First of all, you miserable bastards, none of you told me about this:
And second of all, you lousy fagz, Everything Is Bigger In Texas:
I am sure that Jean Baudrillard would have something to say about all this.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
First of all, you miserable bastards, none of you told me about this:
Jack Shafer of Slate has an occasional series called "The Stupidest Drug Story of the Week," and I do believe I've found the current champion de semaine. Based almost entirely on a couple of stories about immediate addiction, spiraling descent into criminal, moral, and financial darkness, and episodes of "drug-induced hysteria," so archetypal as to be almost surely apocryphal, the story is a newsreel of "paco" madness--"paco" being some kind of lousy ghetto cocaine. The closest thing the article offers to evidence is this:
Cocaine seizures and major drug raids in Argentina and Brazil have surged in the past two years. The influx of raw cocaine paste used to make crack, from both Bolivia and Peru, has been particularly acute. In Brazil, such seizures by the federal police nearly quadrupled from 2006 to 2007, to 2,700 pounds from about 710 pounds, according to the police.Now to put that into perspective, we are talking about an increase from one load in a mid-sized pickup truck to one load in a 14' Thrifty Mover. In other words, no evidence at all, one way or other, about the actual importation of narcotics into Argentina.
In an otherwise anodyne article about how some people like Barack Obama and some people don't like Barack Obama--precisely the sort of revelatory, investigatory journalism that proves again and again the keystone position of the fourth estate in the arch supporting the mighty aqueduct of our democracy--we come across this fellow:
Michael Hussey, 29, [is] an Internet entrepreneur who runs RateMyTeachers.com. Hussey is a libertarian, his politics a cross between Ron Paul's and Rudy Giuliani's, he says.Personally my politics are a cross between a jackrabbit and an antelope, but I find that if you stare at them long enough after a couple of pints, you stop noticing the dribbles of hot glue around the antlers.
Friday, February 22, 2008
CITIZENS, You are presented today in a pornographic form, a vulgar and baroque spirit which is not the PURE IDIOCY claimed by DADA, BUT DOGMATISM AND
. . . PRETENTIOUS IMBECILITY
Ladies and gentlemen, dogs and cats, truants and gluesniffers, I give you . . .
THE LIBERAL MANIFESTO:
Liberals believe in clean air, diplomacy, stem cells, living wages, body armor for our troops, government accountability, and that exercising the right to dissent is the highest form of patriotism.Quel cadavre exquis ! Tzara himself would be proud. "Liberals believe in pheromones, sex ed, solar panels, voting paper trails . . ." That's a hell of an erotic imagination.
Liberals believe in reading actual books, going to war as a last resort, separating church and hate, and doing what Jesus would actually do, instead of lobbying for upper-class tax cuts and fantasizing about the apocalypse.
Liberals believe in civil rights, the right to privacy, and that evolution and global warming aren’t just theories but incontrovertible scientific facts.
Liberals believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment that (1) prohibits another Bush from ever occupying the White House, and (2) prevents George W. Bush from ever becoming baseball commissioner before he does to our national pastime what he did for America.
Liberals believe in rescuing people from flooded streets and rooftops, even if they’re too poor to vote Republican.
Liberals believe that supporting our troops means treating our wounded vets like the heroes they are, and not leaving them to languish in rat-infested military hospitals under the outsourced management of incompetent cronies who think they’re running a Taco Bell franchise.
Liberals believe in pheromones, sex ed, solar panels, voting paper trails, the common good, and that, no matter how fascinating a story it may be, a president should never sit around in a state of total paralysis reading "My Pet Goat" while America is under attack.
And above all, liberals believe that it’s time to come together as a country and put a collective boot in the ass of shameless conservative fearmongers, hate merchants, and scapegoaters who are sucking the freedom out of all our souls.
The desire to package a lot of disparate products--half social democracy, half out-jingo-the-jingo nationalism--into a series of goofy, declamatory lists is one that I don't quite understand. I mean, how about, "Liberals believe in the Beatitudes, the teleology of scientific progress, and redistributive economics." I'm pretty sure that sums it up, though as a descriptive of homo liberalis, I'm not sure it does much actual good.
