Thursday, January 31, 2008

chop blocks

End grain, quarter-sawn oak.


Hunter: The Conservative Stages of Grief:
Stage 1: John McCain. In the McCain stage of grief, a conservative is mentally aware of their surroundings but unable to emotionally process the information. The result is a mental short-circuit. Sufferers are especially prone to thinking that the Iraq War is going spectacularly well; they may even wander open-air marketplaces in which they are protected by a hundred or more fully armed United States soldiers, with helicopter gunship support, and remark aloud at how normal and stable and safe their location obviously is. Denial may also exist over the state of the economy, of their own party, or, especially, their own past actions.

The McCain stage of grief is known to last years or even decades. Fortunately, the sufferer usually loses all concept of time, such that they cannot differentiate between any particular six month period, and will eventually declare them all to be "a hundred years" long...

Greg Palast: One Bush Left Behind; The South Carolina You Won't See on CNN

Monday, January 21, 2008

blog post: for the parents...


Well, I’d say that the great failure of the Clinton administration — more important even than its failure to achieve health care reform, though the two failures were closely related — was the fact that it didn’t change the narrative, a fact demonstrated by the way Republicans are still claiming to be the next Ronald Reagan.

Everything true, obviously. But here, as usual, the NY Times is deriding Obama. I say, if it takes a little lukewarm praise of 'the concept of Reagan,' in a certain context, to win an election today, then that's just fucking fine with me. Better that than actually being Reagan, eh? (Here's looking at you, Queen Privatization/Shock Doctrine Hillary.)

Americans still suffer so much from this idea that politicians, running for election, are allowed to be actual people. That they should be held responsible to every off-hand comment, over-brimming with saintly integrity. They're not; get over it. What counts is their actions. The time to re-write the history books starts directly after all the bullshit (and may last for about two years if you're a democrat, that is before the inevitable scandals hurt the Divided Party with a Conscience).

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Matt Taibbi joins Lewis Lapham, imho

...for those wondering where some of Hunter S. Thompson's spirit went:
And when Hillary finally arrives, her speech turns out to be the same maddeningly nonspecific, platitude-filled verbal oatmeal that every candidate has spent the last year slinging in all directions -- complete with the same vague promises for "change" we've heard from every last coached-up dog in this presidential hunt, from Barack Obama to Mitt Romney.

"Some people think you get change by demanding it," says the former first lady. "Some people think you get change by hoping for it. I think you get change by working hard for it every single day."

I see reporters frantically writing in their notebooks and laptops. The line was the money shot of this whole presentation, tomorrow's headline.

In a vacuum, of course, this is the most meaningless kind of computer-generated horseshit, the type of thing you would expect to hear coming out of the mouth of a $200-an-hour inspirational speaker at a suburban sales conference. But in this tightest of presidential races, Hillary attacking "hope" amounts to a major rhetorical offensive. "Hope," after all, is Barack Obama's own personal spoonful of oatmeal, and by disparaging it, Hillary has given this gym full of political hacks tomorrow's sports headline.

And the hacks deliver, right on cue. AN OBAMA-CLINTON TEMPEST BREWS roars The Los Angeles Times, noting that Hillary's shot at "hoping for change " is directed at Obama, while "demanding change" is code for John Edwards.

The next stage in this asinine process is the obligatory retorts. Obama responds by crowing, "I don't need lectures about how to bring about change." The "change-demander," Edwards, stakes out his own platitudinal turf, insisting that change isn't about work or hope at all, but about "toughness" and "courage."

Reading all of this crap the next day, I'm amazed. Here we are, the world's lone superpower, holding elections at a time when we're engaged in a catastrophic war in Iraq, facing a burgeoning nuclear crisis in Pakistan, dealing with all sorts of horrible stuff. And at the crucial moment, the presidential race turns into something from the cutting-room floor of Truly Tasteless Jokes #50: "Three change-promisers walk into a bar ...."

I mean, is this a joke, or what? What the hell is the difference between "working for change" and "demanding change"? And why can't we hope for change and work for it? Are these presidential candidates or six-year-olds?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

I believe in political despair

Not surprisingly, the blunt compass places me closest to Obama:

Both tests via Crooked Timber. For more on the election see Long Sunday.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

belatedly for David Markson

A thoughtful post on occasion of his 80th birthday, here.
Oh, well, there are books by friends, that you do give yourself to. You approach them with a different psychological stance, somehow, wanting to enjoy. And doing so. As with the most recent Gil Sorrentino, for instance. Or Ann Beattie's new collection of stories. But there's simply no impulse toward anything else, and certainly not toward the latest generation. They all seem like they shouldn't have driver's licenses, even. You do become aware of the names, of course. Who are they, Lethem, Foer, Eggers? Are they mostly named Jonathan?

You know of them, but you're not interested in reading them?

Seriously -- to paraphrase Ezra Pound, there's no record of a critic ever saying anything significant about a writer who came later than he did. You grow up getting interested in books, and the writers of your own generation or the generation or two before your own are the ones you pay most attention to. But listen, I'm scarcely as bad as some of the people I know. But good lord, some of the people I went to college or even graduate school with pretty much quit about nine days after they got their diplomas. And haven't read a poet since Auden, or a novelist since Hemingway. There was one fat novel I did read. In 1996, in fact. I remember the date because my novel Reader's Block had also just been published: Infinite Jest. Before I'd heard of David Foster Wallace, way back in 1990, he'd written a very perceptive long essay on Wittgenstein's Mistress for a periodical. Even though I was never able to solve the structure of his novel, to understand why it ended where it did, I admired the hell out of it. Eight or nine years ago even, I wasn't reading with the equipment I possessed when I was younger. But pat me on the head, I did manage to get through one novel that long in the past decade.