|Glances askance at the war on terror
Modest Proposal of the Week
David Brooks, the resident half-assed sophist at the New York Times editorial pages, sees a "silver lining" in the spectacle of bloated corpses rotting in the streets of New Orleans:
As a colleague of mine says, every crisis is an opportunity. And sure enough, Hurricane Katrina has given us an amazing chance to do something serious about urban poverty. That's because Katrina was a natural disaster that interrupted a social disaster. It separated tens of thousands of poor people from the run-down, isolated neighborhoods in which they were trapped. It disrupted the patterns that have led one generation to follow another into poverty. It has created as close to a blank slate as we get in human affairs, and given us a chance to rebuild a city that wasn't working. We need to be realistic about how much we can actually change human behavior, but it would be a double tragedy if we didn't take advantage of these unique circumstances to do something that could serve as a spur to antipoverty programs nationwide.">Katrina's Silver Lining - New York Times: "As a colleague of mine says, every crisis is an opportunity. And sure enough, Hurricane Katrina has given us an amazing chance to do something serious about urban poverty. That's because Katrina was a natural disaster that interrupted a social disaster. It separated tens of thousands of poor people from the run-down, isolated neighborhoods in which they were trapped. It disrupted the patterns that have led one generation to follow another into poverty. It has created as close to a blank slate as we get in human affairs, and given us a chance to rebuild a city that wasn't working. We need to be realistic about how much we can actually change human behavior, but it would be a double tragedy if we didn't take advantage of these unique circumstances to do something that could serve as a spur to antipoverty programs nationwide.
"Every crisis is an opportunity." God, what a horrible cliché (a garbled version of the popular notion that Chinese uses the same word for "crisis" and "opportunity")!
There was another fellow who thought that uprooting people from their social milieu was a fine opportunity to achieve some serious social reform. His name? Pol Freaking Pot.
Please go see the Brazilian film City of God, which dramatizes the social history of a plan by Brazil's military dictatorship to resettle the poor in happy, salubrious surroundings, more closely integrated with the mainstream of society--i.e., readily available as domestic servants to the bourgeosie--just as Brooks dreams of doing.
Seriously, this is one of the weirdest instances of false consciousness chewing on its own ass that I've ever read in the Grey Lady: an avowed conservative aiming to transform the blasted landscape of the Big Easy into a classless utopia by massive government intervention into the operations of the free market in real estate.
For New Orleans, the key will be luring middle-class families into the rebuilt city, making it so attractive to them that they will move in, even knowing that their blocks will include a certain number of poor people.
Right. In other words, welcome to Brooklyn, Mr. I Work at 229 W 43rd St.posted by Blind Tangerine Jones | 7:30:00 PM
Dried Plum Juice
It was the Copy Editor newsletterbefore we could no longer afford the stiff $59 annual subscription for the skinny quarterly brochurethat broke the story of the prune lobby's successful campaign to have its products redesignated as "dried plums." Not an unreasonable request, although apparently the USDA balked at the designation "dried plum juice" as oxymoronic. Actually, according to the Prune Bargaining Association, it was the FDA that approved the alternative labeling in 1999; the USDA will take up the portion of the matter under its jurisdiction in its October meetings. The old "prune" has, of course, some negative connotations. The AHD defines its slang usage as "an ill-tempered, stupid, or incompetent person," although our linguistic intuitions tell us it can also refer to a cranky, nosy, self-righteous senior citizen, usually a female. The laxative properties of the old gooey prune makes for a great deal of lower-bodily-stratum humor as well, which can't be good for the brand.
The matter was not resolved without controversy, and there are those who see sinister implications in this minor matter. In an article titled "Plum Loco," for example, Daniel Clark writes, with inexorable logic, about the "dried plum juice" brouhaha:
Paired with the FDA's pro-plum ruling was a separate judgment, which concluded that prune juice cannot now be called "dried plum juice." Its explanation for this decision is that "dried juice" would be a contradiction in terms. The real contradiction, though, is that by our government's own figuring, the juice of a dried plum cannot be dried plum juice.
