And, for the second time in 20 years, a bunch of mouth-breathing troglydytes are babbling about impeaching the president, this time for exercising his constitutional powers.
And, for the second time in 20 years, a bunch of mouth-breathing troglydytes are babbling about impeaching the president, this time for exercising his constitutional powers.
Crispin, as most of his devoted Crispyheads know, doesn't like Dylan. However, I was driving home the other day, and something I'd never heard before that was obviously an older number because he didn't sound like the late Bob Shepard, Yankee Stadium PA man channeling Son House while introducing Mickey Mantle and it struck me. And, got me thinking about how screwed up the world is...we've got a brilliant president replacing the village idiot; we are a pretty smart country. And we keep stomping on it with cleats...not rubber cleats, but sharp steel ones like Ty Cobb wore
I've been shilling Russian mail order brides to all my lonely, unmarried or thinking about it friends. I'm helpful that way. One of my buddies, recovering from his third or fourth marriage told me that he would run before having anything to do with a Russian woman because they come from the womb crazy. This from a guy with 9 cats who wears thin lapelled suits and thin ties with a fedora at work...my comment was fairly simple. "And..." figuring with the Russian bride, you don't have to fool yourself that it's going to be wonderful.
Kind of like our latest adventure in Syria. So, I wrote this...It's not going to get better in a little while.
I really don't like that bloody thing. Upworthy -- what the hell does it even mean? It's kind like RL Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verse which some people find poetic but I always found it to be saccharine, maudlin "why the hell did they give me this instead of the book about Vikings I wanted" even when I was a kid. But, in the words of the old Russian proverb, Даже слепая свинья находит желудь иногда, or as we say in Dusquesne, WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON WITH THIS SCREWY INTERFACE?
Ok, it's ok now. Actually, it translates like this...
And if you're taking a course in Aesthetics and Politics with Herr Professor Doktor Sartwell, compare and contrast values based on this contrasting versions of the Clash piece by Mr. Yoakum and Ms. McColl with extra credit if you can describe the similarity in the personal sitations of Ms. McColl and Mr. Strummer in 2012. Guaranteed C-, I tell you. Trust me. I used to be in govenment...
Most of us would not think of damaging the United States for our own political benefit, monetary benefit or just for kicks. (Well, there was Crispin's advocacy of BushII over Kerry, but that was probably sunstroke at John Edwards' teeth...) Obviously, Republican Congresscritters, as Molly Ivins used to call them at times, are more malleable.
Pefectly rational solutions abound and nothing will go wrong!
Nothing but togetherness and love in the Muslim World.
At the final Peace Festival, the Kinks Reunion Concert will sell out.
The American Credo consists of all and only the beliefs that all Americans share, the apothegms or truisms endorsing which constitutes american identity, more or less, all of them entirely false, of course. How about (155): "That the extinction of the Indian has been a deplorable thing." (114) "That the editor of a woman's magazine is always a lizzie." (!) (105) "That a negro's vote may always be readily bought for a dollar." Or (114) (79) "That a member of the Masons cannot be hanged." (175) "That a man will do anything for the woman he loves."Every single one of these has a subversive or progressive reading precisely in its various transgressions and the ways they are shaped. But they are the words of a man who essentially controlled his own press and had given himself permission to say whatever he wanted to say, in whatever manner he deemed most amusing. That actually takes tremendous guts.
just to take a momentary break from direct treason, i've been working on the american cynics (my personal peirce, james, and dewey; my three stooges of the apocalypse: twain, bierce and mencken). one text i can really recommend as characteristic, problematic, and brilliant, is the american credo by mencken and his relatively frequent collaborator the drama critic george jean nathan (1920; revised edition 1921). oh quotes of course!
here is one of several texts in which twain develops his response to darwin. i do actually regard it as an important advance in our conceptions of evolutionary biology:
And so I find that we have descended and degenerated from some far ancestor,- some microscopic atom wandering at its pleasure between the mighty horizons of a drop of water perchance,- insect by insect, animal by animal, reptile by reptile, down the long highway of smirchless innocence, till we have reached the bottom stage of development - nameable as the Human Being. Below us - nothing. Nothing but the Frenchman. ("Man's Place in the Animal World" )
Truth shifts and changes like a cataract of diamonds; its aspect is never precisely the same at two successive instants. But error flows down the channel of history like some great stream of lava or infinitely lethargic glacier. It is the one relatively fixed thing in a world of chaos. It is, perhaps, the one thing that gives human society the small stability that it needs, amid all the oscillation of a gelatinous cosmos, to save it from the wreck that ever menaces. Without their dreams men would have fallen upon and devoured one another long ago--and yet every dream is an illusion, and every illusion is a lie. The American Credo, p. 3
the bit of that i want to emphasize is this: Truth shifts and changes like a cataract of diamonds.
