Monday, December 27, 2010

Bitterness and Bravado

It has finally caught up to me; I'm softening as I age. "Holiday depression". The relentless assault of cheer, phony and authentic, the bullshit controversies over Nativity scenes and greetings, the sight of a decrepit faith being mauled by Lilliputians, strutting and preening in their phony valor. The fucking loneliness; looking about for the "friends" who so quickly forgot us once ensconced in domestic bliss (may you asphyxiate in it) or withdrawn into their own caverns. The shrill boredom of the hyper-kinetic electronic sarcophagus that is the modern home! Yes, it's that time again, reader--because no one else is at hand!--for me to say:

Get out, get out, get the fuck out already! Stop picking at this corpse--it feels pain still. Horrid creatures! Avert your dull, expectant gaze; you don't rate to put eyeballs on me. To hell with you all, slack-jawed, dishrag, hair-ball civilians! Get out of my light. Don't disturb this stagnant air. Don't come slumming around here like some tourist. You reek of where you've been. Dive back into the Internet morass of plain, glib, literal-minded ephemera from whence you came.

There's nothing for you here. We don't craft reasonable arguments here; we don't weigh sides and ponder, on this hand, but then on the other, but yet again... My God, people! I'm going to napalm the whole massive, tangled circle-jerk that is the blogosphere; dig in, bitches. Oh you precocious, oh you ponderous denizens of the Internet! I'll lay you to waste as one.
No reader, you are not safe here. This isn't for you. What you want is to have your biases confirmed, your neuroses assuaged, your angst soothed. You want a pat on the head. You want flattering light to soften the edges. You require one remove, minimum, from reality. You need dark; you can't get it up in the light.
You laugh at this buffoonery but you know--you can't do this. Don't even try. I got skills. Echoes only second the boast--echoes diminishing off into the ether above--like music against your timid, confused din. I stand alone against the lot of you, and like my chances.


I don't know about you, but I feel better. Let's cleanse the palate:

MBM, Circles
"It's all you'll ever need..."

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Obsolete Things

the bond of blood exacts in price,
its own kind drawn from other types,
man too must take his pay in kind,
and pray relief from the divine.

Or so it was, not long ago,
but now men's bellies all are full,
blood and bonds are history,
entombed with Guilt and Mystery.

no blood no burden,
thus no Divine,
pray forgiveness, in such a time?
our hands are clean our minds are pure,
but can we be so very sure?
he that suffers away unseen,
bears that burden, for you, and me

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Rest assured. Terrorist threats will not deter the United States from its military occupation of Muslim lands, and we will never allow profiling of Muslims in our airports.

Some among us take considerable pride in each assertion and find no conflict between them. Public opinion is less enthusiastic, but the two cover most of the regnant status quo demanded by elite consensus.

The good news is the caliber of high-profile arrestees suggest a still shallow pool of talent from which to recruit "home-grown"—or transplanted—terrorists. The class of more capable terrorists we reasonably expected after 9-11 hasn't shown up, even now, two occupations and three wars later. Qaeda shot their wad that day, but the blow still resonates through our actions and collective psyche.
The hapless prospects the feds have helped along their way to high-profile arrests impress far more for their malice than imagination. This late in the game and we're pursuing sting operations that draw lone foot-soldiers into crude conspiracies. Arguably a manageable problem that would be improved by withdrawing from our Middle East entanglements, the ostensible purpose of which is defense against this domestic threat.

This is predicated on a charitable reception of the FBI's account. In truth, when we are introduced to Mohamed Osman Mohamud and his sexually ambiguous war-face, we should first ask if we needed to make his odious acquaintance at all. We can assume the prospect of a long, probably fruitless surveillance pales next to the "plot thwarted" for law enforcement, and it's always just a whisker's breadth to justification when you've got such as the sneer of Osman. Officials pimping the "very real" threat of a "spectacular" attack sounded a bit like a band imploring their audience to dance on the strength of a few notes. But Fox will pick it up from here, I imagine.

If Osman is not the face of domestic terrorism we are compelled to make him the face of constitutional rights. Thanks a lot, government. And what a perfectly predictable, unreasoning face to intrude on the TSA/profiling meta-scandal, calling attention to our future reliance on diverse new Americans remaining indifferent to diverse new imperial adventures.

Sensing just such tensions, one local rag went beyond the “end of the world hits women and minorities hardest” gag:

That might explain why no Portland group is quite as shaken by the arrest and arraignment of Mohamed Mohamud than the city's Somali community, several thousand strong.

"As a Somali, it's, 'Oh, my God, one more thing we'll be remembered for,'" said Muna Abshir Mohamud, who works for the city of Portland's Office of Human Relations. "It's one of those images that's hard to unstick."

Since the eastern African country collapsed in civil war in 1991, the most memorable images out of Somali have featured pirates and burning helicopters.

In the first two years of that civil war, an estimated 300,000 Somalis died of starvation, but most Americans remember only that the ensuing United Nations humanitarian mission ended with the deaths of 18 U.S. soldiers in the chaotic streets of Mogadishu.

"To this day, if you say, 'Somalia,' it's" -- Muna Mohamud snaps her fingers -- " 'Black Hawk Down.'"

More recently, Somali pirates have dominated the news in the waters of the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden, attacking cargo ships, hijacking supertankers and British yachts, and stealing off with millions in ransom.

Both Musse Olol and Muna Mohamud attended a Somali peace and unity rally outside Portland's City Hall on Sunday, and both spoke movingly about what they abandoned in Africa and discovered in America.

Olol, who left Somalia in 1981, remembers a country caught in the grip of the Cold War, so ruled by weapons that he was schooled -- literally -- in the use of an AK-47 assault rifle.
For the next -- and younger -- generation of Somalis, however, there is more restlessness, fewer jobs and harder feelings.

"All teenagers rebel," Muna Mohamud said. "For kids who aren't occupied, there are all kinds of activities out there. Sometimes it's running with the wrong crowd. Sometimes it's ending up at the wrong mosque."

"I don't think Portland is equipped to help the youth," Olol said. "The sense of family breaking down. It's like when you join a gang. They go after the kids who don't have the good support.

["Portland-area Somalis shaken by brush with disaster at Pioneer Courthouse Square" The Oregonian, 11/29/10]

Civil war, pirates, burning helicopters, Olol's arms training; Portland's not "equipped" to counter their effects? Imagine that! Outrageous! In all seriousness, how "shaken" can they be? But now that we've demonstrated our concern by asking, can we gently ask how well equipped are the Somalis for America? Alas, no. The tiger that attacked his trainer didn't go "crazy", as goes one of many Chris Rock jokes he's going to want to take back some day, that tiger went tiger.

Somehow obscured by all this is the real threat to American lives in Afghanistan, Iraq and who knows where else. Six more were sacrificed to the impossible mission of training Afghans how to defend Afghanistan against other, more determined Afghans. We've absently blown right past the cautionary Vietnam analogy, which at this point is an insult to the ARVN and a compliment to the Viet Cong. There are more fundamental differences too; the above-mentioned assassination might have been a scandal of historic import in that previous folly. Monday it was an inconsequential wisp in the electronic torrent. Tomorrow's street executions will be so much internet snuff at this rate.

Among the present casualties should be the customary belief in a fundamental link between colonialism and racism. Its promise remains the guiding light of the elect and the Burden is endured by fewer than ever, but if you look past the re-branding and the garish new Benneton-ad frontispiece, you'll see it's brought to us by the dissolute ideological heirs of the same old make. They glory in its death under the old name, while championing it under the new. In twinning the triumphalist narrative of the civil rights movement with American exceptionalism, the sins of the past are justification for the sins of the present. They're hard to distinguish side by side; the only difference I see is the current dishonesty.

