can anyone explain to me why these clowns dress like this? maybe they're doing it ironically, in the postmodern fashion. maybe they're trying to deflect adoration, out of humility: encouraging folks to snicker. no one's actual taste can fail this thoroughly, can it? any way you look at it, though, it must take a long time to get dolled up in the morning.
commander cody and the lost planet airmen, the steaming bayarea texas swing/head band. they are so amazingly hot, so tight, so loose: so, so good. they boogie like no one before or since and beautifully explore various genres of american music: boogie, swing, country. they were central to my youth and unlike many such items have not lost one whit of savor. hot rod lincoln. down to seeds and stems. smoke smoke smoke. everyone's doin it. beat me, daddy. the only roughly comparable project: the 70s recordings of asleep at the wheel. new riders of the purple sage featured the amazing buddy cage on pedal steel, but never quite overcame their "novelty act" status: "panama red." anyway, "tales from the ozone," which includes none of the more familar songs, is on my alltime top ten.
ok. speaking of asleep at the wheel: anything, ever, is worth listening to. but their best, for me, was in the seventies. now "greatest hits from 1970," which you could get on itunes and everywhere, is misleading: these are later re-recordings with a different lineup. i loved their early girl singer, chris o'connell, and also singer leroy preston. they are sorely missed on the reversions. also, the stuff just sounds more canned. what you want are these:
b.b. king: perhaps the greatest living american musician (other candidates: george jones, aretha, ricky skaggs, kool herc, vince neill (kidding)). i used to kind of reject him, opting for what i deemed the real delta: muddy, elmore james, robert johnson. but this incomparable body of work! the great intensity of what comes out of lucille; the huge, ferocious, warm voice: the whole thing not a performance or a series of songs, but an environment, a whole truth.
yard sale, "everything's a dollar" this is a lovely indie album by an all-female trio from oakland: very simple and kindarough harmonies, with a sweet, simple accordion as the main instrumental voice. it just emerged out of a million "alt.country" cds in my mailbox to find a permanent home on my changer; the songs kept running through my head, making me feel a little better.
walter horton: the best blues harp player this side of walter jacobs: with the biggest bluesiest tone ever pulled out of marine band: a large man and a large life, all pulled through tiny little wafers of metal, making them ring, shake, squawk, sing, love. below is the right album.
ok. i've pitched you many times. once more with a fresh angle. obviously, the ideological divide between left and right should be thrown into question, blown up by some external force, trance-channeling ambrose bierce. but we might also think about the form itself of the op-ed column, which is immensely exhausted. i propose to you an avant-garde, transformative opinion journalism: experimental, strange, provocative in terms not only of what but how it speaks. so below are some of the formal experiments i've tried over the years. occasionally i remember notes like these: "we think you've lost your mind. sincerely, cherry gee." i think i could do this *every week.*ideas might include: writing in a persona, perhaps that of a senator, or ann coulter, or satan, or kofi annan, or a chechen rebel, or an inanimate object; the meta-op-ed, in which we assess the state of the art and its practitioners; the op-ed consisting entirely of a quotation from anne hutchinson or michel foucault; the list; op-eds in the form of obituaries for living people or fictional characters, or a sports column covering the senate, or a press release from the internal revenue service; surealistic op-eds which are composed through "automatic writing"; the two-word or two hundred word or two-thousand word column; etc.
this is a pretty hilarious piece, though the idea of the leader of a country where people are starving spending "a million dollars per year on cognac" is of course unbelievably repulsive. however, if you think you can keep someone with untold millions and nuclear technology from getting any of these items, with ease, you've lost your mind.
so my mother-in-law went out this morning and actually came home with a new york times. so i thought maybe we'd blog a bit. there's a hilarious review of three books about ann coulter: "soulless," "brainless," and, um, "i hate ann coulter." coulter, as heilbrunn points out, is hardly a political philosopher. but putting her up against the likes of susan estrich is just sad: estrich's zestless prose and ultra-conventional thinking are a pretty good contrast to coulter's whip-like provocations. also there's a sort of interesting op-ed by alan ehrenhalt about the book "organization man."
If the “social ethic” really did dominate mid-’50s America — and there
is plenty of evidence besides Whyte’s book to testify that it did — it
was the last act in a long period of national cohesion. As the
historian Warren Susman characterized it, Americans stuck together to
fight the Depression; then to fight the Nazis; then simply because they
were used to it; eventually they just got tired of sticking together.
