Wiggles strains his brain to discover the virtuousness of firing poor people because their continued employment causes fiscal-existential angoisse to tit-sucking, carpetbagging, scumbag rentiers-manqués like Wiggles himself, whose own subsidized existence vomitting up flabby consensus recieved opinions within the federal zone is no less a public-sector patronage job than Latitia's and Taqwonda's down at the prothonotary's office--it just has a few more layers of bullshit money-laundering built in between its source of funding and its squealing terminal recipient. The sheer gall of it! This fucking pasty-ass Harvard simp bearing the viability vocabulary like a junkie balancing his spoon, living in a slave-built city, a great monstrous Mammon from which one trillion dollars a year are diverted into the task of murdering and subjugating people around the world, a huge satanic vortex of waste and injustice, is going to proudly rationalize the firing of low-wage workers in the worst of economic times in a city wherein no alternative employment even exists because he percieves that their employment is wasteful! Because they are wasting HIS TAXPAYER MONEY that he made doing his IMPORTANT JOB for which he gets fucking paid which is to inflict his "beef with crosswalks in the contemporary American urban environment" upon us all. What an odious little shit.
Friday, September 17, 2010
Here is an hilarious piece from NPR yesterday, which I happened to catch in the car on my way to the store. Marijuana! Oh no!
As the Real Reality continues its dangerous campaign to undermine every incoherent, incorrect, and unsupportable argument against weed, our stalwart drug warriors become preeeeeeetty silly:
Mr. DELANEY: When I hear kids on campuses say hey, it's only pot, I'm saying what's your grades like? You know, do you go to class? We have to stop having a relativistic discussion, saying oh, it's not harmful, please, it's not like heroin, and start having a kind of a clear discussion of what this is what this one this one does, this is what that one does. Drug use, it does impact on you.OH MY GOD THE CHILDREN!
So eventually Freedom takes a deep breath and forces us to consider Conor Oberst. I stared at the page. Somewhere in Philadelphia, Terri Gross, reading the same passages, died, her clit swelling straight up through her body and brain, exploding out the back of her skull like a cordyceps fungus out of a bullet ant. Honestly, Jonathan Franzen, Bright Eyes? Really? I know the scene is supposed to be set in 2004, but weren't you already assured of fawning NPR interviews?
Anyway, it is plain in retrospect that I took this preposterous tome about a thousand times too seriously. I admit, I must have been feeling a little defensive. I might've wanted to prove that my opinions about this fucking hack weren't merely glib, tossed-off, careless bits of contrarianism. Whatever, fuck that shit. You may recall I mocked Freedom's second segment, a failed effort at mock autobiography. Yeah, well, the "autobiography" turns up as a plot device. All is revealed! (Also, one character who reads it compliments "Patty"'s writing. Oh, Lord. Coetzee just dug himself a grave and shot himself in the head so that he could fall in and start rolling.) The Most Important Novel of 2010 turns on a plot device cribbed from a Baby-sitters Club novel. Dear Diary, get bent.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
This is a geekily enjoyable video in which Andrew Manze explains Biber's use of scordatura in the Mystery Sonatas.
Dude(tte) has a pretty great YouTube channel if you're into this sort of thing.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Freedom has become, 300 pages in, one of the most expository novel I've ever read. And I like exposition. But there is literally, Joe Biden, not a single human sentiment or behavior that can occur without a subsequent 500-word paragraph atomizing its origins in the most painful, crackpot-Freudian terms. Equally painfully, Franzen sees fit to cram into the mouths of his characters, who despite all the previously noted flaws in the book's opening third, more or less resembled human beings, a series of cranky rants about MP3s and the "fragmentation" of modern society that are so obviously the author exercising his own asinine cultural shibboleths as to embarrass even me, and I was fairly sure I wasn't going to like this book to begin with. It is so plainly, so self-evidently a ploy to stuff this empty-calorie mental meal with the sweet, sweet filling of How We Live Now that I would've expected Even Michiko Kakutani to have caught it. Why not just have someone seize a radio station and make a 100,000 word speech?