No; today Oregon teens die abroad to protect us from the "Oregon Teen". God forbid you should suggest keeping the teens in their respective national homes. Might we send the ideologues packing at least?

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Primal Scream, Loaded

LCD Soundsystem, Home; NSFW (not safe for wussies)

A little intoxication never hurt no one.

Excuse me while I bust a freestyle:

angry mothers and martinets,
drunken brawlers and malcontents,
city dwellers and suburbanites,
phony players and proselytes,
get down, get down tonight...

confound tommorrow with yesterday,
toxic bliss lures woe away,
baptize yourself in neon light,
parry existential fright,
and get down, get down tonight...

our souls are held in solution,
with moonlight's gentle resolution,
rippled with eternal rhyme,
distilling space with metered time,
when we get down, get down tonight...

our cares return with break of day,
we cannot choose another way,
our destiny's the close of night,
we won't escape this mortal blight,
so come get down, get down tonight...

stick that in your Grammy ash-tray, Lil Wayne

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Equality, now

The Republican Party's continuing survival now depends as much on the Democratic Party's inherent contradictions as anything else. The latter has become less a labor party than a coalition of identity groups united in resentment toward a myth of majority privilege that grows more fabulous and farcical by the day, and--being identity groups--viewing one another with precariously contained hostility.

For their part the Democrats' most audacious achievement has been in keeping alive a quaint image of Republicans as natural demagogues, despite the fact that ethnic, sexual and class resentment long ago became the greater part of their own populist appeal. They manage this through their successful use of the fallacy of disparate impact (disparity in representation is de facto discrimination, thus any opposition to its remedy is bigotry of one form or another) and their appeal--ironically for the party of "tolerance" and egalitarianism--to minority racial bigotry and elite chauvinism.

When Republicans transgress their commitment to unilateral disarmament in this cold war of the races, cynically (for they do not mean it) condescending to address, in meek code, the concerns of white Americans as a group, they at least have ready at hand the spectacle of a vast, stifling complex of legal discrimination that daily confiscates their rights, opportunities and wealth, distributing them to virtually every one who is, by legal decree and social sanction, not them.

Contrast this with the Democrats' mirror-opposite demagogy asserting that these extraordinary efforts are not enough, due to the stubborn bigotry of this "privileged" class. Combining this with the current quasi-religious faith in a family of human races blandly undifferentiated by talents or tendencies (or even biology), liberals deliberately perpetuate a Great Slander--to wit, the failure of this generations-old edifice of legal and economic discrimination to equalize results, unprecedented in history or size, can only be attributed to the stubborn malice of the majority. The implication is that these perpetually failing, ever-greater efforts to cure minority under-representation are like a descending plumb sounding the still unknown depths of white racism. Hence, the relative mediocrity of "protected classes" in education and the professions continually produces political advantage. Weakness is strength. You have to admire the sinister, if incidental, brilliance of it. How comfortable some of our more sentient liberal demagogues must feel when considering the durability of disparity.

In this light, I find it incredible that liberals are shocked, shocked at the "whiteness" (somehow this phrase is inoffensive) of the Tea Party movement. This movement is precisely what they've been creating by decades of triangulation, through legal discrimination, demagogy and cultural derision. The Tea Party and reaction to it is the end game of those efforts and would have been expected had our more vociferous liberal demagogues not fallen for their own rhetoric and come to believe their own caricatures. Denying the humanity of a given class--how very illiberal.
Now, cornered and isolated from their countrymen by the formidable barriers of confiscatory patronage and cultural condemnation, assessing with greater clarity than the elite the reality of Barack Obama's ascent--the final marriage of corporate power with the diversity state--they are fighting back. But the liberals, po-faced in their naivete, apparently took seriously the notion that they had no right to self-defense, that mere exposure would chasten them into final, fearful submission or drive them into violent extremism (thus the tendency to see just that, despite the relative mildness of the movement). They are appalled to find them unrepentant, law-abiding and combative; how dare they? It's almost as if they're surprised to discover their bogeyman exists at all.

Liberals are appalled at the vigor of their victim's death throes, by its refusal to expire quietly. In the crude logic of "white privilege" these people cannot be victims--neither of the state nor of the racial violence this libel-as-virtue sanctions. The "racist" aspect of the amorphous and inconsistent Tea Party movement is its only coherent feature and its greatest justification and, despite convention, is nothing for which its members should apologize. Any group, however identified, has the right to defend itself against confiscation, slander and violence; the conventional double-standard that would deny them this right only makes their fight more necessary. The "Tea Partiers" are the unwitting last defenders of civil rights and racial equality.

But what the Democrats have attempted to fashion into a singular disdain for the very idea of a white majority is in reality many competing strands, intertwined and choking one another like ivy striving toward the sun of political dominance.
Homosexuals must fear and feel superior to straights at the same time they are encouraged to mimic the same heterosexual conventions the broader sexual revolution has eroded (yet we're told heterosexuals have already destroyed marriage, so what's the problem with gays caricaturing it?); women who don't view every personal and professional disappointment as evidence of a grand patriarchal conspiracy are ungrateful traitors to feminism; Hispanics cannot be allowed to assimilate, lest they lose what in this milieu is a distinct advantage, their historical grievance and envy of "Anglos"; Asians are encouraged to ignore their disproportionate scholastic success and wealth (which would presumably be greater if not for white malice--how this squares with liberals' insistence on their belief in absolute racial equivalence goes, like its many related contradictions, unchallenged) so that they too may partake of the spoils; naturally, aspirational whites must distinguish themselves from recalcitrant whites, or conspicuously decry their race as fervently as they encourage racial pride in non-whites; blacks, our most defiantly bigoted and narrow-minded Americans in part because of their proud primacy atop this hierarchy of grievance, need no encouragement to despise and distrust the rest.

Needless to say, all are relieved of taking responsibility for their own lot, much less for the whole of the nation. Unity my ass, Mr. President. The more dependent, the more criminal, the more wretched a given population is, the greater the guilt and presumed malice of the majority--a majority which in reality bears no resemblance to the monolithic entity presumed when we speak of a "white majority". Meanwhile, global migratory patterns have been mocking the myth of Racist White America on an epic scale for over a century; one's improvement in prospects by coming to America is directly proportionate to their place in the hierarchy of grievance. No one is more fortunate to be an American than a black American. But now that "civil rights" is an Orwellian phrase, outsized ethnic pride, patronage and legal discrimination are promoted as progress in the cause of legal equality and racial tolerance. Language and logic themselves have been thrown on the funeral pyre of the liberal Western tradition. Call it a cost of diversity if you will; I call it the cost of cowardice.

The nominal party of progress and cosmopolitanism myopically promotes insularity, parochialism and ethnocentrism wherever it sees advantage therein. Where they expect to find "unity" in this morass is any one's guess; of course, their notion of unity is necessarily perverted by the demands of their creed. What they call unity is the marshaling of disparate forces for the destruction of political enemies, for swamping critical inquiry beneath the weight of aggregated prejudice. Diversity already precludes open discussion of topics such as race and ethnicity; no one wants to be told they're "inferior" (other than conspicuously self-flagellating whites). We must unite to destroy the last vestiges of a foul, former order, our betters tell us. Unity, as envisioned by Barack Obama's mandarins of mediocrity, is an assault on the liberal republic, which is by definition a polity divided to check human constants such as ethnicity, interest, faction and ambition.

The success of the Democratic party rests increasingly on the reality (and implied threat) of violence; street crime is a form of individual rebellion against an oppressive society and rioting a natural periodic occurrence, if you believe the lies that are routinely passed off unchallenged, from the president on down. That they've managed to convince many of us that right-wingers are complicit in violence with every dissent from this narrative, despite the outright encouragement of murder and mayhem they engage in as a matter of course, is testament more to our cowardice as a people than to their narrative skills.