That is as succinct and persuasive an explanation of the social
upheaval of the 1960s as I have ever heard.
"just got tired of sticking together" is not an explanation at all, much less a succinct and persuasive one. and here is the huge error: regarding the sixties as a time of "individualism." let me count the ways. first off, the various movements of the sixties were characterized by a pretty extreme uniformity of thought: people's minds changed, but the fact that their minds sought authorization from others didn't. if you don't think feminism or civil rights were conformist movements, consider the way they've tried to enforce conformity of thought on people by, among other things, controlling the way we talk. second, the left basically advocated social transformations performed by gigantic state bureaucracies. of course, there were little anarchists and freaks here and there: abbie hoffman, for instance. mostly, though, it was just a new quest for consensus.
yo i just want to acknowledge the deaths of 2 of my favorite musicians: first off, anita o'day. it's too late to say that white girls can't swing, cause anita surely did. and robert lockwood: probably the last person alive who really knew robert johnson, who dated his mom. lockwood's sides in the fifties and sixties with little walter embody the canon of contemporary blues harp. but check the guitar: very radical. these folks were 87 and 91: we are losing our last connections to reality.
Of course, the O.J. indignation is driven in large part by racial
indignation: the idea that a black man may have killed a white woman
and gotten away with it. That's a violation of decorum.
then she goes on to say that the difference between the happy reception of kramer's racist rant and the outcry over oj is a racist thing. it seems, let us say, tendentious to equate stabbing people to death with hurling insults, and though a black man killing a white woman is indeed a violation of decorum, one might suggest that it is appropriately subject to more definite forms of disapproval. she also seems genuinely puzzled about whether oj did it or not; i would have thought that oj had put that question to rest once and for all. at any rate, the implied equivalence of a racist rant to a double murder is puzzling, and i'm not sure what more in the way of outcry kaplan could want: a third-tier celebrity has been vilified everywhere for days. if there's one thing we all agree on, it's that saying nigger is not allowed. but i hadn't thought we'd actually confused words with murder weapons.
insofar as they are atheists, i sympathize with people like sam harris and richard dawkins in the current wars about religion. and i think it's nice that there's a wave of popular atheism and revulsion toward religion: it's been awhile. but i must say that the debate is kind of pathetic and stuck in the 18th century: these people are fundamentalists about science, reason &c. in a way, they're unaware that they have an organizing cosmology that's not a mere expression of reason. we're atheists not because reason or science demonstrates that there is no god, but because we have an inchoate sense of what universe we live in. one way to put this is that the universe is a moral outrage, and the only way to calm down is to realize that there is no moral order. i wish actual philosophers were in this debate. at any rate, these religions are ridiculous, ludicrous, false on their face. but on the other hand no one is a mere reasoning machine, and if they were they'd simply be universal sceptics. we're all full of faith. or: our sense of ourselves and the universe is as expressed in music, poetry as much as in science, for example, and there's no sorting out the emotional commitments from the rational conclusions. maybe read some emerson or something.
so for some reason my family seems to subscribe to rolling stone. i was reading a piece on the "zune fiasco" and ran across this assertion: that universal's catalogue represents about one third of all recorded music. now this is a puzzling and ambiguous assertion: it cannot mean to include every kid working with garage band on their mac. it cannot even mean commercially-issued cds or stuff available on websites. it could mean, for example, a third of all cd or download sales. but whatever it means, it represents an intolerable situation, and these people should be smashed, annihilated. the best way to accomplish this, short of anti-trust litigation, is piracy and the destruction of copyright. we've got to get some of the money out of this industry, or simply concede music to the philistines and move on to painting or something.
if one were looking for the single most despicable magazine in america, one would do well to start with more, "the magazine for women over forty." it has only one concern - appearance - and tries to do for the middle-aged woman what, say, seventeen does for the teenager: induce total self-loathing. after that, it teaches you how to enhance your self-esteem. they are the most lookist and weight-conscious magazine in the world: they literally will not write about or photograph a woman who's even slightly overweight, however compelling her story or personality or accomplishment. what you get is a parade of surgery/photoshop cases, titled, impossibly, "this is what 40 looks like." they obviously hate what forty in fact looks like, as every single item is about how to look twenty. one of my favorite shots in this issue is cover girl sharon stone, who appears in a ball gown, with sycophants literally holding her hems. the caption? "just another day at the offices of planet hope, sharon and kelly stone's charity for needy children and their families." that's about as outward-looking as the magazine ever gets: it's not about anything but a kind of self-transformation that howls your inadequacy and ugliness, then markets products to cure you: namely, cosmetics and hormones. it does it all in this tone that is half therapist, half blithering idiot. at the top of this month's cover: "antiaging beauty: neck creams you can believe in." if you are the target audience for this magazine, you better believe in neck creams, cause you sure as hell don't believe in anything else.
