Tuesday, April 27, 2010


One of a dozen recent projects...

Custom-made for a kitchen in California, with double mortise-tenon joinery allowing smaller board to be removable from top (with handle), and sit flush when set. And yes, obviously with a hidden cleat.

For more: GreenRiverWoods.Etsy.com

Reading a little Roland Barthes this morning...

From The Eiffel Tower and Other Mythologies (1957-1979), upon going to hear Billy Graham's troup attempt its great "MyCarthyist" "awakening" and "conversion" of "atheist"("Communist") Paris:

Billy Graham makes us wait for him [...] We recognize in this first phase of the ceremony that great sociological recourse of Expectation which Mauss has studied and of which Paris has already had a very up-to-date example in the hypnotism séances of Le Grand Robert. Here, too, the Mage's appearance was postponed as long as possible, and by repeated false starts the public was wrought up to that troubled curiosity which is quite ready to see in fact what it is being made to wait for. Here, from the first minute, Billy Graham is presented as a veritable prophet, into whom we beg the Spirit of God to consent to descend, on this very evening in particular: it is an Inspired Being who will speak, the public is invited to teh spectacle of a possession: we are asked in advance to take Billy Graham's speeches quite literally for divine words.

If God is really speaking through Dr. Graham's mouth, it must be acknowledged that God is quite stupid: the Message stuns us by its platitude, its childishness. In any case, assuredly, God is no longer a Thomist, He shrinks from logic: the Message is constituted by an outburst of discontinuous affirmations, without any kind of link, each of which has no content that is not tautological (God is God). The merest Marist brother, the most academic pastor would figure as decadent intellectuals next to Dr. Graham.[...] Billy Graham's manner breaks with a whole tradition of the sermon, Catholic or Protestant, inherited from ancient culture, a tradition which is that of a requirement to persuade. Western Christianity has always submitted for its exposition to the general context of Aristotelian thought, has always consented to deal with reason, even when accrediting the irrationality of faith. Breaking with centuries of humanism (even if the forms may have been hollow and petrified, the concern for the subjective Other has rarely been absent from Christian didacticism), Dr. Graham brings us a method of magical transformation: he substitutes suggestion for persuasion: the pressure of the delivery, the systematic eviction of any rational content from the proposition, the incessant break of logical links, the verbal repetitions, the grandioloquent designation of the Bible held at arm's length like the universal can opener of a quack peddler, and above all the absence of warmth, the manifest contempt for others, all these operations belong to the classic material of the music-hall hypnotist...(Billy Graham at the Vel' d'Hiv)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Goldman Sachs is dead

Apparently the "make them eat shit and die" approach to finance just may be illegal. Watch the carnage in real time here. So will Rahm Emanuel have the balls to finally let Eric Holder out of his cage? It's now or never.

Simon Johnson, "Our Pecora Moment:"
We don’t know where and when, but the SEC action points in one direction only: Lloyd Blankfein (CEO of Goldman) in the witness box, while John Paulson (unindicted co-conspirator) waits in the on-deck circle.

Either Blankfein knew what was going on – and is therefore liable before the law – or he was clueless and therefore incompetent. Either way, the much vaunted risk management and control systems of Goldman, i.e., what is supposed to prevent this kind of thing from happening, are exposed to be what we have long here claimed: bunk (as I argued with Gerry Corrigan, former head of the NY Fed and long-time Goldman executive, before the Senate Banking Committee when we both testified on the Volcker Rules in February).

“Too big and complex to manage” is actually the best defense for Goldman’s executives and they should offer to break up the firm into smaller and more transparent pieces as a way to settle the firm’s liability with the SEC. The current management of Goldman – along with the team that ran the firm under Hank Paulson – have destroyed the value of an illustrious franchise. Goldman used to stand for something that customers felt they could trust; now it is just a sophisticated way of ripping them off.

John Paulson obviously knew what he was doing in helping to create the “designed to fail” securities – and the consequences this would have. If he cannot be convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud, then the law in this regard needs to be tightened significantly. (read more)

Genuine populists out there (as opposed to those fringe radical dimwits identifying themselves with the name of a certain gay sex act) who maintain their righteous fury at the criminals in our financial industry (and recognize in decades of corrupt Republican policy the elitist big government corporatism that will never ever begin to resemble the source of any real change), should probably follow this man's advice and make some phone calls now. I did.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

, yes.

On Mad Men:

...Mad Men is currently said to be the best and ‘smartest’ show on American TV. We’re doomed.

...The format of the show is to suspend a backstory and subplot from each diminutive stereotype, episode by episode, and sketch some quick pathos around the character to see if it can humanise him or her.

...Whether one finds all of this claustrophobic and ludicrous or tightly wound and compelling depends very heavily on one’s opinion of Don Draper. Draper, as written, is a kind of social savant. He knows how to act in every emergency. He deploys strategic fits of temper to attain his ends. He’s catnip to women. As played by Jon Hamm, though, his manner hardly matches his activities. Hamm looks perpetually wimpy and underslept. His face is powdered and doughy. He lacks command. He is witless. The pose that he’s best at, interestingly, is leaning back in his chair; it ought to be from superiority, but it looks as though he is trying to dodge a blow. Draper is supposed to have a deep secret, but it would make sense only if that secret were his weakness – fearfulness or femininity – instead of the show’s anticlimactic revelation that his mother was a whore and he picked up another man’s identity on the battlefield in Korea: bizarre Gothicisms that belong to some other series. One never sees hunger or anger in Hamm’s eyes, only the misery of the hunted fox. Either he is playing the hero as a schlub in deference to a 21st-century idea of masculinity as fundamentally hollow and sham, or he’s completely underequipped to convey male menace.

The most necessary thing that he can’t do is to justify viscerally why strong women keep falling for him, or why the competitive males in his office accept him as an Alpha. In the classic Hollywood cinema, there was a name for the role Hamm should be playing: the Mug, who seems OK at first but in the end has to give up the girl to Cary Grant or Spencer Tracy (excerpted from the LRB; read the whole thing here).

Without a doubt Mark Greif is one of the best critics writing today in the realm of cultural politics. He does know how to get under the skin of a certain (in my opinion) deserving audience, from which well-intentioned, occasionally complacent and uncritical liberals are certainly not excluded. Unlike some of his more transparently self-serving detractors, his thinking never seems forcibly dressed up or hiding in pedantries, backhanded, or boring. (Those with a less sympathetic politics would of course say just the opposite; they are unconvincing.) He may risk spawning a new class of careerist Bill Buckleys in reaction. I suppose worse things could be happening for our national dialogue (well, and are).

I particularly respect the integrity, intellectual honesty and class of Greif's response to Caleb Crain, regarding Greif's article "On Repressive Sentimentalism" (see the latest issue of n+1, number 9).