The Republicans, revealing themselves to be as bereft of courage as they are lacking in imagination, counter that the Democrats are the true "racists", rather than challenge the destructive and divisive lie that is "racism". We too, and more than you, could be their slogan. The mentality behind this is nothing new, and was aptly and comically portrayed in the Cohen brothers' film O Brother Where Art Thou, where a more capable brain-trust around Mississippi governor Menelaus "Pappy" O'Neil debates how to respond to their opponents' successful use of a novelty:
First Advisor:
Well, it's a well-run campaign. Midget and broom and whatnot.
Second Advisor:
Devil his due. Hell of an awganisation.
Junior (Pappy's idiot son):
- Say, I got an idea.
First Advisor:
- What's that, Junior?
-We can hire us a little fella even smaller than Stokes's.
Pappy (slaps Junior with his hat):
-Y'ignorant slope-shouldered sack a guts! Why we'd look like a buncha satchel-ass Johnnie Come-Latelies braggin' on our own midget! Don't matter how stumpy! And that's the g**damn problem right there - people think this Stokes got fresh ideas, he's oh coorant and we the past.

The Republicans of reality are less sophisticated intellectually than this fictional hayseed. Needless to say, their strategy is no winner. But they would rather be wrong and losing slower, than right and losing faster, as they see it. They are invested in a corrupt system, as junior partners. Those of us who don't know better think there's still some advantage in being right, and trust even now in the ability of our countrymen, whose resentment has been so carefully cultivated these many years, to be finally lured to reason by the truth, plainly spoken and honestly offered (let's pause here, as you and I look at each other a moment before breaking out in bitter laughter).

The Republicans are the party of corporate and military power; the Democrats are the party of misery, mediocrity and malice. The two grow closer every day, as institutions have learned the costs of imposed mediocrity in the name of equality can be passed on to consumers and citizens, and in any case are far less expensive than the price of principled resistance. So the Republicans were in no position to recognize, much less coherently critique, the fatuity of Barack Obama's "trans-formative" election. Their response was to go find a high-profile token of their own, the lamentable Michael Steele, television personality. Needless to say he has been a disaster limited only by the amount of influence he's been denied. Correcting the mistake that is Michael has been complicated by the Republicans' success in the mid-terms. The fight is on and it's t-minus twenty-four hours (at least that's what I would choose in the office pool) before Steele starts crying racism. The Republicans, drawing from a diversity well far shallower than the Democrats, get the tokens they deserve.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Friday, November 12, 2010

Derision Qwest

I gave in last night and called the cable company to have my Internet service resumed. After setting up an appointment with Comcast for next Tuesday I stewed over the delay (an indignity magnifying the indignity of my surrender) and decided to see what Verizon had to offer.
I discovered that one calls Qwest (here at least) to inquire about Verizon services. The first call was answered by a woman whose accent was something I'll identify as West Coast-African American surly, reading from a script, with an enthusiasm level registering in a negative value (suddenly those phony-cheery service folk are sounding a lot better).

Each simple question was received with difficulty and answered with impatience. Eventually she got around to asking, in a flat tone barely registering as inquisitive, for the "physical street" where service was needed. Already chastened by implication to take her literally, I gave her the street name where I live. Of course this caused much confusion, and I gingerly offered my full address. She protested that she had already asked me that (apparently she was prompted, and failed, to ask for a "physical street address", as opposed I presume to a metaphysical street address; most likely Qwest doesn't trust its front-line troops to be capable of distinguishing street from email addresses).
We labored on, she and I, miserable each in our own way, with the sound of at least two other customer service reps in the background nearly drowning us out until finally I decided it was best just to hang up and try again, hoping for a better match.

The next customer service representative was reached the next day--today--because three successive calls were immediately disconnected before I reached a recording saying the office had closed for the day. My next co-foil was--no joke--a girl who identified herself as (my best guess) Taniqua.
T sounded like she was twelve, tonally and grammatically, and rushed through her set-questions in little desperate flurries. I went ahead and asked my own questions anyway, despite the fact that each seemed to knock her off a laboriously gained progress; she read off her responses from a script with redoubled obtuseness the purpose of which seemed to be that the exchange should not lapse into spontaneous human interaction and thus out of her already tenuous control. Still I could only manage sympathy for Taniqua where her predecessor inspired contempt. I've been incompetent at things myself after all (I am a contender for world's worst at many of the things at which I've tried my hand), and there are few greater humiliations, though I doubt she felt anything greater than annoyance and confusion. Empathizing with her plight I said I'd give it some thought and hung up.

And yet, I could not leave it alone. A third call captured a somewhat more sentient being. I was relieved to find what sounded like a young white male--either he would be more competent or his incompetence would serve to reassure me that I wasn't that dreaded of all things, a racist. Well, Colton was much better, but he too faltered a bit at each turn to his stubborn computer (as he helpfully narrated), and I, weary not just of mind but now of my very soul as I considered these were my youthful countrymen and certainly not the worst of them, I gently, grimly, set down the receiver. Defeat. If only I had a bit more patience.

It's a beautiful day outside. Barack Obama's army of the inept hasn't broken down the gates yet, and their awful din and the stench of the liberal Western tradition they've burned behind them like bridges back to reason can still be ignored, if you retreat far enough inward. Today I thrive still. I am outside and the trees are not yet bare. The women have left their heavy coats at home; the wake of a beautiful woman is unalloyed joy. America is a blessed place of ease and wonder. For the moment.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A little horse would be my paradise

Bruno S. 1932 - 2010

Werner Herzog found the mentally unstable Bruno Schleinstein, who was known briefly to the world as Bruno S., in a 1970 documentary called Bruno der Shwarze (Bruno the Black). At the time Bruno was a street musician, playing traditional ballads; he played piano, glockenspiel, accordion and hand bells. He spoke in declarative bursts of idiosyncratic phrasings, often referring to himself in the third person, a curious--or not so curious--affect considering the subject was often his history of suffering and despair at his state of estrangement from society. The authentic voice of the psychically wounded, which artists can only approximate, never become. Herzog cast him in two films, The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser and Stroszek, where he played the lead characters in his own enigmatic persona, his level of awareness and engagement with the process never quite certain.

Born in 1932, Bruno may have been beaten partly deaf by his prostitute mother before being abandoned at a very young age. He ended up in an orphanage run by the Nazis, where mentally retarded children and other Reichsausschusskinder (literally "Reich Committee Children"--wards of the state) were subjected to medical experimentation. As an adult Bruno worked days as a forklift driver and nights he made music. His primary neurosis was paranoia.

Bruno's difficulty hearing may have led to a mistaken diagnosis of retardation early on (fetal alcohol syndrome must be suspected here as well); he may have lost some mental faculties as a result of beatings either at the hands of his mother or the authorities; or he may have merely been damaged psychologically by the trauma of his early life, as Herzog believes.

His strange speech produced a spontaneous poetry of woe and anguish. He was paranoid and self-pitying--and for every good reason. He walked among us as a mangled specter from a barbarous yesterday, channeling the brutality of his history in through the sputtering device that was his damaged psyche. A living reproach from a past and a capacity for evil that are both too near.

Herzog wrote Stroszek specifically to place this strange character he’d found in a grim satire of nineteen-Seventies America. Herzog uses mostly non-professional actors throughout the film as the often grotesque characters Bruno-as-Stroszek encounters in Germany and America. He escapes a murderous pimp in Berlin to the indifference of a bleak plain in rural Wisconsin. The location and locals cast in Stroszek Herzog found while lurking about the hometown of Ed Gein (something about exhuming the grave of the killer’s mother). Herzog’s view of America is much like Bruno’s view of the world, morose and bemused, but compelling for its alien, distorted-lens focus and difficult to resist. A sort of retard strength.