ok, ok: michael richards called someone a nigger. here's a little huffpost entry about american comedy: its racism, sexism, homphobia etc. let me explain something: almost the only real accomplishment of the american left in curing our prejudices was to effectively ban the expression of certain attitudes and to edit words out of the language. this has the following effect: it gives the expression of these attitudes the zing of violated taboos, and also the ring of truth: they say plainly what no one is supposed to say but people are still thinking. these two things make prejudice the perfect comedy, which is at its essence trangressive truth. cf. borat. if you want to change the comedy or the culture, you're going to have to go counter-inuitive, and let everyone say what they want.
the fact that vlad putin's henchmen trot around the globe murdering critics of his regime, in particular critics of the chechen genocide, should tell you all you need to know about his vision of human freedom. on the poisoning front, you might want to recall the dose of dioxin adminstered to viktor yushchenko. litvenenko was investigating the murder of anna politkovskaya.
been out of the op-ed world for a few months now, but am beginning to feel re-charged. meanwhile, i'll give you a quick sense of the pages in the three big metro dailies; i don't read the wall street journal, btw. in general, one cannot but be struck by how "reasonable" (conventional) the range of opinion is: how narrow, how predictable, and how stuck in little left/right dem/rep dichotomies: everyone has to have "balance" and the basic mode of thought is tokenism: checking off little categories, including gender and race categories, by the way. the lineups look like the cast of sesame street. on the other hand, there are very good writers on all of these pages, and they're not all perfectly formulaic.
nytimes: if you ask me, just from the point of view of being me, reading your page more or less every day (because of course it is good), the times has been in decline. maureen dowd remains maureen dowd, and though i might skim, i can't whine. or perhaps i can: i'm a bit tired of the schtick, which is what you have when you are a gifted writer without philosophy. frank rich is probably the best lib columnist now working; lively and smart every time out, and i like the double-length once-a-week column as a format. it's hard to quibble with kristof and his brand of actual journalism. like everyone, sort of, i find david brooks cuddly; he has an extremely well-thought-out basic political philosophy, and is an authentic moderate. it's hard not to notice that the times does not have a real hard right or even over-medium right-winger on the page. they misjudge their audience: they need to piss off, not placate them. i think the other vets seem tired: bob herbert is right and passionate a lot, but also extremely formulaic: a labored writer. krugman is worse, and is now tiresome. friedman of course is smart. i authentically hate his politics: the technocratic, mercantilist world-order and no little dumbfuck left behind. but that's just me. but everything recent has tended toward utter gruel. these are people i won't link. judith warner is some sort of demographic pander; at best, she's an utterly flat writer, and has literally never said anything of even passing interest. the guest columnists have been conspicuously silly: a parade of baby celebrities: sarah vowell just solicits contempt for the whole idea of op-ed: the merest voice without a hint of political thinking. i like stanley fish, of course, but i'm not sure what it comes to. (he was a prof of mine, and i can hear him saying "it doesn't come to anything!") and why are they presenting columns as blogs? you can have opinion blogs, but why would you just take your 750-wd once-a-week column and pretend sort of that it's a blog? on the other hand, there is more and more reasonably good online content. john tierney? um, no.
latimes: lord ever knows what's happening at the latimes, which has obviously been roiled. they entirely transformed their page about a year ago, moving from basically freelance and occasional to a columnist line-up. i am bitter about this because, among other things, they hired everyone but me. at any rate, despite this, it has not been a disaster at all. both rosa brooks and jonah goldberg have grown on me, despite myself: they are strong writers and occasionally pretty creative, always pointed. they make a good pair of bookends: equally formidable with some middle ground. joel stein was a good catch: very la and very funny. personally i would have ditched max (das) boot a long time ago, when we deleted robert scheer. jonathan chait is reasonably good some of the time. i like the idea of niall ferguson of course: the political commentator with real intellectual chops, kind of in the mode of chris hitchens. but i've gone off him, and i'm puzzled by his fad; his celebrity seems radically out of proportion to the soundness or provocation inherent in his ideas. meghan daum has her moments; everyone's looking for that "sassy" young woman: bridget jones's op-ed column. this too shall pass. after that: well, i told you there was tokenism. despite the fact that they've radically reduced the outside voices, they're still more likely to publish a real provocation than the other two pages, like today's bomb iran piece: more power to them for that.
