusions anymore.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Notice how they never say how many civilians total were killed by U.S. forces in Afghanistan last year

Senate Democrats leave Kabul still wary of U.S. troop surge
In this story, about a tour of Afghanistan by Carl Levin and Al Franken, a lot of space is devoted to civilian casualties:

"A new United Nations report on civilian casualties Wednesday painted a stark picture of the fighting, and put the onus on the Taliban for a 14 percent rise in civilian deaths. Of the 2,412 civilians killed last year, the U.N. attributed 70 percent to the Taliban, and 25 percent to the U.S.-led coalition and Afghan security forces.

The Taliban were responsible for 1,630 civilian deaths, up from 1,160 in 2008, the report said. Of those, 1,054 were victims of suicide bombings and improvised explosive devices, while 225 were victims of assassinations and executions.

...

By contrast, the Afghan government and its U.S.-led backers had taken "strategic and specific steps" that reduced the number of civilian deaths by 28 percent from 2008. It said 359 civilians were killed in aerial attacks, or 61 percent of civilian deaths attributed to pro-government forces."

They don't say that the U.S. killed a little under 600 civilians last year. 359 is a nice round number, just add one and you get 360, which is six times six or sixty percent of 600. Whipping out the calculator we get 834 civilians killed in 2008, a number that's also not given. It's interesting that the Taliban's killing gets such specific treatment while the U.S.'s doesn't. Surely the people writing the article are aware of what balance is, in this case balance in the act of not concealing one side's murdering while being gung ho about featuring the other side's murderous actions.

From the AFL-CIO blog "Jobs, Anyone?"

Here

"When will the lawmakers in Washington, D.C., figure out that putting America’s unemployed workers back to work means there actually needs to be jobs available? And that means creating them. The AFL-CIO’s five-point jobs plan includes job-creating measures, such as rebuilding the nation’s roads, schools and infrastructure, and lending Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) funds directly to small and medium-sized businesses via community banks"

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Avatar, wonderful movie

*this post was mysteriously misfiled*
So what else is new, right? I just got out of seeing it less than half an hour ago, so it's still fresh and processing through my non-conscious brain. Pro-ecology, anti-war, with comments on colonialism and the history of the United States. Not rendered in a particularly heavy handed way except for, you know, basic things like the fact that they're destroying their home in order to mine a valuable mineral. At some point it comes down to does a person want to put together a story or don't they, in the sense that if they have to watch out for doing something wrong that'll provoke the Right to piss and moan they likely won't be able to do anything other than right wing propaganda. It's amazing that the Right still talks about political correctness, which was in fact a real force in the eighties and nineties, yet fails to see that they're demanding more correctness themselves than liberals ever did. But back to Avatar. James Cameron did a good job of not making the CGI film a literal cartoon; every time that there was a chance for it to just rely on stereotypes he'd pull back and give examples relating to the situation that were much more realistic than usually happens in films of this sort. The only thing that was clunky about it, really, was the obvious use of cues that established set ups for events that happen later in the film. I don't want to give it away, but these things are like when you see a character doing an activity in passing so that the writers can use that fact later on in the story in a way that relates to the plot. This is usually easier to pick up when they're being pulled out rather than when they're happening. But anyways. That's a minor issue. On the whole it was a really great movie. Maybe I'll have something more concrete to say about it's content once it's had time to percolate in my mind for a while.

Obligatory Haiti post

I say that not to be flippant but because most of the things that I have to write about are rather upbeat and we have this enormous catastrophe that's just happened. My heart goes out to the people there who have already suffered so much, including repeated U.S. invasion in the past fifteen years along with U.S. support for murderous dictators who ruled there.

Vineland by Thomas Pynchon, a deeply unsatisfying ending

I hate to say bad things about a Thomas Pynchon book, but this one really went nowhere. What I mean is that it was structurally bad. The whole premise of it was that part of the end happened at the beginning, then the back stories and side stories leading up to it were told, and then it would all come back together and the ending part would finish up, giving closure to the whole thing. So far so good, right? The only problem is that the end doesn't tie anything together whatsoever, doesn't present almost any action that could serve as a continuation of the very beginning, and instead just sort of peters out. The start of the book has a federal agent from Zoyd Wheeler's past come to his home in Humboldt County, California, and repossess it with a huge swat team. He hides out and sends his daughter south with her boyfriend's band to get away from the heat. A pretty big lead in, right? Well at the end Zoyd just acquiesces to losing his house and the federal agent is recalled at the last minute before doing his nefarious objective. Then he dies. And that's about it. A very large part of the plot told in the backstory, in fact most of the backstory, relates to Zoyd's daughter's mother, who has been missing in action since she was a baby. They meet up, but the scene is portrayed almost as an afterthought, narrated in the third person through only a few paragraphs and no dialogue whatsoever. Many of the threads at the end just sort of give up the ghost.

It could have been a real gotterdamurung of an ending if only it had been carried through a little bit more. Pynchon reveals that the whole thing was really about reconciliation and not about fireworks, yet from the standpoint of basic story logic it's almost not believable that after everything that happened leading up to the ending there wouldn't be strife at all. I mean what was all the endless preparation for, building and building and building in tension, if the end is just everyone saying that was fun and going home?

I'm not saying that it's a bad book, but I am saying that a lot of the potential is sort of squandered.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Way to win over people--in response to a protest of a thousand people the Afghan intelligence agency opened fire and killed eight.