Past. That part of Eternity with some small fraction of which we have a slight and regrettable acquaintance. A moving line called the Present parts it from an imaginary period known as the Future. These two grand divisions of Eternity, of which the one is continually effacing the other, are entirely unlike. The one is dark with sorrow and disappointment, the other bright with prosperity and joy. The Past is the region of sobs, the Future is the realm of song. In the one crouches Memory, clad in sackcloth and ashes, mumbling penitential prayer; in the sunshine of the other Hope flies with a free wing, beckoning to temples of success and bowers of ease. Yet the Past is the Future of yesterday, the Future is the Past of to-morrow. They are one - the knowledge and the dream. (Bierce, Devil's Dictionary)
bierce is really best consumed in smal doses. oy it's a bile tsunami! but that there is profound.
note on bierce, who no doubt was executed by zapata and villa as he simultaneously committed suicide and then disappeared into the hills with his inca squaw, here's my real theory. yo dumbass! he thought he could sell stories and get scoops about the situation in mexico. then, you know, something bad happened; he was near or in an unexpected engagement and suffered harm; montezuma's revenge. he's just the type to take a semi-stupid risk, not at all to commit suicide. deceased war correspondent: look you might only read a few of the texts, which is best, but you've always got to bear in mind that he himself made his living as a journalist throughout his post-military life. right? this is still the way people in the biz think: wow maybe i could sell a piece on this: do a query etc. no can you pay 500 and expenses? then you see if you can't work a similar deal for another piece for someone else (hearst, say), doubling up on expenses, etc. but this is the most positive thing you can say for his vision: too much pleasure in the things that cause his sardonic formulations to throw it over.
One of the loose collective that binds Crispin and me -- The Defeatist-Malcontent-Anarchist Slacker Collective and Bait Shop -- a Vet who's trying to get his band going in upstate New York doing kind of boogie rock with metal overtones, spends time he should spend doing something like picking up bottles for the return fee on a Marshall Amp blog, and one of the folks on it posted something about a piece of software that my pal had not heard of. He tossed it out to the collective, and one of the guys explained that it is really kind of an auto-cad system that enables engineers, architechts, and marketing types to overlay everything and walk the customer through the whole bloody thing. He then commented that if he wanted to go back to working for somebody else, he's take some classes...and then realized what he just said. Commented that he hated his life, and went off to drink copiously in the pine woods of Maine.
This made me realize something. The goal is not 3D confusion but infinite dimensional confusion. Then,
people can do things like compare the budget and expenditures of the United States with your family checkbook, and have people pay attention. This software then is part of the Koch agenda and goal for the brave new world where You can confuse the customer in multiple dimensions, including time, simultaneously! What is it? It's all of this. When will it be done? When it is done. What will it look like? Like all of this in layers. Why is this here? it's in the regulations. In France, it would have to be here, but we're not in France so it has to be there. Don't blame us, it's in the regulations. What is it going to cost? What it costs. Cost =f(X,L) where X is the "cost" and L is "a lot" and the relationship is undefined...either you add a lot or you multiple by a lot, but it's going to really cost a helluva lot.
So, I decided to hide in music for the rest of the day...Anybody besides me remember The American
Breed? 60s garage band that incorporated a trumpet in a lot of their fadeouts. Almost recruited a chick trumpet player for my non-existent but brilliantly conceived garage-punk-blues-rock band...The Barstow Bad News Blues Band. However, she can't sing and only knows how to play marches. Wouldn't really help get a unique sound. Have been thinking about substituting kazoo for the trumpet if we do a cover version of their hit, though?
so i'm sort of trying to develop a reading of american cynicism of the mencken/bierce variety. and actually, though it doesn't seem that way, folks like that are moralists, even extreme and extremely passionate moralists. they've given up all their naive idealistic hopes, supposedly, but they are exquisitely sensitive to the forces that made them do so: in particular, hypocrisy. i would see bierce and mencken as disappointed emersons, emersons who finally let the actual world destroy their optimism.
the very darkest and yet most hilarious things i've ever read are the sick stories of ambrose bierce. (like my favorite murder, an imperfect conflagration, or, god help us, oil of dog). amusingly enough, these are often characterized as "tall tales," or even "tall tales of the old west": if you came looking for pecos bill, you'd be in for a rude awakening; that's why i'm going with "sick stories." obviously they owe a lot to swift, though swift in his utmost biliousness could have conceived nothing quite like this. bierce wrote a bunch of stories in this vein, each better than the last.
i think their amazing satiric bite comes from their routineness, which constructs an audience. the narrators just assume that they are speaking to an audience of thieves, murderers, animal-torturers, and ministers of the lord. that is, the stories of bierce characterize the society around him, the american reading public, his very own audience, as crazed psychopaths living just beneath a surface of highly polite, decorous appearance, a punctilious observation of social norms, the niceties of law or business coupled with perfectly routine mass murders. it's not only that that's what people do in the stories; it's that in writing into the world he creates bierce just blandly continuously implies that we are precisely the same.
one way to think about this in in terms of war. bierce was at shiloh, chickamauga, sherman's march across georgia, and war of course is the great theme of many of his short stories. what he took himself to have seen was the utter darkness behind the facade of civilization: his great theme.
it's funny to be circling around to mencken. he was the hero of my father and my grandfather: both franklin sartwells, both hard-drinking newspapermen just down the road in dc, for whom mencken was the greatest of their very own kind. i believe they both took on a semi-ironic reactionary stance in politics in conscious homage to their sage. it mattered that mencken came from a working-class background and never went to college; he was a practical newsman with ink on his hands.