washpost: as i've said many a time, the washpost op-ed page is a uniquely problematic case. obviously they view themselves as the voice of the state or of the world order: and they are likely to have columns by senators, cabinet officers, un officials, ambassadors etc. i assert again that this an abuse of the form, and these people do not, for the most part, even write, much less well. and their opinions are paid for.if i were the editor, my page would be a pain in the ass to these people, not their press secretary. many of the columnists are pointedly mainstream spokespeople for one side or another of the political establishment. but i read the page, too. i've said this as well, but george will is the best op-ed columnist of our generation: no one mints a more beautiful sentence, to begin with. kinsley, whom you'll also find in guardian, which you should read every day, is of similar quality. it's no coincidence that people who can write this well are essentially independent or even idiosyncratic thinkers. anne applebaum is wildly underappreciated: what smart, good writing and important thematizations she accomplishes. i read krauthammer with hatred in my heart, but i read him, if you get me. das boot pales in comparison, with similar politics. broder is still a good reporter, even if a spokesman for little except the conventional political wisdom. i'd move him back to news as an "analyst." dionne ditto, though there's at least an orientation: these are very safe people, likewise ignatius. eugene robinson is a good writer and a thoughtful man, although again a pretty conventional thinker.
cool. let's bomb iran. however, you might want to wait until there are no more american troops in iraq, unless you want the full brunt of shia militias in a non-stop slaughter, resulting in an iranian iraq. well, it's an iranian iraq anyway. we labor under extreme disability.
it seems stupid and unseemly to worry about o.j. simpson. but the fact that american "book" "publishing" is dominated by the likes of judith regan, with her celebrity obsession and contempt for the written word, is always worth a tiny lament.
Ki Gendeng Pamungkas slit the throat of a goat, a small snake and
stabbed a black crow in the chest, stirred their blood with spice and
broccoli before drank the "potion" and smeared some on his face.
He said the jinx would send spirits to possess Secret Service personnel
guarding Bush and put them in a trance, leading them into falsely
thinking the president was under attack, thus eventually causing chaos
in Bogor Presidential Palace, where the American leader was scheduled
to meet President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Monday.
it may have been the broccoli that inhibited the effectiveness of this treatment.
i don't think it's clear who is going to control the republican party in 2008: "moderates" a la mccain and giuliani; small-government conservatives (if any); or the continuing, hara-kiri committing bush dynasty mercantilists/internationalists, now chastened to the tune of condi. or they could come up with some kind of (no doubt gay) anti-gay/anti-immigration religious demagogue; that might play pretty well. where's alan keyes? i personally would have a hard time voting against mccain. surely his "increase the force" approach to iraq is one of the two plausible ideas (the other being immediate withdrawal). i still say he can't make it through the primaries, though. romney would be a wise choice strategically, but he's got no zealots. the last act of the present administration will be to pardon itself retroactively for war crimes, by the way, which might slightly embarass an incoming republican administration. fortunately the republicans will not be incoming this time around.
it does appear a bit unseemly for an anarchist to be a politics addict, but i come by it natural, having grown up among the chatterers of dc. so forthwith some thoughts on 2008.
the democrats will no doubt be looking for a drip, someone as pathetic as al gore or john kerry. but even they are not quite stupid enough to nominate one of those guys again. so i'd suggest tommy thompson, after his party switch. my wife interviewed him one time, and came away saying this: " i kept thinking it was my fault that he didn't say anything. no. this was a man who hadn't said anything in 40 years." i predict a mighty elfadeo for hillary; the dems might as well just hang themselves on national tv. it's a terrible shame that the bright and principled russ feingold ain't running. if i had to call right now, i'd say look out for john edwards and barak obama: young and outsider is going to work this time around. or else we're gonna get all populist with lou dobbs or some governor who's been reading his books; it might be a very funny year.
a few remarks on today's startling abductions in iraq. obviously, one shouldn't assume that it was not the iraqi security forces or some portion of it that performed the operation. and either way, they were extremely well coordinated and well-equipped, in a way that bespeaks collusion of authorities. i think we'll find that, one way or another, our tax dollars paid for this.