So, people are very confused about what Reform Judaism is, with regular commenter TGGP going so far as to compare it to mainline Protestantism (!), and since I am presently bored to tears with politics, I thought it might be worthwhile to correct a few of these misapprehensions. Populary conceived, Reform Judaism is the least observant of the major branches of Judaism, in which observance and fidelity to tradition are percieved as a relatively neat, declining line from the various ultra-orthodox sects down to the regular Orthodox down to Conservative Judaism through Reform temples and onward to the sundry cultural and Reconstructionist movements. In a very literal and not especially instructive sense, there is some truth to this. You are unlikely to find much, if any, of the liturgy of an Orthodox service in the vernacular, whereas Reform congregations use it liberally, and Conservative Jews (a declining "denomination"; mostly elderly; paralyzed intellectually and ossified in practice) are more likely to keep Kosher homes than their Reform cousins. And it is also true that within a given Reform congregation, you will find a higher percentage of members who are not observant, who attend services only at High Holy Days, on a relative's Yahrtzeit observance, or for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. That said, Reform Judaism, as opposed to Reform Jews, is a vigorous living tradition of worship, and many Reform Jews are deeply religous even if some of the daily practices of Rabbinic Judaism are disgarded as anachronisms. I kidded TGGP that he ought to attend a Friday night service, or a Saturday shul, or whathaveyou. You know, peeps still bow during the Aleinu and all that. Anyway, I emphasize this, Jewish worship is very, very different in theme and content from any Christian observance. The perception that Reform Judaism is cryptoethnic has much more to do with public utterances by nonobservant Jews than it does with actual Reform practices of worship--many nonobservant Jews are just as incomprehending about the nature of their spiritual peoplehood and about the nature of the Covenant in the Diasporic era as are the contemporary Christian interlocutors who wish to paint Judaism (of whatever tradition) into whatever antepostenlightenement goofball tradition of individuated moral responsibility in the grand cosmic schema of salvation they adhere to on whatever given day of the week. The Jewish tradition, Reform no less than Orthodox, is in fact much more similar to Islam both in its perception of the unity of the Divine and in its conception of the relationship of the singular believer to the community of belief.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Larison has been trying to puzzle out Glenn Beck's theology, making the broadly unassailable point that whatever it may be, it's hardly orthodox Christianity. On a related and minor note, I am both amused and bemused by the persistent inclusion of the Judeo- in that goofy neologism, Judeo-Christian, at least insofar as it relates to all this hubbub about salvation, a concept that with a very few exceptions, is totally alien to Judaism. I mean, I certainly understand why certain Western political types seek to link these, uh, Western religions against the minions of Mordor or whatever, but really, although they share some of the same narrative mythology, Judaism and Christianity are very, very, very, very different. To the question of individual vs. collective salvation, Jews tend to look on with puzzled indifference. "Didn't they get it in writing?"
I want to fuck this song.
Someone asked me in comments the other day why I found Jonathan Franzen insufferable, and Freedom, which I grabbed at the library yesterday and read about the first third of, is a fine place to start. A few observations.
Every comment and review of this book seems intent on insisting that Franzen is reviving the "tradition" of the "realistic 19th-century novel," one of the most exceedingly annoying of all the incoherent taxonomies that have bloomed from the fields of long-form fiction. It's wielded broadly by book reviewers, who catch in its sweep everything from Austen, who was a child of the 18th century, to Dickens, who was not a realist, from Thackeray to Dostoyevsky, who, if he'd written that shit about Padre Zosima in the nineteen-eighties would've found himself forever consigned to anthologies with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Anyway, Franzen's obvious progenitor for Freedom is Thackeray; he writes with similar verve if far less wit and good humor; he takes a similar posture of authorial omniscience in which the Voice of God is a bit of a bitchy gossip; and he stoops from time to time for a little biting editorial commentary--I mean this last as a compliment: in the prefatory twenty-five-page opening section of the book, all of this is very skillfully accomplished, although, you know, to what end, I can't really say.
In the second section, the gears begin to grind. This is the backstory of the marriage between Walter and Patty Berglund, the main-est characters, told, we are told, by Patty--who has written an autobiography "at her therapist's suggestion," and oddly enough, for a former college jock who is at great pains to disavow any artistic ability, major creative impulse, social acumen, or intellectual heft, she has managed to write this autobiography of herself in a perfect third-person imitation of the authorial voice of Jonathan Franzen. She must've reread The Corrections before she sat down. So jarring and unusual is this conceit--which Franzen insistently reminds us of by having Patty refer to herself repeatedly as "the autobiographer"--that I wondered if it wasn't a mistake. It actually isn't at all uncommon for authors to play around with voice, writing whole section in the first person and then transposing them into the third as they try to achieve the right effect and affect of voice, character, and story, and this whole section, which is about 150 pages, seems like a halfway effort, an early draft that somehow slipped into the galleys and got past the editors.
It is also where Alan Cheuse's verdict begins to sound about right to me:
But, forgive me, despite the brilliance, or maybe even because of it, I found the novel quite unappealing, maybe because every line, every insight, seems covered with a light film of disdain. Franzen seems never to have met a normal, decent, struggling human being whom he didn't want to make us feel ever so slightly superior to.To which I would add a sort of corollary question: has no male writer in America ever met a female character whose first sexual encounter is not a tawdry rape? It's the Wally Lamb disease. Actually, it's worse: while hack writers like Lamb throw in lots of Rape And Incest because they believe--not without reason, by the way--that it will sell books on Oprah, the anti-Oprah Franzen has here included the scene simply as a contrivance to paint Patty's family in an unflattering light.
200 down. 400 to go.