In a press release responding to the initial set of rulings back in 1999, the Libertarian Party connected with the natural metaphor:
This is a classic case of bureaucratic constipation that no dose of prunes (or dried plums) can cureand an example of how big, powerful, and arrogant our federal government has become," charged Dasbach.
That is certainly something to ponder as we light up another stick of Native American herbal health incense, peace medicine, and lung-stimulating phlegm-loosener from American Spirit.posted by Blind Tangerine Jones | 1:08:00 AM
The Skeletal Remains of Chandra Levy
People die, some by misadventure. That is the human condition, it's not exactly news. That's what the obituaries are for. From the Washington Post:
Terrorism, threats against the Brooklyn Bridge, Middle East violence, the president's trip to Europeall were blown off the television screen at noon yesterday by the story that became the media's leading soap opera last summer.
Spinning the Media Research Center's coverage of this story ought to develop into a professional sport. We get very cheap jollies from when L. Brent Bozell III calls Molly Ivins a two-faced windbag, for example. They should not scoff, however, at this prediction made by Bill Maher, host of ABC's Politically Incorrect, last year: Ken Starr killed Chandra!
Bill Maher: "I do think, if it turns out that this beautiful young girl [Chandra Levy] is gone, I think, and he [Condit] is responsible in some way, you have to look to Ken Starr for a little bit of guilt."
That must have welled up from a very dark place inside the man. As to these threats to the Brooklyn Bridge, reports range from suspicious packages to scuba diver threats. USA Today's is actually among the less alarmist reporting on the subject, judging from a quick survey of Google News:
The FBI warned police in New York City on Tuesday that al-Qaeda terrorists might try to attack the Brooklyn Bridge and Statue of Liberty over the Memorial Day weekend.
And yet the terror index remains steady at "elevated." Nota bene: Please do not kill the person who registered the domain alqaeda.net, to which we link with tongue in cheek in the foregoing graf, as the domain owner himself requests. Explains the site's Webmaster, "This site was created out of the need to have a site to go with the domain alqaeda.net that I registered simply because it was free. I am currently trying to figure out what to fill the site with, feel free to mail suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. About the Anarchists Cookbook and all that, I know that these are stupid inaccurate files but I don't have anything better to put up here, if you know of something better to put here, tell me!" And antikudos to the scumbags at TargetSearches.com for buying up alQaeda.com and linking it to travel-related advertising, including ads for Expedia, Trip.com, and TravelGuard, a travel insurance site.posted by Blind Tangerine Jones | 12:33:00 PM
Inspired by Actual Events
The terror threat remains elevated today despite the agreement signed by presidents Bush and Putin to decrease the two nations' nuclear stockpiles by two-thirds, perhaps in part because Lachlan Murdoch, fresh off an appearance as Horny in the high-school comedy Cheaters with Mary Tyler Moore, will take over as publisher of the New York Post newspaper, according to a report in The Australian.
The Post has returned to its roots as a news-driven tabloid newspaper under Col Allan, a hard-driving editor from Australia who took over last year. Allan had previously edited The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph, two Sydney papers also owned by News Corp.
The Post, engaged for the better part of a year in a price war with crosstown rival The Daily News that has seen its newstand price slashed to $0.25, led today's regional news with a story about its own circulation growth, following criticisms that it misrepresented its circulation figures in recent statements to advertisers.
Circulation remains high partly thanks to the ever-popular Page Sixthe section even has its own URLwhich leads today with the following lurid tale of debauchery among the glitterati:
The hard-partying head of Hugo Boss' American division is gone, leaving employees at the menswear label wondering whether he jumped or was pushed.
Father Rupert Murdoch, chairman of the Post's parent company, the News Corporation [NYSE: NWS] this week called the company's share-price weakness "ironic, given our prospects." Earnings grew to $3.5 billion over this quarter last yearnot factoring in a $4.5 billion writedown for losses from its investment in Gemstar, publisher of TV Guide. Disclosure guidelines require us to announce that we earned a pitiful sum freelancing for TV Guide in 2000. NWS subsidiary Twentieth Century Fox's recently released Attack of the Clones grossed $183 million in its first week.