Well, it looks like "the Iraq war has revived a 21st century sovereignty fetish" just in time for Turkey to revive some fetishes of its own.
So Hillary Clinton is talking about how Barack Obama is only talking, and Barack Obama says that he's not only talking he's also talking about doing, and Hillary Clinton says that talking about doing is not the same as doing, which is what she's talking about doing.
The intermingled culinary revolutions of New French and California cuisine were on the whole a boon for cooking. In France they helped to chase out a lot of boring, self-same reductions and demi-glaces, returning some simplicity to dishes weighed down by years of formal tradition. In America, they returned attention to the field and farm, and although our large agriculture is in terrible shape, there probably hasn't been a better time for small producers in more than a century. On the other hand, some great classics also got chased out of the restaurant kitchen. When was the last time you saw a cassoulet on a menu? Italian chefs have been much more successful in bringing farm hearth dishes to new intensity and interest as restaurant items than either their American or French counterparts.
Coq au vin
Coq au vin may be my favorite recipe ever, a hearty dish of chicken and vegetables stewed in red wine and served with a lot of bread to sop up the sauce. Originally it called for rooster--coq--which took well to slow cooking due to its tougher flesh. These aren't easy to come by unless you have a good independent butcher or an excellent farmer's market. I usually use a couple of Cornish hens, which are likewise a bit gamier than a regular roasting chicken, but any free-range bird will do. The traditional recipe calls for pearl onions, which I find a bit bland and replace with small shallots. It calls for lardons, an unsmoked French bacon; I use thick slices of Italian pancetta, which has an incredible sweetness. You can use either white button mushrooms or small criminis. I prefer the latter for their darker flavor. For the wine, a pinot noir is best. A good Beaujolais or any of the many excellent American pinots are the best bets. There are a lot of ingredients here, and prep can take a while. The results are more than worth it. Make it on a cold Sunday and bake your own bread.
1 whole chicken or 2 cornish hens, cut into serving pieces
12-20 shallots, depending on size
4 cloves garlic
2 large carrots
2 stalks celery
12-20 button or crimini mushrooms, depending on size
1/4 lb. pancetta, thickly cut
1 cup crushed tomatoes
1 bottle red wine, preferably a pinot noir
2 bay leaves
1 sprig of thyme
some celery leaves
a few sprigs of parsley
a very good, fine sea salt, such as a French sel gris
Divide the bird(s) into serving pieces and set aside. (I usually reserve the gizzards, neck, backbone, and organs, which I combine with vegetable trimmings to make stock.) Peel the shallots and leave whole. Peel the garlic and crush under your knife. Peel the carrots and cut them into coins at least a half-inch thick. Cut the celery into thick slices. Brush the mushrooms carefully and leave whole. Roughly chop the pancetta. Peel, core, and crush your tomatoes--or just use some of the many quality canned varieties. Prepare a bouquet garnit by tying together the bay leaves, celery leaves, thyme, and parsley with a little twine.
Fill a shallow bowl with flour, salt it generously, and then grind in some pepper. Mix well and evenly.
In a large stock pot, melt and heat a generous amount of calrified butter. Add the shallots and garlic, salting lightly. As they just begin to soften, add the carrots and celery. I often let these cook over a medium heat half-covered, which helps retain the natural juices of the vegetable. In a separate, heavy-bottomed frying pan or skillet, heat some more butter. While the vegetables are cooking, coat the pieces of chicken in flour and pan-cook to a light golden brown, first on the skin side, then briefly flipped. You will have to do it in batches.
Meanwhile, add the mushrooms and pancetta to the big pot, raising the heat again as you do. As the pieces of chicken finish on the stove, add them to the vegetables and pork, shoving them down so they are surrounded by the other ingredients. If the pot is too dry, you can add a small splash of wine to deglaze it first. When all the chicken is in the pot, add the bouquet garnit, salt a little more, and then pour in the bottle of wine. Bring it just to boil, then reduce to a low simmer. Cover and simmer for perhaps 2 hours over a very low flame.
Serve the chicken in shallow bowls with a generous portion of vegetables, doused in the cooking liquid, garnished with a little chopped parsley, with hearty bread and softened butter on the side. Drink a simple, straightforward Burgundy.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Thank goodness Bill Clinton was able to fix the Balkans.