so i have a lovely weathered three-volume mencken autobiography, published by knopf in 1940 and consisting of happy days, newspaper days, and heathen days. they are inscribed "FGSartwell, 1943" and then "and Frank Sartwell, his son, to Crispin Sartwell, his son, on his 21st birthday. June 20, 1979" (that was in the last year of my father's life). but also mencken's undoubted status as a man of letters lent respectability or dignity to the status of newsman.
bierce and twain were beloved on all the same grounds, and i also have my dad's devil's dictionary. i never met my grandfather, but it would shock me if he didn't cultivate a nice disillusionment with regard to the entire human condition and a humorous leverage thereon, since that is the code of the sartwells!
One of the most curious human delusions lies in the theory that cynics are unhappy men - that cynicism makes for general biliousness and malaise. It is a false deduction, I believe, from the obvious fact that cynics make other men unhappy. But they are themselves the most comfortable and serene of mammals; perhaps only bishops, pet dogs and actors are happier. For what a cynic believes, though it may be too dreadful to put into formal words, at least usually has the merit of being true - and truth is ever a rock, hard and harsh, but solid under the feet. A cynic is chronically in the position of a wedding guest who has known the bride for nine years, and has had her confidence. He is a great deal less happy, theoretically, than the bridegroom. The bridegroom, beautifully barbered and arrayed, is about to launch into the honeymoon. But the cynic looks ahead two weeks, two months, two years. Such, to borrow a phrase from the late Dr. Eliot, are the durable satisfactions of life.
no telling when, but i have been soaking in mencken (and bierce and twain). mencken is truly astounding. fantastically productive, even while flirting around continuously with hooch and movie starlets (aileen pringle, e.g.), traveling about here and there, and supervising a variety of periodicals.
the prose is almost unbelievably alive, vivid in its every sentence; it arouses my envy. he is an auto-didact of epic proportions, and behind each little declaration is the equivalent of a number of ph.d.s: in history, philosophy, literature. the american language is an immense work of scholarship: tantamount to writing the oxford english dictionary. and even there the prose fucking sparkles.
he is an extremely strong literary critic: frank, with an almost unerring judgment; he has a way of zeroing in on the writer's weaknesses, but is also capable of cherishing all sorts of surprising things. his assessment of bierce, for example, is harsh and loving and right. but this is entailed by his basically so-right reading of the whole american literary tradition.
throughout his life, people who encountered him professed themselves surprised to find the bitter cynic mencken to be the sweetest and most jovial person imaginable. this is not surprising at all; just beneath the terrible disaffection lurks a real love of human foibles, an inexhaustible curiosity about the human condition, which he fundamentally affirms as endlessly amusing.
the positions are beautifully and amusingly perverse: pitted quite consciously against his age. that his basic commitment in politics was to individual liberty - something he said of himself - is obvious. this is not to say that mencken is always right or in good taste. his germanophilia was sort of amusing on behalf of the kaiser during world war i; after that it got less charming. he had a pretty primitive darwinianism going, part of his reactionary realism, etc. but in a way those are quibbles. my sense is that mencken - a true celebrity in his own time - is comparatively neglected today.
what he got away with is almost unimaginable: screeching anti-religious atheism much more beautifully defended than in dawkins or even hitchens (treatise on the gods); pro-german tendencies; utter skepticism of the political and aesthetic consensi surrounding him; a systematic program to destroy every national myth, starting with democracy. what he has to say about such topics as women and marriage and sex is entirely unacceptably frank, brutal in its sardonic truth. and for all that he was a beloved piece of americana, a kind of norman rockwell character: the barber-shop skeptic. but here with insane chops, introducing nietzsche or ibsen to american audiences, for example. chicks dug him. writers groveled before him. he made baltimore into a kind of anti-romantic paradise, the anti-center of the anti-universe.
the book below tells the almost unbelievable story of mencken roaring through the twentieth century. for one theme, just three little girls, growing up best friends in montgomery alabama: sara haardt mencken, zelda sayre fitgerald, and tallulah bankhead, later depicted doing catastrophic drunken gymnastics at the algonquin, where mencken maintained a suite. admittedly their dads were supreme court justices and state senators. unimaginably sexy high-society fundamentally non-monogamous debs from the deep south on a party tear; oh and brilliant artists of various kinds. what if paris hilton was a genius?
"Zelda never learned the gentle art of 'policing' her husband's parties," writes sara mayfield. "Instead, she rode with him on the tops of cabs, drank toasts to him from her slipper, and flirted with his friends." zelda is depicted more or less ghost-writing scott's books, and as producing the immortal sentence "plagiarism begins at home."
i've got to say that zelda vid is charming; the youtube tribute is its own little democratic artform.
so i'm sort of thinking my next book will be the american cynic, focusing on the attitude toward life of ambrose bierce and h.l. mencken. for one thing, i've learned the hard way that if you're going to work through people's voluminous complete works, it helps if they are really, really good writers.