Cheaters tells the story of "four avowed rebels [who] have elevated cheating to an art-form, [which] for them it has become an empowering act of vindication in the face of academic tyranny," according to prerelease publicity. The Star Wars saga concerns avowed rebels, supported by a small mystical religious brotherhood, which combats the tyranny of an evil empire as an act of empowering vindication. William L. Pierce's The Turner Diaries is a novel about a group of rebels, led by a mystical brotherhood called The Order, for whom resisting authority becomes an empowering act of vindication. In a related story, investigation into gaming strategies by Enron traders in the Northwest is widening to include a number of the doomed empires' competitors, including Dynegy, which has recently begun to aggressively position itself publicly as the non-Enron new Enron. "It was like learning calculus in French," said Richard T. Sanders, an Enron inside counsel detailed to study the question of whether or not a roomful of geeks was playing the market in God mode or not. The invention of calculus is sometimes attributed to the French mathematician and philosopher René Descartes, though the Germans tend to emphasize the role of Gottfried von Leibniz, both of whom wrote their major works, however, in Latin. Please watch for our upcoming feature on current events in dead languages.
In a related story, "The Defense Department sprayed live nerve and biological agents on ships and sailors in cold war-era experiments to test the Navy's vulnerability to toxic warfare, the Pentagon revealed today,"reports the New York Times in two terse paragraphs today:
The Pentagon documents made public today showed that six tests were carried out in the Pacific Ocean from 1964 to 1968. In the experiments, nerve or chemical agents were sprayed on a variety of ships and their crews to gauge how quickly the poisons could be detected and how rapidly they would disperse, as well as to test the effectiveness of protective gear and decontamination procedures in use at the time.
In a related story, the Wall Street Journal reports today that the United States Army is entering the entertainment industry in a big way:
Move over Microsoft Corp., Nintendo Co. and Sony Corp. The U.S. Army wants to show off what it knows about playing war games.
The game will be available for free download from the Army's Web site in August. In a related story, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld announced today that "The United States has no plans to invade Iraq or any other country," according to the Associated Press. The Washington Times had reported in February that special forces groups were preparing for operations in Somalia. Special forces continue to work with Pakistani forces inside Pakistan at the invitation of the military government.
On a lighter note, the Economist reports this week that "Sierra Leone is no longer the worst place on earth to live," a story that begins with the cheerful observation that "amputees can be surprisingly good at soccer." In recent elections held in the West African nation, persons who had had their hands amputated for attempting to vote in previous elections registered their vote by affixing a toeprint to the ballot. In a related story, John Gregory Dunne reviews Medal of Honor recipient, former U.S. Senator, and New School University president Bob Kerrey's memoir, When I Was a Young Man, which details his controversial military service in Southeast Asia. Kerrey admitted last year that he took part in a massacre of civilians in a village called Thanh Phong, an event Dunne describes, with characteristic recourse to oxymoronthe trope par excellence of obfuscationas "a murderous folly." The book is scheduled for a Memorial Day release. The title alludes to an Australian anti-war song by Aussie troubadour Eric Bogle about the murderous folly of the Gallipoli campaign:
Now when I was a young man I carried me pack And I lived the free life of the rover. From the Murray's green basin to the dusty outback, Well, I waltzed my Matilda all over. Then in 1915, my country said, "Son, It's time you stop ramblin', there's work to be done." So they gave me a tin hat, and they gave me a gun, And they marched me away to the war. And the band played "Waltzing Matilda," As the ship pulled away from the quay, And amidst all the cheers, the flag waving, and tears, We sailed off for Gallipoli.
The New School was founded to further the cause of academic freedom by a group of dissidents led by Thorstein Veblen and John Dewey. It later hosted an influx of scholars in exile from Nazi Germany, including members of the Frankfurt School.