Wolcott on women. Personally, I blame monotheism. As Gore Vidal, quite possibly the greatest fag the world has ever produced, noted in his Lowell Lecture at Harvard back in the nineties:
Now to the root of the matter. The great unmentionable evil at the center of our culture is monotheism. From a barbaric Bronze Age text known as the Old Testament, three anti-human religions have evolved --Judaism, Christianity, Islam. These are sky-god religions. They are, literally, patriarchal --God is the omnipotent father-- hence the loathing of women for 2,000 years in those countries afflicted by the sky-god and his earthly male delegates. The sky-god is a jealous god, of course. He requires total obedience from everyone on earth, as he is in place not for just one tribe but for all creation. Those who would reject him must be converted or killed for their own good. Ultimately, totalitarianism is the only sort of politics that can truly serve the sky-god's purpose. Any movement of a liberal nature endangers his authority and that of his delegates on earth. One God, one King, one Pope, one master in the factory, one father-leader in the family home.A shame.
We had a dinner the other night, and a friend started in on this harangue about Hillary. "If we're going to elect a woman president, I want to elect a real woman!" This was another woman talking.
"What the hell are you talking about?" I asked her.
"She's not a real woman. She's just . . . nothing about her is a woman."
"Not even her vag?"
Let me be stark and plain about this. The reason not to vote for Hillary Clinton is that she is a blood-soaked reptilian monster of the imperial war machine. Her concave genitalia should not be at issue.
The Triumphant Return Of* Friendly Letters: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace My Liberators
Interventionism is increasingly seen in the Middle East and Africa as a camouflage for Western interests.Dear Rog,
-Roger Cohen in The Times>
*The Triumphant Return Of is a wholly owned subsidiary of Unqualified Offerings.
As those who regularly read Who Is IOZ? know, I am not impressed by the idea that George W. Bush represents some kind of definitive break with the past, that his presidency is uniquely aberrant, that his imperialism is somehow without precedent, that his power-grabbing is a novelty among chief executives, or that his evident insanity represents anything other than the mean of Oval Office occupiers. I have consistently argued, in fact, that he represents "an apotheosis, not an aberration," and I have tried to note plainly that while Democrats are long on the rhetoric of restoration, they are short on its mechanics. With the clear exceptions of universal patsy Dennis Kucinich and Mike "Vast Active Living Intelligence System" Gravel, no Democrat has allowed that he or she will actually repudiate any of the "new" powers that the current administration has oppenly arrogated to itself. In looking back over the long, fruitless, smoke-and-mirrors debate over wiretapping, surveillance, and domestic spying, the most notable characteristic the Democratic party, aside from their operatic capitulation at every juncture, has been their committment to arguing not that no president and no government should possess such powers, but rather that George W. Bush cannot be trusted to properly exercise them. Insofar as the administration has argued that it requires more "flexibility," or that it needs to "keep up with the technology," the nearly uniform response from the supposed opposition has been to point out that, hell, he's already got the flexibility and the techology. We can already spy on the poor bastards, goes the argument, so you can stop fiddling around with the rules.
If any doubts remained that Democrats are principally interested in wielding the aggregated powers of the "unitary executive" to their own purposes and ends, it should be dispelled by the ongoing primary fight over which Democrat will be ready on "day one" to step in as the "commander in chief." Clinton and her advisors specifically use the term in its neologistic glory, but both she and Obama discuss their presidential ambitions in dictatorial terms. I use the word here in its Roman sense: one person, "temporarily" empowered through some democratic or parliamentary process, to wield what is essentially total control over the mechanisms of the state. The Commander in Chief of the United States of America, military, citizens, and all. In large part, Democratic partisans share this desire, as their barely-concealed envy at the subordinate relationship of the Republican congress to our Lord Protector reveals. Let me put it to you straight: I am not looking forward to the next four years.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Recently I observed to a passing tape recorder that I was once a famous novelist. When assured, politely, that I was still known and read, I explained myself. I was speaking, I said, not of me personally but of a category to which I once belonged that has now ceased to exist. I am still here but the category is not. To speak today of a famous novelist is like speaking of a famous cabinetmaker or speedboat designer. Adjective is inappropriate to noun. How can a novelist be famous—no matter how well known he may be personally to the press?—if the novel itself is of little consequence to the civilized, much less to the generality? The novel as teaching aid is something else, but hardly famous.Keith Gessen, one of the editors of n+1, an arts and culture journal out of New York, came across a post I wrote last year in response to a lousy op-ed by one Thomas Chatterton Williams. Keith kindly pointed out that I'm a regular asshole--not his phrase, to be sure--for making fun of the guy's name (I do have to cop to that charge), and he pointed me to a recent article on the same theme by the same author in his magazine's latest number. I said that I'd give it a read and give it a go and leave the cheap shots aside. Younz've been bugging me for more literary muckety-muck anyway, so here it is.