Bruno believed he had been exploited and abandoned by Herzog, and many agree. There’s no doubt it was exploitation, but Bruno may have nonetheless benefited in the end from his fleeting celebrity. He resented Herzog for abandoning him along with the fair weather of celebrity he brought, but for Bruno happiness, as we understand it, was not a possibility.

It is fitting that Bruno should encompass also the shifty question of what constitutes exploitation. A reality television celebrity chooses to be exploited, often to extremes; society hasn't yet an answer for these--people whose individual actions become our collective embarrassments. Bruno S. was an early “reality” figure who chose his exploitation with an awareness that may or may not be less than that shown by the average current type we've come to know. But unlike them he lost no dignity, neither his nor ours, in the process. His ability to master the world was limited, but his capacity to feel was keen; in this sense he is the opposite of the modern reality figure—who games the world, sometimes skillfully, in blithe and childlike emotional indifference.

Bruno lived on the same installment plan of contingency and compromise with an ultimately indifferent world, as we all do, but on far harsher terms. Maybe that's what transfixed us, for a time; he was like us, visible and walking about, but farther down the abyss of human cruelty. Maybe that's why he was so easily forgotten.
He unsettled and mesmerized us because what we saw, in his unguarded and expressive face, was human cruelty expressing itself as the suffering of the living host that bears it along, like a germ planted long ago and thriving still.
At some terrifying level, within us all, the suffering and cruelty are indistinguishable. How else to understand this human constant that is evil? It is in the nuances of personality that we see these awful things, make these unwanted realizations. Personality was invented in the movie theater, where the living visage, in its endless expressions, is the subject.
Bruno's face was a hopeless plea, a perpetual surrender, and a haunting reproach. May he rest, at long last.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

What is (a) hate (crime)? I

psy•cho•sis, n
loss of contact with reality: a psychiatric disorder such as schizophrenia or mania that is marked by delusions, hallucinations, incoherence, and distorted perceptions of reality.
Microsoft Encarta

Is it too soon, for decency, or too late, because things move fast nowadays, to speculate on the potential for an Omar Thornton fan page? Due to the solemn credulity with which the media addressed the accusations—of a killer against his still dying victims—no mass murderer has so quickly gained so high a platform for so petty a charge. When the crimination is “white racism” no decent interval is allowed. Neither, skepticism. Omar’s hearing was immediately and dutifully granted in response to his crimes, with the usual suspect “experts” weighing in—only this time on workplace discrimination, not, as we've come to expect, workplace violence.

This estimation of "racism", broadly defined, as the equivalent of violence (with the noose as a talisman and the "n-word" as incantation, both imbued with supernatural powers) is how the cultural commissariat sanctions black-on-white violence as an unfortunate but understandable means of redress.

The press response occurred at the nexus of willed ignorance and forced imagination. The sort of horrors before which this cloistered class feigns to shudder on behalf of Thornton and his ilk they can only imagine. And imagine they do, with energy and diligence. I had previously reckoned a sane man’s homicidal “breaking point” was well beyond an overheard slur, an item of graffiti, and a company’s objection to being systematically robbed by its own. Merely mentioning these charges here, even if true in their slender entirety, is to give them indecent attention. Forgive me, but this is a very dirty business.

And we still don’t know the depths to which our media will go to prove its ideological gullibility—no echoes of restraint have yet answered the pings of credulity that were the first news reports. Exhaustion, rather than shame, quelled the herd’s hysteria. We can say the farcical delusion goes at least as deep as this Christian Science Monitor headline:

Is racism at heart of Connecticut shooting? Answer still unclear.

How quaint of you, if you thought the answer all-too-clear in the case of a shooter singling out the middle-aged white men who built and sustained the company that employed and endured him (as they tend to do wherever we find productive endeavor—an unacknowledged fact explaining most of the deliberately cultivated resentment, eagerly taken up by Omar, for this, the last remaining class against which discrimination is codified into law and derision is compelled by culture). No, this "racism" doesn't interest the media. Even in the act of murder a black man isn't granted the capacity for hate that a white innocent bears like a human stain, shed not even in death. America's "original sin" is, after all, confined to white Americans in perpetuity, whoever they are and whatever they do. Sickening still, but no longer surprising.

The grotesque irony of pursuing a homicidal bigot’s complaints of racial harassment is only noticed by the irrelevant (my hand’s raised). Still, the CSM story above actually lagged the pack to the skeptical rear by featuring an authority discounting, rather than humoring or giving undue credence to, Omar’s charges. For the media the event worked like a brain-teaser, where habitual thinking leads one to miss plain meaning. You know:

one of the coins is a nickel; the doctor is the boy’s mother; the hateful murderer is the bigot.

No “but of course” moment is forthcoming. Here the press is like the ideal subject for a hypnotist’s lounge act: easily brought under, highly suggestible, shameless in its stupor, oblivious in retrospect.

This defamation of the dead isn‘t without its black comedy: the murderer was wearied, we’re told (by a callow girlfriend as oblivious to shame as the reporters encouraging her, reveling in the attention and enthusiastically adopting, as it were, the role usually reserved for a tearful mother), by the racism that just so happened to find him at every job. The chronically incompetent and stupid typically blame luck or a spiteful world for their misfortunes, and in Omar’s mind racism followed him like a personal storm cloud, manifested, I presume, in charges of tardiness, ineptitude, theft. Perhaps it is me who’s being naïve. After all, what a boundless reservoir of racism white America is!

The media’s appetite would not be sated before we were assured of the gentle nature of this man and his love for family, lovers, and handguns. One newspaper featured a photo spread of the widow (of the killer, not one of the killed), complete with an image of the tattoo consecrating her upper thigh to their love.

In this AP story some demanded (further) justice be delivered upon the dead:

Some experts said Friday that, although nothing justifies Thornton's killing spree, the allegations of workplace racism should be investigated so they can either be dealt with or laid to rest.
"You have to investigate it," said employment lawyer Kelly Scott, adding that racial harassment in the workplace is often a crime.

"Any chance you have to make your workplace a better place, a safer place, you have to take it," Scott said. "If there are people who have these attitude problems or problem dealing with other races, they should lose their jobs." [seems the company attempted just this, in firing Omar]

Sharon Toomer, founder of the website, called it "an accountability issue."
"If he didn't (report harassment), that's great. He's just a nut case," [but if he did...] she said. "If he did go and nobody did anything, then the company's hands are not clean." [killin' is too good for 'em]

Messages seeking comment about a potential investigation into Thornton's racism claims were left Friday for the Hartford State's Attorney's Office, the FBI's New Haven office, the chairman of the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, and for the president of the Connecticut NAACP.

Once the guilt of the dead is confirmed by the standard of federal “civil rights law”—wherein the burden of proof is on the accused (here they can be said to be doubly disadvantaged, compelled by law to prove the negative in a voice rendered silent by their accuser; damn this teacher is strict!)—remedies will be considered. Perhaps a class action suit and subsequent settlement, an injunction mandating some sort of diversity program, a donation to an activist organization (and administration ally) of the Justice Department’s selection, the hiring of some member of the elect. Ms. Sherrod is available.
It has been a teachable moment.

Friday, July 02, 2010

It's our secret! Never teach the Wu Tang!

An Untethered News Services (UNS) exclusive:

The following video was reportedly smuggled out of a meeting of the highly secretive group known as "Journolist." According to the former member who provided it to UNS on condition of anonymity, it shows a "far too common" ritual used for purposes of initiation and punishment. Untethered cannot vouch for its authenticity, but note the individual administering punishment here does bear a striking resemblance to the group's founder. Warning: the following contains images some will find disturbing.