Our publication of the week is the energy industry newsletter Restructuring Today, which we'll review more fully in a later post. This week's lead story reports Dynegy's rapacious efforts to capture windfall market share from the Enron collapse under the headline "Dynegy steps gently into leadership role." Now that's a restructuring of today. An honorable mention to those nutty linguists at Journal of Semantics for its most recent issue, featuring an article by Henk J. Verkuyl entitled "Aspect in English: A Bulgarian Perspective." And a related thought from the 12th-century Muslim philosopher al-Ghazali:
"The truth," I said to myself, "must be found among the classes of men who devote themselves to the search for it. If it escapes them, one must give up all hope of attaining it. Having once surrendered blind belief, it is impossible to return to it, for the essence of such belief is to be unconscious of itself. As soon as this unconsciousness ceases it is shattered like a glass whose fragments can not be again reunited except by being cast again into the furnace and refashioned."posted by Blind Tangerine Jones | 10:19:00 AM
The centennial celebration of the life of visionary oddball, microtonal composer and instrument makerbricoleur Harry Partch passed more or less unnoticed last fall, except for small gatherings in Montclair, New Jersey, and San Jose, California, as the war on terror commenced.
I first heard Partch's "Eight Hitch-Hiker's Inscriptions" on the Dr. Demento Show as a gawky junior high schooler with my ear glued to radio station KMET-FM in Los Angeles every Sunday night from 9:00 to midnight. Sharing the set with the likes of the bluegrass novelty tune "Shaving Cream," Leonard Nimoy's "Deteriorata," The Residents' snuff-film deconstruction of "Satisfaction," whole uninterrupted cavalacades of Spike Jones and His City Slickers ("... und we heilpfft!heilpfft!right in der Fuhrer's face")here reviewed by Thomas Pynchonthe Southern North Dakota noodlings of PDQ Bach, Tom Lehrer's sublime "Masochism Tango," Freddie Blassie's "Pencil-Neck Geek," and even, a few years later, an early version of Devo's "Jocko Homo," the whole mish-mosh META-tagged with the good doctor's Bozo-the-Clown-like signature sign-on"Let's get deeeeeeee-MENTED"Partch's droning vocalizations of anguished shithouse graffiti seemed less laughable to me than odd, angry, and unsettling, though at the time I had never heard the word unheimlich or read Howl. But I was in sufficient agony over the grotesque transformations taking place in my own body that I continued to laugh on cue along with everybody else, for fear I might be tagged with the same attributes, for fear that I would wind up categorized under dementia and cooties in the search engine results of life.
By the Rivers of Babylon: Harry Partch was not demented, however: He was a vox clamantis in deserto. This melancholy rendition of the Psalm, later set to music by a number of reggae greats, is a locus classicus and the spiritual nexus of the composer's researches into alternative tonal systems as a means of subverting the hegemony of the Pythagorean model. If the Book of Mormon is an authentically American revelation of prophecy, as Harold Bloom claims, Partch's system was a stab at authentically American music, free from the colonial entanglements of our global cultural consumerism. I happen to like the passionate melismas of Algerian rai set atop mechanical trip-hop beats, but world music in general is an homogenizing blender.
The Cognoscenti Are Plunged Into a Demonic Descent While at Cocktails: We hereby declare war upon, and pronounce antisatirical,the pernicious influence of "weird stuff" what I call "weird-Japanese-Web-site-in-tribute-to-Elvis" cheap irony, as opposed to "graduate-thesis-on-Baudrillard" expensive irony. The kind of thing that too many American workers waste their time e-mailing to their friends on company time, according to the magazines, as opposed to the recondite Flash-powered noodlings of academically trained multimedia artists who have deconstructed the graphical user interface to hell and back with funky mouse-over behaviors and twittering text-transformation ActionScripts, who are becoming increasingly irrelevant. Woe unto Yahoo! Internet Life, Jakob Nielsen, and the Whitney Biennial, the unholy trinity at the ill-omened crossroads of digital art and commerce. Absolut Director, the Bombay Sapphire Blue Room (we have standing invites to interview the designers there), and The Truth, about which we wrote in Internet World last year, are harbingers of the new digital resurrection in the flesh.