There is no such thing as a famous novelist now, any more than there is such a thing as a famous poet. I use the adjective in the strict sense. According to authority, to be famous is to be much talked about, usually in a favorable way. It is as bleak and inglorious as that.
-Gore Vidal, from Point to Point Navigation
Williams' begins with an aside Borges once made in his correspondence, which Williams paraphrases for us:
Negroes had failed to produce a “universal culture” – like that of the ancient Greeks, the English, the Arabs, the Chinese, the Jews – because they could offer nothing of equal worth to the rest of the world, they were therefore in a sense inferior.Cultural universalism is an inherently questionable merit. I'll tell you frankly that it doesn't exist. The "universal culture" of the Jews, just for instance, really means the literary products of a few European Holocaust survivors and East Coast Americans, none of which has much currency in Lahore or Delhi or Kigali or Beijing. If "universal" means Euro-American critical plaudits, fine, but it hardly seems a strict or accurate use of the word. It is, in any case, a misdirection. What Williams is really writing is a rehash of the standard critique of black American culture: that it fails the test of seriousness and produces only the base and the vulgar, and that when a great artist like Ralph Ellison (Williams' main example) appears, other blacks shun and ostracize him.
I chose that quotation from Vidal's latest memoir because it stands in commonsensical contrast to a central strand of Williams' essay, which goes like this:
To be sure, this is by no means a uniquely black phenomenon. From Benjamin Franklin to Paris Hilton, white America has genuflected most ardently and most often at the altar of materialism. And with the institution of slavery whites hit rock bottom, reducing man himself to mere commodity. The problem for black America, then, is not one of kind but one of proportion: whereas white America has produced its William Faulkners, Frank Lloyd Wrights, Ralph Waldo Emersons, Harvard Universities, Edmund Wilsons, New Yorkers, etc., to serve as hefty counterbalances to the Lindsay Lohans, Donald Trumps, and John D. Rockefellers it creates – i.e., there is a small but healthy highbrow tradition set in place – black America is all too skewed in the direction of P Diddy and the vulgar, without the benefit of adequate opposing forces. Anyone willing to spend an hour in the company of Black Entertainment Television or to venture into the “Urban” section of the bookstore could argue that today black culture has lapsed into a greater provincialism than ever before. It would not be hard to argue that.No indeed, it would not be hard to argue that, which is perhaps why so many lazy people make this same lazy argument. The idea that the occasional great writer and architect "serve[s] as a hefty counterbalance" to the depredations of "materialism"--Williams' word--is perfectly silly. The art that they produce may be a palliative to the few of us who care, but it's hardly a cure for our infamous cultural malaise. Anyone willing to spend an hour watching prime time network television would see a white culture even more hopelessly depraved than its black counterpart, such as the racial distinction even retains meaning in popular entertainment. Is it worse to shake booty and wear diamonds on one's teeth than to eat grubs while wading in a tub of feces for a 10 grand in prize money? I doubt it. It is often true that high art outlives and transcends its times, but by that standard Ralph Ellison's admirers have little to worry about. Anyway, the truth is that a hundred El Grecos do not abrogate the Inquisition, no matter how much we might wish it were so. One thing I have learned about transcendence is that it doesn't dig into our dirty reality, but flies from it.