Our source also provided the lyrics to the group's secret anthem:

Who controls your Google hits?
Who air-brushes Gaga's tits?
We do! We do!
Who knows when you get the clap?
Who thinks you're a bunch of saps?
We do! We do!
Who's behind all those theme bars?
Who makes Jonah Hill a star?
We do! We do!
Who made Black Eyed Peas a hit?
Who deems Olbermann a wit?
We do! We do!

Despite revealing the secretive workings of the group, the former member remains committed to the idea behind it.
"Initially it was supposed to be a safe place," he said, clutching a balled-up tissue dampened by tears, "where we could share our fears and frustrations, in a non-judgmental, text-positive environment of acceptance and understanding. A place for a few hundred of our most vulnerable individuals whose only other options for such expression are in the widely circulated and influential publications they write for. A harrassment-free zone where they could share ideas and speak freely when referring to certain classes, sheltered from the chilling effect of public scrutiny."

He lamented the group's reputed demise:

"Now how will we fashion the template by which to frame the issues of the day for the average American, without being hounded into silence by populist demagogues? In a democracy such as ours, the public square is no place for forming a workable consensus. These aren't bad people; these are the best people. These are the people who relentlessly expose the hidden racism inherent in American society. These are the people who shine a light on the coded bigotry of the Tea Party movement's rhetoric. These are the people who hold public figures accountable for the intolerance they privately express. Who else is going to hold the politicians' feet to the fire when they commit a gaffe? How will they perform these vital functions if they have to answer for every opinion or remark? The beneficial, free-wheeling discourse the Founders envisioned must be protected from public scrutiny, lest it spin out of control or is taken over by the irresponsible."

He took a moment to collect himself before continuing.

"But things started to go wrong right away. Cliques formed, discussions were dominated by some, or bogged down by others who took perverse pleasure in questioning basic assumptions. I didn't sign on for that. People were being let in who shouldn't have been there. One of them was even mis-identified as our Chosen One, with disastrous consequences."
But the severity of discipline in the group was what finally drove him out:
"The paddling just got out of hand. Some of those guys took entirely too much pleasure in it--giving or receiving. I just wasn't into it, and it was getting crazy. It got so you couldn't pick a dime off the floor in there without catching a whack."
Read more of our exclusive interview in this Sunday's magazine.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Your Presence is Not Required

This is going to end badly.
Here I am slouching through middle-age; sexually I am hors de combat, as if by some secret but final decree. I lament it but the sentence is just--and just as well (I wouldn't join any club that'd have me for a member, and I wouldn't conjoin with anyone who'd have my member); I haven't earned any better.
It's time for a hobby, perhaps. But what the hell is a hobby? A man does a thing, or he doesn't. Me, I don't do anything.

I cannot help but see the futility in all forms of action. There is nothing I feel is better done than not done; all is a wash. The moment I take up a thing is the moment I lose interest in it. I am losing my ability to distinguish worth; everything is blending together in an unindividuated mass. Society is a great burlesque; garish, farcical, and in bad taste. Beneath "reality" some equilibrium sustains itself as sure as water finding its level, and humanity is but fodder; we are the inactive ingredient. Now don't start on me. One doesn't choose to believe such things; such things choose him. I'm not a cheerless man, and I don't envy your engagement with humanity.

I find organizations inherently sinister. I despise collective action. Concern sickens me. All men are foreigners to me, speaking nonsense. I am nauseated by the pace of time--I have temporal motion sickness. The less of it that remains the more mysterious it is. Its passage, the grinding, erosive consistency of it, is beyond my capabilities of understanding. Thus my default position--petrified immobility.

It's a congenital condition; you should see the rest of the family. Our indolence is sinful. How the hell this desultory line propagated is a mystery. We are a living refutation of evolution--and God. No logic or divinity could produce this. My family's existence is a profanation. My existence, in a world of heroism and suffering, is an obscenity. Yet we endure. Yet here I am. Still standing and pointlessly defiant. And there you are.

Nonetheless I keep an eye on the horizon for something I don't expect and wouldn't recognize; I am open to the prospect of meaning. Still, it cannot change a thing, because whatever comes:
This is going to end badly.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

In Memoriam

Originally posted on June 25, 2009

The Multitude Killed the Video Star

But I am invented too for your entertainment and amusement. And you, poor creatures, who conjured you out of the clay? Is God in show business too?
–"Arthur Frayne", Zardoz

We played the grooves off of that record. My girlfriend had Michael Jackson's Off The Wall on vinyl. For a post-adolescent white trash burnout, steeped in rock and leavened in punk and new wave, listening to something so mainstream felt downright subversive. But it would have taken a deliberate act of cultural bigotry to dismiss that album. Not that I pretend to be free of such bias; selective cultural inhibition is always operative in each of us, not only in determining what we won't allow, but what which we force upon, ourselves. Witness installation art, postmodern architecture, public sculpture. It is not by accident that the more public the work the more deliberately it offends reason and beauty; if you live in a major city, there's probably more than one monument to aspirational credulity within walking distance.

Later Jackson would transcend the simple genius of his early career with the Thriller album. The unmatched commercial success of Thriller was due mostly to its associated videos. Jackson's innovation of employing experienced filmmakers using production values previously unseen in that still raw art form would pay off in orders of magnitude. But something was lost. The Thriller video struck me, as everyone around me, with its technical wizardry. But privately I couldn't help noticing how glittering and trite it all was. While achieving something new by aspiring to music-as-cinema, it was still overrated as music and not very good as cinema. Michael Jackson, for me, was over and done with. But I was glad, with a pretentious snobbery I've yet to escape, that I was maintaining a healthy critical distance from what I saw as soulless commercialism. I was still deluded in thinking that music should remain immediate and a little raw, not co-opted. I still harbor that hopeless delusion, contrary to all experience. It was always just show business, emphasis on business. The trick is to discard the pointless bias against business, as such. Easier said than done.

Michael Jackson was not the first superstar, but he may be the first to publicly renounce personhood itself in favor of renown. Michael Jackson didn't lose his individuality, he discarded it as a hindrance to celebrity. What was always unnerving about him was the absence behind the mystique. He did not start out as a "personality", real or fabricated; there was never anything there to begin with beyond the remarkable talent. Through the years I've become convinced that the absence of personality, and eventually the grotesquerie that was offered in its place, amplified that talent. We never got to know him, even as we watched him grow up. It wasn't just that he was private--lots of celebrities are "private"--it's that he deliberately crafted a persona without personhood. He cobbled together a few cliches he found romantic--the eternal child as a result of being robbed of childhood, the lonely genius, the besieged eccentric--all bathetic in their self-pitying grandiosity. Michael Jackson made himself into a comic caricature of egomania.

He refused even to accept the limits of nature, treating his physical body as if it were as malleable as his public persona. Had he been less delusional, and perhaps more ably befriended by those around him, he might have been made to see that neither of these things were very much within his control. Michael Jackson, in his repeated disfigurement under the knife, took on the vanity of the nation. In this, his most ridiculed aspect, that which is considered most "abnormal" about him, he is in fact most like us. He was, if anything, a pioneer in the realm of plastic surgery. When he started out on his gruesome way, the practice was far less common than it is now. Michael took on our vanity the way Christ takes on our sins.

After his ascension into the heavens of transformative celebrity his career itself became a work of art as imagined by the People and expressed through commerce--something both more and less than art, somehow. His public persona and the transcription of his private life in the press and on television, his representation across the modes of media, morphing along the way like his physical appearance, increasingly as grotesque caricature, became our ongoing work of performance art, with an individual as our canvas and clay. Even now, after his death, the performance continues. We are not done with Michael Jackson. He "lives" on, as he wished.