The Romancing of a Pathological Liar Comes to an Inspired End: The plummeting signal-to-noise ratio in the global communications networks parallels the depletion of the ozone layer, and it is an ineluctable principle of the physical universe that bandwidth is not infinite To what shall we devote our fifteen-score-and-84 Kbps of Universal ADSL? Our mission, like Harry Partch's and Jodie Foster's, is to filter the voice of the angelic choirs from the spluttering radiation of dying stars, the radio evangelists, the smooth jazz, the lite songs, and the ubiquitous voice of Howard Stern. We prophesy a renaissance of meaning arising from the new digital documentary350 Degrees, After The New Economy, the documentitos at Mixed Greens, the Lomography archives, and A Walk Through the Twentieth Century are places to begin. MoMao we like just for the plain Warholian weirdness of it.posted by Blind Tangerine Jones | 11:03:00 AM
The Young and the Restless
The Voice is the Voice, of course, of course, with its curmudgeons and its cliques and its flapadoodles and its from time to time time-worn schtick, but something about this week's cover story on slavery reparations by research chief Adamma Ince gave us a good feeling inside. We can't say exactly why. It has that blend of smarts and naive earnestness, not to mention good, crisp writing, of one of those student essays we used to get such a kick out of writing A+ on:
Past the projects surrounded by garbage, past the scattered crack vials on the street, past the kids hanging out when they should have been working or in school, I walked, stopping every young person in sight. Of the 325 people I spoke to, between the ages of 17 and 37the self-identified hip-hop generation to which I belong—only 91 had actually heard of reparations.
Without the masses, there's no movement. Good grief. Casting a hairy eyeball on the tendency of youth to believe that it has discovered the world is a commonplace of the Weltschmerz-ridden veteran. "Enthusiasm. A distemper of youth, curable by small doses of repentance in connection with outward applications of experience," according to the Devil's Dictionary. At the risk of defaming a venerated satirical ancestor"At the age of seventy-one, Bierce disappeared into revolution-torn Mexico to fight alongside the bandit Pancho Villa; a popular theory is that Bierce argued with Villa over military strategy and was subsequently shot"and abandoning our avowed rhetorical stance, it is good to see the youth inspired by the gods, enthusiastic, "having the god within.".
We happen to believeswitching to our "editorial we" mode nowthat while sovereign immunitythat good old "international law, my ass" attitude we Americans are infamous forwill protect the United States from having to pay the trillions of dollars of fair wages and interest due to slave laborers and their descendants, by some calculations, the discovery phase and trial transcript of a civil lawsuit will inscribe in the public record a chapter in the nation's official historythat the body politic has somehow never gotten around to writing up, having been very busy working on dismantling the New Deal and the Great Societymuch as the deposition of Henry Kissinger in the proceedings against Pinochet would do much to clarify the events that transpired there in the early 1970s.
We also happen to know for a fact, firsthand, that poverty is terrifyingthat is, tending to produce terrorand we therefore advocate declaring war on that, too. Why hasn't someone thought of this before?