Here. Look at how the article frames it: "KABUL, Afghanistan— At least eight Afghan civilians were killed and a dozen wounded Tuesday during a street protest in a volatile town along the Helmand River, after a raid on an Afghan home Sunday by American and Afghan forces. The raid was seized on by Taliban provocateurs who organized the protesters and pushed them toward violence, local officials said."

So right there at the start they're trying to discredit the protest by saying that Taliban "Provocateurs" were responsible for people's outrage, on top of not telling the readers that it was the Afghan government who was responsible for the protesters' deaths. In fact, although the article goes on and on about supposed Taliban stirring-people-up-ness (as if that gives folks a right to attack protesters) it doesn't actually say how the protesters were killed until paragraph eight. The rest of the story is basically a nod of approval to the U.S. and Afghan government version of events with no attempt at balance.

Brought to you by the U.S. military, who never lie or kill civilians, or desecrate Korans.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Lady GaGa

One thing that I can say about her is that she's a positive force in that she's a former writer of dance songs for others who has succeeded in her own right. She wrote songs for Britney Spears, for example. Usually the talented people like that who are interesting don't get the limelight, instead keeping themselves in back while the star gets all the attention. Lady GaGa has managed to break through all of that and become one of the few dance stars out there who writes and performs their own music.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Going to get dicey soon

Ted Rall's good article on Tax on unemployment benefits has a good section on the stress that people feel now on all of their resources, even if they started out with money saved up. It seems to me that while we're losing jobs at a lower rate than before (only 85,000 in December!) we're getting to a point where a lot of folks will be hitting a serious wall with regards to making ends meet, where traditional government measures won't stave off serious economic dislocation anymore. When that happens I'm not sure what will come next. I hope that it will be an intensification of benefits so that folks aren't thrown out on the street but there's no guarantee that that will be the case. This could be a potentially even more serious social crisis.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Learn to Speak Tea Bag by Mark Fiore

This is an animation that's gotten him some death threats. I think that the reason it's drawn such criticism is that cartoons are the primary media form that Tea Baggers relate to, besides Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck.

More Avatar: yes, it did in fact put forward the White God syndrome

That idea being that a white person shows up in a native setting and suddenly shoots to the top of the ladder as one of the chosen ones. It wouldn't have been so bad if they hadn't gone over the top with it at the end. Before that, it had some good elements of realism, like the person working hard to join the tribe as a member.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Reading "VIneland" by Thomas Pynchon

Man, what a difference from "Inherent Vice". I'm not talking about a difference in complexity or what have you, since I knew going into Inherent Vice that it was much more lightweight than most of Pynchon's books, but about a difference in tone. While Inherent Vice is a sort of lighthearted exploration of '60s counter culture in southern California, Vineland is a comparable nightmare, being a fractured look at the history of several '60s figures who have descended into, it's fair to say, very bad times. I'm a little over half way through it at the moment but am thankful that the psychological hell trip has eased up in the last couple of chapters. The situation is one where it hurts more because it's rendered realistically, painfully realistically, as opposed to being picturesque and over the top.

*on edit: hmm, thinking of it, the last sentence here is unsatisfactory. That should be grotesque rather than picturesque because picturesque is too ambiguous while grotesque captures more of the flavor of horrific or nightmarish fiction that gets that way through using monsters and other supernatural effects, plus literal blood and psychopaths. Vineland is raw, waking up in the morning after a party, realizing that you're a mess and that your life still sucks and that there's nothing you can do about it, nightmare effects.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Tea Party activist can't even spell the "N Word" right.

Besides being objectionable, this has to be a kind of record in the annals of stupidity. I find it entertaining that the press release they cite was obviously written by someone taking his knuckle dragging sentences and polishing them with policy speak.

From the Washington Independent: " Dale Robertson, a Tea Party activist who operates TeaParty.org, is getting stung for an old photo — taken at the Feb. 27, 2009 Tea Party in Houston — in which he holds a sign reading “Congress = Slaveowner, Taxpayer = Niggar." and from the press release they reproduce in the article: "Tea Party Taking The Next Step

“We are setting the tone for taking back America with Liberty Concerts. We are not waiting until the first quarter of the year, we have already begun.” Dale Robertson, President and Founder of the Tea Party – TeaParty.org

‘Liberty Concerts’ is a venue designed to be the key to create a model for our Nation to Take Back America. The Tea Party does not intend to waste their time simply rallying. The Plan is to optimize the events, they will be fun and Citizens will be asked to run for office, with the focus of Restoring America, and thus, putting it on the Conservative track."

Yes, conservative values all right, putting America on the conservative track. It's obvious what kind of conservative values he's promoting.

Some Strindberg from "The Inferno"

"I am inclined to attribute these pains which drive me wild to the unknown powers which have persecuted me for years, and frustrate my endeavours. I avoid people, neglect society, refuse invitations, and make myself inaccessible to friends. I am surrounded by silence and loneliness. It is the solemn and terrible silence of the desert in which I defiantly challenge the unknown, in order to wrestle with him, body with body, and soul with soul."

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Obama seems to be doing the right thing with Yemen

Which is to say he's treating the whole thing like a police matter by funding Yemen's counter terrorism task force. Granted, Yemen's government is corrupt and this is making it more and more of a U.S. client state, but this beats attacking them with more missiles or invading them.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Putting together thoughts on economics and a newer society

Right now I'm confronting the problem of squaring my belief in the complete nationalization of lots of companies with a corresponding dislike of concentrated power.