Michael's desperate megalomania and personal emptiness made him the ideal instrument of the multitude. There are many more to come. This is one more consequence of our newly global village. Contrary to our intuition, despite the boasts of those who celebrate the new placeless and personless order they are so eager to acquiesce to, the individual is losing if not lost. Individuality is less possible, more illusory than ever. Those who manage to escape the ground of obscurity for the heavens of celebrity will light this new reality as they burn out--like stars. No longer does the artist conceive for the People, but he is conceived by the People. Poor Michael Jackson, both brilliant and simple, cunning but callow, never had a chance. Whoever he was.

New Chemical Brotherhood

Chemical Brothers, K+D+B

Kind of chokes you up, doesn't it? Ah, youth! We're no match for it! These guys are pretty impressive too:

Monday, June 21, 2010

Alternative America Phrasebook

"Your guide to the idiom of mass delusion."

Pragmatism, n. blogspeak
The murder of principle by expedience.
See also compromise; bipartisanship.

Consensus, n. hackspeak
An agreed upon delusion.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Cadence Song

Me? I hope to go out singing, defiantly. Like DeNiro's redneck Nemesis in Cape Fear, warbling in tongues as the rising tide consumes him. I want to play myself over this way, a segue between shows, until the dirty water fills my lungs. It's not bravery, it's denial; and denial gets a bad rap. Denial is essential. Here's to denial! Without it life would not be possible.

I had a moment of clarity--terror, that is--recently, regarding the reality of death. You may know what I'm talking about. These moments when the veil lifts, for no apparent reason. You stumble into the misty vale; you are suddenly lost. The unwelcome result of too much time alone. Solitude is dangerous. Solitude is a faint whiff of death. Solitude is death's annex. I didn't choose solitude, it chose me.

I think about death all the time, but from a cowardly psychological remove; indeed, the thinking and talking about death are just skirting about the reality, as if to appease it, or perhaps find some soft point of entry. We turn a thing over in our mind endlessly, compulsively, as if to discover it anew; we think our gaze has transforming powers. How can a thing be seen, named, obsessed over, so familiar, so present and still taunt us with its opacity and mystery?

Death is an impermeable thing because oblivion, or non-existence, is necessarily beyond comprehension. The mind cannot step outside itself in the end. You can't imagine, much less know, it; we make do with the possibility of a thing called oblivion; an alternative to the fire of redemption, before which we alternately cower or warm ourselves. But then, perhaps non-existence simply isn't possible. If energy never really dissipates, but merely transfers, morphing endlessly in an ultimately meaningless burlesque, why then should we cease to exist? Vapor, too, is a state of existence. Immortality is no less plausible than mortality. But the question cannot be answered. Each will learn--or not--for himself, alone, and only upon passing. Curious? You first.

This is why religion is a necessary constant of human behavior. Death is why the organized atheists can only piss into the wind endlessly. Theirs is a sterile zeal. Death is the darkened face of nature's mocking mystery; death will forever be the abyss, the reason why the Known will always be but a sheen over the far greater Unknown.
Buck up, friend! Come along with me! We'll sing together the tune we know by heart. We'll sing like the hopeless do, like the doomed and the damned will, when there's nothing left but the breath in their lungs. We'll shed our heartaches along the way. Think not of death but life. Death will abandon discretion to reveal himself soon enough. He's already here with us.

Basketball is Basketball, Equality is Excellence, War is Peace

Boldly now comes the WNBA's television campaign for its new season, to accompany the NBA playoffs. Interspersing footage from both leagues the spot creates the illusion the men and women are playing together. For example, a WNBA player makes a pass; we cut to an NBA player hauling it in on his way to the basket. Several such iterations and the tag-line:
Basketball is Basketball
It is agreed. Basketball is basketball.

As a self-contained system of rules, the game is its own standard and ideal; its quality is its only valid measure. The players' identities are incidental--they are only represented by their competitive success. Why would you concern yourself with who plays, as long as they play well? I offer this as the best interpretation of the WNBA's slogan.

But how is this not precisely the WNBA's problem? It is basketball we go to see, not basketball played by X. The WNBA has the unfortunate circumstance of competing with its far superior parent league in delivering to market basketball. The women are way out of their league. Yet here they are, at once drawing our attention to and contradicting the purely sentimental nature of their appeal. Basketball is basketball, sister.

Any league not open to all is a novelty act. Akin to a six-foot-or-under league, of which we would make no pretense of parity with the NBA. Why, then, does the WNBA exist? If there is some demand for off-season professional basketball, why not another open league (which in turn might not be too competitive for the better female players)?

But "basketball is basketball" can have another meaning besides that which I've assumed thus far. So just to be thorough. It can also mean:
discernment in basketball is unwarranted because quality is trivial or uniform.
If you've seen one game you've seen them all. Call it the "parts is parts" fallacy. This exhausts reasonable interpretations of the slogan at two, and they are mutually exclusive.

Thus we have a phrase that is literal nonsense yet holds in potential two contradictory meanings; it is and isn't. What a perfect foil for the encouraged chaos of cut-and-paste. Here it blends together the superior with the inferior deliberately to conflate them, to the benefit of the inferior over the superior. As the advertisement's visual creates the illusion of one game by splicing together two, likewise the text splices together one meaning from two. The WNBA offers, as needed, two fluid options to guide us to the Nirvana of egalitarian bliss: ignore inferiority or disregard excellence.

Not that anyone is paying attention, much less defending the integrity of the language, but the slogan, mild doublespeak that it is, is the inclusion argument boiled down to its essence; all the energy they concentrate in their concise palindrome backfires and only serves to reveal that equality degrades excellence ("equality" as defaced by the modifier "social"; alternatively "inclusion," or "anti-discrimination"). In any given instance, more of one ensures less of the other. Yet we are conditioned to believe the effect is non-existent, trivial or even opposite. Why?

Our elite is divided between those invested in and those cowed by the advance of a federally administered regime of equality. Thus too-evident instances of of equality degrading excellence and impoverishing the common good are collective embarrassments, not only as individual failures of policy, but as evidence of the constant--equality degrades excellence. The more "equality" the equalitarian gets the greater its cost, the plainer its effects, the more he must hide. He is not alone, however; the need to conceal this corrosive process has as many allies as excellence has enemies, always ready to take up pitchfork and put torch to the affronts to vanity and pride that are Truth, Beauty, God. Only here the rabble is roused on behalf of power and the status quo. We have drifted into a historical novelty: we have an elite that demands disdain for tradition, custom, history. What then do they consider their mandate? A certain definition of excellence, ironically.

Meanwhile, the NBA is a singular story of merit by excellence overcoming social and sentimental bias, justly celebrated as a civil rights accomplishment yet, less noted, demolishing the queer premise upon which civil rights law and culture is based. That premise: American culture degrades and represses minorities and all groups are equally blessed with the host of human talents.

A group representing some seven percent of the US population (before accounting for age), setting out with every social and many legal conventions against it and armed only with exceptional ability, took one generation to to dominate professional basketball--transforming the game in the process. Today black American men still represent eighty percent of the NBA, even as they've made it so successful it draws talent from around the world. This attests equally to the unprecedented fairness of the league and nation on one hand and the racial diversity of human talent on the other.

Not only has white America rejected sentiment in favor of the superiority of the black game, the stunning display of racial disparity on display is itself largely responsible for the success of the league--white fascination with black physical talent as a superior and therefore good thing. A recognizably Western impulse. Western (and if the following carried negative connotations we would be allowed "white") creativity propels the story through various media, its ingenuity delivers it in high definition to your home, its industry daily manages the logistics of filling arenas with the reverential. African athleticism made transcendent by American imagination and industry. Is there anything comparable in history? A little respect, please.