Closer to home, here on the cusp of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill in Brooklyn, a neighborhood away from Bed-Stuy, it's the front lines where feast meets famine, like the war between Don Carnal and Doña CuaresmaLord Flesh-Season and Lady Lentin the Libro de Buen Amor. Observes Jennifer Gerend, the young executive director of the Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project LDC, the boulevard we shamble up a block to, from our headquarters down by the Navy Yards and the BQE, to buy our smokes and morning jamoke from the Heaven bodega where Al-Jazeera alternates with Univision all the day long, is "a commercial strip that must serve both six-figure households and four-figure households." That's a politic way of putting it. The local development corporation has enlisted the Pratt Institute to provide design services for local businesses, and funds street-sweeping, graffiti removal, and mortgage workshops, to attract new commercial tenants and assist local businesspeople to achieve ownership before a wave of commercial development in adjoining districts drives rents up and forces them out. Says Herberto Distant, a local landlord, however, bluntly, "Yeah, they wanna get the yuppies in here, but then the yuppies come up here and look down the block and see projects and more projects and they're outta here." On the proliferation of beauty parlors and nail salons that double as social clubs for many poor black people, Distant says, "Yeah, they're begging me not to rent to one of those places, but I'm like, you know, this yuppie thing, maybe it will work, maybe it won't. In the meantime, a tenant is a tenant, you know?" He adds, "By the way, when can I expect that rent check from you?" He's our landlord, too. Gulp. We promise him that when we sell our story on the Byzantine politics of local development to Crain's New York Business, we'll be rolling in clover. We are bullshitting him. Are we bullshitting you? Whichever answer will make our pockets phat, man, fuck yeah, yo yo, we're down with that.posted by Blind Tangerine Jones | 3:50:00 PM
Major Stock Indexes Decline Amid New Terror Warnings
By E.S. BROWNING Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
"Terror is as much a part of the concept of truth as runniness is of the concept of jam. We wouldnÂ’t like jam if it didn't, by its very nature, ooze. We wouldn't like truth if it wasn't sticky, if, from time to time, it didn't ooze blood," writes Jean Baudrillard in Cool Memories . Oddly, recent alarmist remarks by the White House and the vice presidentMSNBC's headline: "Cheney says attacks on America eminent"did not result in a rise in the national terror index, which remains unchanged at the "elevated" level. We propose that the correlation between market performance and the terror index be studied systematically according to the principles of technical analysis.posted by Blind Tangerine Jones | 11:06:00 AM
Irony Comes From the Barrel of a Gun
BUCHAREST, Romania (AP/The Wall Street Journal), 14 May 2002The Defense Ministry on Tuesday stood behind threatening comments made to local newspapers, but said journalists had failed to understand the humor in the statement.posted by Blind Tangerine Jones | 7:38:00 PM
The Hairy Eyeball is watching you
Welcome to the Hairy Eyeball, a serio-satirical global Web log, written in the American vernacular and focused on the death of irony and the war on terror as viewed from the borough of Brooklyn, whence we receive dispatches from contributors from around the alleged globe. Alexander Pope canonized old Quintilian as the patron saint of the kind of war we propose to fight here in his Essay on Criticism:
In grave Quintilian's copious Work we find The justest Rules, and clearest Method join'd; Thus useful Arms in Magazines we place, All rang'd in Order, and dispos'd with Grace, But less to please the Eye, than arm the Hand, Still fit for Use, and ready at Command.
As President Bush said, this war on terror will force us to associate with some unsavory peopleso, too, in the war of words on the war on terror: Pick up whatever word is handy and bludgeon something stupid with it. You could even say that the Web log as a genre is satirical in its very essencemuch as a Web site, with its hyperlinks, is the post-Gutenberg congener of the commonplace book, a collection of loci communi or "common sites." Consider the origins of the term:
The etymology and history of satire are as mixed up as the stuffed sausage from which it may have received its name. Even those who wrote it used other terms. Horace called his satires sermones ("talk") and Juvenal called his farrago ("stuffing"). However, these glimpses of daily life, mixed with wit, invective, and obscenity, formed a recognized genre and source of pride for the Romans in that they could claim it as their own: Satura quidem tota nostra est [Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria 10.1.93].
Other etymons, according to our offhand research, include a specious derivation from the Greek satyra half-man half-beast noted for its unbridled sexual appetites, since so-called Menippean satire was a mix of prose and verseand the according to some more philologically plausible Latin satura or "salad"a bunch of stuff fresh from whatever's in the market that day, cut into roughly uniform chunks, with oily unction and piss and vinegar superadded.
The 1911 Encycopedia Britannica, in austere Anglo-Aristotelian fashion, has this to say: "Satire, in its literary aspect, may be defined as the expression in adequate terms of the sense of amusement or disgust excited by the ridiculous or unseemly, provided that humour is a distinctly recognizable element, and that the utterance is invested with literary form ..." Aw, fuck literary form and adequate expression: let's settle for "glimpses of daily life, mixed with wit, invective, and obscenity," in 400 words or less, and addressed to our editorial board, and honi soit qui mal y pense.posted by Blind Tangerine Jones | 4:56:00 PM