In making his case for the general lowness of black culture, Williams makes a big deal out of the nastiness Ellision faced from other blacks in his lifetime, and the posthumous hostility many--including other artists and writers--continue to show. But of course, Ellison was a tremendous dickhead to other black artists, intellectuals, and activists in his lifetime, a fact that Williams readily admits. His distance from the political struggles of his day is understandable. It was Joyce himself who wrote that great art requires cunning, exile, and wit. But with necessary exile comes predictable opprobium. Joyce may be an Irish hero today, but be assured that plenty condemned him for claiming the native mantle while scribbling in Zurich and Trieste. I fear that Williams is trying to turn Ellison's petulance into a sort of martyrdom. It won't fly.
He has other points to make as well, all variations on this same theme. The black community at large did not support jazz, for instance.
Even jazz music, the most widely respected and acknowledged black contribution to world culture and one of the great modernisms of the 20th century, was not primarily consumed or supported by other blacks. The poet and critic Lorenzo Thomas has noted that black artists and jazz musicians were measurably isolated from the wider African-American community and therefore subject to overwhelming outside influence from white critics.This is true, but deployed dishonestly. All modernisms were consumed principally by a narrow group of particular taste and education. The notion that the black community in toto failed to support jazz is tendentious in the extreme. The fact that only a self-selective community supported it is accurate, but it is also accurate that the imagists and the cubists and the modernist poets were "measurably isolated from the wider" Anglo-American community. To use the lumpen failure to appreciate the noblest work of the creative mind in condemning the cultural affinities of a particular race is nothing but a cheap shot.
Near the end of the essay, Williams utters his cri de coeur:
Things have changed since the publication of Invisible Man (though perhaps they have not changed enough). Since those early post-war years blacks have had a profound and alienating experience in the great American cities, an experience which the rest of the world has primarily learned of through rappers and entertainers. This experience has been alluded to, sometimes with skill, in the fragmentary poetry of Grandmaster Flash, Nas, Gang Starr, and so many others – but as the pools of critical ink that continue to spill over the long-deceased rapper Tupac Shakur might indicate, the field of genuine description is still very much open. Who will describe this experience in something more than mere fragments? Who will piece this complex black reality together at the highest level of art?This from a man who was writing about modernisms! The profoundly alienating experiences of the post-war years of the 1920s was expressed most deeply in the "fragmentary poetry" of the modernists, of Joyce and of Eliot. The Wasteland was nothing but fragments. The highest literary art of the last century was driven by a rejection of authorial omniscience in favor of displacement, dislocation, fragmentation, and subjectivity. The bulk of hip-hop may be commercial crap, but the best of it is in that same tradition. It may not be much in evidence on major record labels, but it's all over the internet, in cafés, clubs, and coffee houses. If it still lacks in critical appreciation, perhaps the relentless attacks by critics like Thomas Chatterton Williams have something to do with it. If Joyce could write about sniffing Molly Bloom's shitty drawers, then by god a man ought to be able to rap about fucking.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Many Pakistanis expressed relief that the overwhelming victory of the two major moderate opposition political parties in the Parliamentary elections on Monday marked a change in direction after eight years of military rule under Mr. Musharraf even though in the past the parties have rarely produced models of stable government.What's amusing is that the reporters quite clearly fail to grasp that "stable government" is a euphemism for "military rule" (and other forms of dictatorship) long used by the American government to justify its alliances with dictators, even as they use the phrase to mean precisely that. The left brain does not speak to the right. Horselover Fat is really Phil Dick.
I think there are several messages in these results, but the most pertinent is that Americans don't know shit about Pakistan. For years, we've fretted that Musharraf's junta was all that stood between Pakistan and Talibanization. We worried that "Islamic parties" would sweep into power if elections were held. Our Uncle Pervez flattered such misperceptions, since they did nothing if not solidify "our" support. Rather makes one wonder if those ungovernable tribal regions are really quite so ungovernable; if some tacitly approved cross-border incursions by Americans are really the Americans getting played. Let's just say that our so-called intelligence community hasn't got the best track record in this regard.
Monday, February 18, 2008
A paragraphh strikes me:
The image of a forbidding prison camp is not entirely false. But it is not the picture Bush administration officials would prefer to emphasize. They portray Guantánamo Bay as a clean and modern detention camp, where humane treatment of terror suspects is the rule.You know, Dachau was a clean and modern detention camp once upon a time. It is neither the cleanliness nor the modernity that defines the place, but the detention. There are perfectly sterile, orderly, well-run, brightly lit abbatoirs; none of those adjectives alters the fact that throats are slit and blood drained into bins on the floor.