It is not forthcoming. The celebration of this story grows progressively shriller, as if in inverse proportion to the improving material condition of its beneficiaries. The narrative focuses almost entirely on the storming of the barriers--not of their creative dismantling. Taken as part of the larger civil rights narrative it is presumed the barriers remain, their latency here contingent on our militant stance against them, active most everywhere else. But the true lesson lies in the relative ease with which longstanding social prohibition gave way permanently to excellence.

But the broader cultural emanations from this frank display of what still seems like a mystical talent to white America transcend basketball, combining with black excellence in popular music to level an entire complex of traditional barriers to blacks; once habitually taken as inferior, now considered superior in many aspects; envied, emulated, exploited into cultural preeminence.
The milieu demands however the writer frame the cracker here, yet again: the nation is uniquely neurotic regarding race, what with all this fascination with it! This sort of thing often from sportswriters, as if to absolve themselves of that they so conspicuously ridicule or abhor, shocked, shocked. But the story is not told. Racist exploitation has made Black America a cultural colossus.

Indeed, it is not an imagined human uniformity but racial diversity, and its complementary nature, that acts as a catalyst to excellence in an exploitative process that nonetheless empowers the exploited. This could only happen in an overarching culture with the energy, creativity and fairness--the excellence--of America. Ironically, when we are compelled to pledge "diversity is strength" the meaning is opposite (roughly: diversity is our strength because we're all the same and no culture is superior--a patent absurdity!) and the intention is to scandalize this reality in the popular mind, contradicting as it does elite convention--rather, convention prescribed for us by the elite.

Equality is a conceit only societies made wealthy through discrimination can afford (or a disease only wealthy societies contract). We have so long been wealthy and thus conditioned to humor this sentiment that it has become an unexamined article of faith. That conditioning is evidenced by the oblivious confidence of the accusation (women!) implicit in the WNBA slogan: that we aren't giving the women a fair shot! They truly know not what they say.

None of this of course means the WNBA hasn't the right to exist, or that its athletes aren't worthy, or that it might not carve out an economic niche and justify the NBA's subsidy; it just means we would do well not to allow them the affront that is this slogan. If people will create and nourish the WNBA God bless them. But that does not entitle them to abuse the language or logic. You can have your ladies' league and I wish you well; but you cannot then have your "basketball is basketball" pretense. No ma'am.

As demonstrated by the NBA's example, excellence and equality are at odds. In the case of the NBA's wardship of the WNBA, excellence humors equality, because it can afford to. American history in aphorism! Long may she wave!

Pessimistic as we imagine we've become about the nation's economic prospects, we nonetheless dutifully assume an endless summer of rising tax revenue to fund the ever-increasing cost of our condescension. We presume the creativity and industry of the resented will outrace the demands of resentment in perpetuity. This resentment is far more nurtured than confronted by our creative class, as jealously as if it were their own. Which it is, of course; as an artistic form, the civil rights genre now is where class bigotry goes to masquerade as enlightenment.

If it seems the narrative has become indulgent, pornographic even, that's because it has. Self-interested but still less rational than emotional. We now have an elite that not only doesn't care what is good for the common, it doesn't know what is good for itself. Our modern inversion: an excitable, bigoted and irrational elite in need of the calming influence of a wise and engaged population. Ah, to have one!

Where might our defensive wisdom begin? By critical examination of just such Orwellian tropes as the WNBA slogan. The fact that it is merely an advertisement, or "just basketball", shouldn't pardon it. This is where merit should make its stand, out here on the front line of the assault on excellence, where language and logic are the collateral damage. Exposure, examination, ridicule; these are the weapons of the insurgency.

The WNBA's egalitarian experiment is a tap stuck into the broad trunk of the NBA--the very bounty of human inequality--diverting a trickle for the purpose of sentimental inclusion. Embarrassed by this fact, the WNBA distracts from its inferiority through artful subterfuge and chides us for our bias even as it claims privilege. Is there a better model of the Token State?

Can it suggest something of the costs of that state and its definition of equality, out here in the world where the individual's spoils are humbler and the collective consequences graver? After all, the law is the law, engineering is engineering, firefighting is firefighting, medicine is medicine. That disparity in quality the WNBA wants you to ignore isn't an anomaly, but a small, exposed section of something vast and deliberately misunderstood.

Of course, what the WNBA is really about is making women more like men. Which prompts a whole new why?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Alternative America Phrasebook

"Your guide to the idiom of mass delusion"
Thoughtfulness, n., blogspeak:
1. Cowardice or careerism taken or presented as reflection, meditation, or contemplation.
2. Deference to convention or power; self-censorship to avoid offense or the degradation of one's professional prospects.
3. Intellectual conformance driven by a fear of social ostracism.

Thoughtful, a.
Milquetoast; mealy-mouthed; compliant; harmless; irrelevant; boring; lemming-like; chicken-shit; etc.

see also Seriousness/Serious

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


An inborn dread, a sort of latent panic familiar to my line, preceded me. This inherent conviction that things must go wrong will not be loosed by any device of socialization, rebellion, or medication. Ironically, this same fixedness in the breast of its unfortunate host makes it perfectly portable, and impervious to geography--maybe this is why my people have propelled themselves across all parts of the globe, as if in flight from this dread; maybe this is why now we seem determined to self-dissipate as a race. We can run but we can't hide.

Even this curious adaptation works as if it has its own ambition and designs, treating us as the means to our own end. A long line of dull, placid farmers crossed the Atlantic to become dull, placid American farmers, settling in square-head country in the perennially freezing dead-center of the continent, where we felt at home. At some point we were displaced from land to city, and, characteristically unaware, set upon a modest decline from modest heights. We are being deselected.
The pioneers came west drawn by horses on wooden wheels over wild country. Years later it was rubber on asphalt, a trail of noxious fumes, and little fortitude required. A group bound by no comparable shared act of passage, by nothing in particular. I am of this family.
The last leg of our white trash odyssey was the motor journey into the American West, merging along the way with the Okies and the wetbacks, with the disillusioned alongside the delusional, the failed and the ambitious, those on the lamb and them on the make, all holding in common a crisis of options; to California.

That lump in your throat is childhood passing

Summer. Nineteen eighty-something. We were parting the traffic on the 605 southbound for Huntington Beach; I was wearing nothing but shorts and sandals, one hand holding on to the motorcycle seat, the other cradling a six-pack of beer, football-style. We leaned headlong into the wind like a pair of ski-jumpers, as P. effortlessly weaved the stodgy Honda CB350 through the cars, rendering them still as haystacks. I peered into them as we passed, looking for girls. My head rocked with spontaneous energy, to some silent beat, the effect of the youth spending itself within me. The exquisite expiration of childhood. We shouted back and forth in the gale we carried along with us, laughing through mouths windswept into lunatic grins; we cheerfully harried the odd fellow who was momentarily abreast and sharing our direction. We turned with the road into a direct and endless path toward a sun that will never set...

The Dandy Warhols, Grunge Betty

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pot to Kettle! Come in, Kettle!

David Brooks glimpses the matrix darkly through Elena Kagan:
She seems to be smart, impressive and honest — and in her willingness to suppress so much of her mind for the sake of her career, kind of disturbing.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Re-posted with Oscar night open thread in comments below!