Since there seems to be confusion on the point, I'll elaborate. In many aspects of our empire, we seem to believe that qualitative improvements will obviate categorical wrongs. Thus the prevalence of the idea that the "success" of the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan has some bearing on their rightness or wrongness, or the idea that the "humaneness" with which we treat our prisoners somehow negates the fact that we have imprisoned them beyond hope of release or appeal. I suppose that I would prefer sanitary solitary confinement to solitary confinement in my own filth, but after years I suspect that becomes a distinction without a difference. The concentration camp at Guantanamo may have been laid out by the architects of Candyland. That has no bearing whatsoever on the perversion that it represents.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
As I've mentioned before, in a genuine national emergency like this I don't have a problem with the president assuming extraordinary powers for a short period.That's all I'm sayin'.
So-called inalienable rights, once alienated, are often lost forever.
Die von der Reichsregierung beschlossenen Reichsgesetze können von der Reichsverfassung abweichen, soweit sie nicht die Einrichtung des Reichstags und des Reichsrats als solche zum Gegenstand haben
-Gesetz zur Behebung der Not von Volk und Reich
Gentlemen, Chicolini here may talk like an idiot, and look like an idiot, but don't let that fool you: he really is an idiot.
Reading financial news in the Times is often like wearing your glasses in the steam room, and this article on the
impending doom coming test to credit default swap market is no exception. This market is actually less difficult and "arcane" than the reporting makes it out to be. It's really an old-fashioned insurance scam with extra zeroes. Buy a policy, sell it to some other schmuck, who sells it to some other schmuck, and eventually somewhere down the line some asshole's got a chop-block resold insurance certificate and no way to figure out who's supposed to make good on it. Oops!
Look, I don't really think that the United States should be on a gold standard, but at the root of wealth there really ought to be some kind of recoverable asset with some kind of durable value. Something valued for its rarity or utility, or something produced through labor, or a little of both. $45.5 trillion worth of electronic money buying electronic money insuring electronic money used to trade in electronic money is all fine and well, but if at the end of the day the Repo man can't take a TV and a decent dinette set out of the deal, then what we're really talking about are the finances of Freedonia:
RUFUS T. FIREFLY [to Trentino] Now, how about lending this country twenty million dollars, you old skinflint?
AMBASSADOR TRENTINO: Twenty million dollars is a lot of money. I'd have to take that up with my Minister of Finance.
FIREFLY: Well, in the meantime, could you let me have twelve dollars until payday?
TRENTINO: Twelve dollars?
FIREFLY: Don't be scared, you'll get it back. I'll give you my personal note for ninety days. If it isn't paid by then, you can... keep the note.
First, let me say that Morris Davis, a former prosecutor for the "military tribunals" at Guantanamo, has behaved in the most honorable manner his situation and his position allowed, and he should be lauded for it. You can construct elaborate arguments that he shouldn't have been on that damned rock participating in those damnable courts to begin with, and those arguments frankly have merit, but those are small-minded quarrels, for when the man was called upon to act unforgivably, he refused. A lifetime of service to a poor cause can sometimes be forgiven for a single, well-timed "No." I'm inclined to say that Colonel Davis represents such a case.
That said, the notion that the United States was universally believed to not "do stuff like that," by which we mean torture and abuse our prisoners, prior to the current incarnation of the Terror War, is a well-enforced American fantasy, held principally within our own borders. In particular, the practice of contracting out our brutality to third-party proxies is just as old as America itself. The notion that "America doesn't torture" or doesn't support torture would surprise many tens of millions of Latin Americans, say, or Indonesians, or Iraqis for that matter, whose memories actually extend to the days when we were providing Saddam Hussein with hit lists of leftist, "communist" undesirables. Our CIA, in particular, has throughout its many decades of abject failure been especially fond of torture. During the headier midcentury days, they kept unwitting, American test subjects dosed on LSD for weeks straight. One fellow who they dosed without knowledge or consent killed himself by jumping out a window, evidently afraid that he had gone mad. For America to foreswear torture would be revolutionary, not restorative.