Good news and bad. Our associates from the Storyboard blog have brought over three cases of Os and other much needed supplies. But no sooner is one gap closed than another opens up; Dolores, our longtime and beloved comment moderator, will be leaving Untethered today. We can no longer afford her services. Other staff members will be filling in, when possible, to pluck the pearls of thoughtful commentary (should they appear) out of the slow ooze of spam.
A heartfelt thanks to Dolores, on behalf of us all. We shall miss your homemade muffins every Friday. What cheer you brought to your often unpleasant task of sifting through the insipid and insolent commentary that the blog attracts! The pointless and the profane, you called it in your inimitable humor. We will hold the gate as best we can, and until we at last succumb your satirically stentorian "none shall pass" will resound in these halls.
Godspeed, Dolly!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

I Love You! I Really, Really Love You!

The New York Times' Caucus Blog didn't note if Van Jones teared up when addressing Glenn Beck directly in a speech to the NAACP, but I insist on believing he did. It renders the image so much creepier, and that much more entertaining, when he does a Sally Field channels Jim Jones by way of Bob Marley [update: with a--how could I have missed it?--shout-out to Avatar ("I see you"*)]:
“I see you, and I love you, brother,” Mr. Jones said. “I love you and you cannot do anything about it. I love you and you cannot do anything about it. Let’s be one country. Let’s be one country. Let’s get the job done.”
I'm going to love you forever, or until the weight of my love caves your skull in. Jones was in Los Angeles accepting an award, apparently for some artful obfuscation conflating "green jobs" (not to be confused with "little green men"--much more often sighted, if slightly harder to verify) and civil rights, thus diverting some portion of the public purse to a grateful political network. The actual wording of the award citation may have differed somewhat.

Anger on the Left over Jones losing his scalp was more aroused by who would wear it, the hated Beck, than by the loss of Jones, whom Beck raised for his purpose from a deserved obscurity (for the man, not his former office, which deserves much more skeptical clarity). It's understandable; Beck and his ilk are not sated by these political kills but only made hungrier. So a Van What's-His-Name is beside the point--it's the principle, so to speak, of the thing.

But Rahm Emmanuel, being no fool (witness the lack of public declarations of personal love for political enemies), must have viewed Jones as a relatively cheap loss, and one better taken earlier rather than later. A guy like that has the potential to become a real embarrassment down the road, and if you've already satisfied one campaign-debt with the absurdity of Van Jones, Green Jobs Czar, indeed, if you can essentially retire that debt early, well... Van Jones was the political equivalent of the decoy flares aircraft jettison to fake-out heat-seeking missiles. Or he would be, if such systems held the potential to explode unexpectedly in flight. Good riddance.

I, however, join those lefties who still lament the loss, if not for the same reasons. Van Jones would have made great theater. You're right, this isn't fair at all--he is making great theater. Here's hoping he gets the roles and attention commensurate with his talent. His most recent performance proves his commitment to his art and devotion to celebrity. Acting takes the courage to risk your dignity; or so actors and their acolytes insist, endlessly, often in undignified fashion. So, in my best imitation of James Lipton's purring drawl I say: Bravo, Van Jones! Encore!

*alternate title, for the Freudian-themed Horror Film version: Vangina, The All-Seeing Eye.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

I'm afraid m0re financial tr0uble t0 rep0rt here. We've c0mpletely exhausted 0ur supply 0f a certain v0wel, and haven't the means as yet to resupply; we'll be making d0, as y0u see here. And still, m0re semi-c0l0ns than we kn0w what to d0 with! Perhaps we can arrange s0me s0rt of barter with s0me0ne 0ut there? We als0 have Qs c0ming 0ut 0ur ears!

Monday, February 22, 2010

--Oh, the earth is the best! That's why I'm a vegetarian.
--Well, that's a start.
--Uh, well, I was thinking of going vegan.
--I'm a level 5 vegan -- I won't eat anything that casts a shadow.
The Simpsons

If this year's newly broadened selection of Oscar nominees for Best Picture, doubled from five to ten, isn't quite as silly as the Dodo's demand that "all must have prizes", it is enlivened by the same spirit. All must have honorable mention, and any boost in video rental revenue that might accrue from it, in the hard commercial reality that is our side of the looking glass.

Perhaps the diluted field of nominees will subsequently dilute the indignation of arbiter elegantiarum and also-ran alike when the Academy, say, acquiesces to the brute force of box office by honoring the technological brilliance and treacly storytelling of Avatar, or, observing some other shadowy political consideration, declares the shopworn caricature of masculinity at war that is Kathryn Bigelow's capable but unexceptional The Hurt Locker worthiest of worthies. There are more important foci for one's outrage after all.

Speaking only for myself and having just endured Avatar with a novel combination of awe and abhorrence, I must give Mr. Cameron his due, earned by the sheer scale of his ambition and the fruits of his technical innovations. Uncle. If today's self-styled cognoscenti condition their praise (or praise mostly out of fear Cameron--or an avatar thereof--will turn up at their door in some sort of amphibious/aircraft/diving-bell plaything), tomorrow's will resurrect him in some future Next New Wave movement. Right now it's just "too soon", like joking about a recent human calamity.

Still, I protest hoarsely through this constricted windpipe: while I understand the epic expenditures of these films necessitate a simplified story that travels well from language to language, need they be so cloyingly cliched? To resort so reliably to hoary politico-sociological themes? I'm just asking. The vast back-catalogue of Western art that is our great public domain brims with basic, broad story-lines that have long ago proven their cross-cultural appeal. Pick a template and leave the demagogy to the politicians, I shout up at the colossus (only echoes answer).

Cameron's recourse to the theme of colonial capitalism despoiling a land and the wise pastoral folk intimately connected to it for his science fiction epic takes fashionable liberal misanthropy to its logical conclusion. You hate the rich? The West? White people? The male sex? Corporations? All of the above? Sluggard! We hate humans. Game, set, match.

But where does one go from here? The charitable view has Cameron merely throwing red meat (or, more appropriately, something fair-trade and/or free-range) to the censorious set to pacify them as he indulges his, and our, appetite for spectacle. It's a shopworn conceit already after all (I'm sure I recall "I don't like humans" surfacing as an epithet for this passé pose years ago among the hipsters). But what to do when, once led by the Sherpas of sanctimony to the summit of conspicuous contrition, we find the land already settled? Come back down, I implore; way too much development on Mt. Misanthrope.

But this is no answer for the ambitious. As a general in the regnant cultural empire, he must conquer new territory always, thematically as well as technologically. It matters little to the martial hero what standard he bears, as long as it bears him. So, if the noble ideal of racial equality, bogged down in the stubborn swamps of human nature, had to turn on itself and declare first that one race (guess which) should become the cathartic repository of the resentment of the rest, then finally that race as such is an illusion (created by the aforementioned "race" and its "science", thereby brilliantly adapting the shoddy narrative while keeping its villain ever in the foreground) then it necessarily follows that the species itself eventually has to fall from grace.

This we already know as the extreme boundary of environmentalism. Just as the noble ideal of equality of the races of man before God withered in the absence of God and became the perversion, and inversion, it now is, the eminently practical ideal of maintaining the environment for humanity's preservation has gone the same route. Some now proclaim humanity is the disease threatening the environment's preservation. First the White man as scourge of the globe, now the species as a whole is the great cosmic pestilence. Next up: "species" do not exist.

Forgiveness is a necessary component of the movie-going experience for all but the best directors in this cinematic Age of Indulgence. All things being equal, artistic freedom is a good thing. But when are all things ever equal? Many of today's directors would benefit from a little more harness (I know we would). Taking in a little Tarantino? Don your lead apron of lenience against the careless doctor's irradiation of idiocy. Bring a jumbo-sized tub of forbearance, salt it as necessary with resolve, and enjoy the pretty flashing pictures. Just don't confuse them with reality, or imbue them with morality.


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