Saturday, July 30, 2005
And it's not that the joke, itself, is so fucking funny - it's the extremity it goes to, and even now, without recalling the details, it breaks me up. I, myself, want to top a version.
It seems to me somehow appropriate to talk about this horrendously dirty joke after talking about Pynchon, because he goes to similar extremes - and sometimes to similar effect - in his books. The freeway pile-up of perversions in some of his sequences certainly rivals The Joke.- he dares you to laugh at them, then to take them straight, and then he shovels on another load, until you buckle, and only then, when you've been thoroughly softened up, does he needle in the larger insanities, the fetid history. Makes you laugh, then scares the shit out of you.
Sorry to clue our social conservatives in on this, but it's an ancient tradition; it's no mere conceit that it's a lost Aristotelian treatise on Comedy that is the motive for murder in Eco's The Name of the Rose. Comedy is intrinsically subversive, and The Powers hate that.
[Update: Thanks to Majikthise for this link - it's Cartman - she's right - not work-safe, and it gets right to business - and I had forgotten the 9/11 detail.....]
Thursday, July 28, 2005
"Pynchon from A to V" is the title, but I started with "V." A pattern was established; I'd read to a sticking point - in V it was the SW African horror - stop, stunned, pause for a few days or weeks, then start over from the beginning and sail through. Somehow this made the architecture of the books clearer, chewing them over without actively thinking about them. I am pretty sure there are many readers who come to Pynchon the same way they might Lamont Cranston - he Clouds Their Minds. I really loved the way he screwed with mine, so I kept coming back.
My favorite anecdote about reading him isn't even my own. I had set our LA reading group on Gravity's Rainbow, and my friend Peter took it with him on a business trip to the Netherlands. He was arranging a franchise for gym wear distribution (or something like that) and found himself out in the Dutch countryside with a bunch of male and female bodybuilders, whose only subject of conversation was their diets, their supplementation (licit and not) and their stats. In that cottage, Pynchon made perfect sense and seemed eminently sane.
Pynchon provides antidotes to some of our darkest influences. Ayn Rand? There's Mafia Winsom. There's the Disgusting English Candy Drill. Any recipe with "Surprise" in it's name. There's the Postal Conspiracy in Lot 49. There's Slothrop's lost harmonica, singing by itself in a German brook, and probably dreaming of Rilke. Makes me want to cry, it's all so funny, dreadful, beautiful.
He also writes great liner notes for Spike Jones.
[Update: See Neddie Jingo's Comment - and follow his URLs - like Kilroy, he got there first. He is now blogrolled.]
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
At the turn of the 20th century, James and Conrad wrote, respectively, The Princess Casamassima and The Secret Agent. Both featured anarchist plots, terrorist cells, and I long wondered why and how, because I grew up in an atmosphere and received memory of state responsibility for everything bad. Now we all know that isn't necessarily the case. Rowling is much more plain-spoken (and whimsical and funny) than those lapidary masters, but I think she is just as serious, in her own way, about where we are now as they were about where they were then. If you want a counter-argument for the hi-falutin idea that these books just aren't good enough, don't have the lift of exalted fantasy, well, tough shit - try Tom Clancy. I'm sure he has the answers, and they're working, they're working....
Not only do all of us pay for this, billions by the day/week/month, but it really does seem unlikely that there will ever be an accounting - Myst of War and all that. Once we throw these fuckers out, it will still take a decade to ferret out their crimes, if they haven't destroyed the evidence Decades longer to regain any honor for our country. Bastards.
Sunday, July 24, 2005
But there's much more to this fantasia on Nin and Miller than beautiful people fucking. It's about why they fuck, and sex as an exploration into unknown territory, and throwing away your provisions on the trek - it's almost a primer on Lawrence's notion of pursuing sex in the head, but it's not from repression. It's more like a grasping for sensation, and through sensation, for power, for knowledge. June, Henry's wife (Uma Thurman in a role that proved unequivocally to me that she had awesome resources) is steamrolled by her husband and Nin; she's just not in their hunger league - she hasn't their ruthlessness. And while she's the most spectacular and touching of their victims, she's not alone.
It's funny, but I dragged my psycho semi-ex to a screening in LA, and in spite of his enormous sexual street cred, he was - ahem - rather offended. Prudery from the oddest places. It's a very sexy movie, and because it engages the emotional costs of sex - especially to the bystanders in relationships - it may be too much for some people. Yet it has a lightness (there are jugglers and illusionists performing in the backgrounds and the edges of the frame) that promises some kind of survival, even for the disappointed. You don't get dipped all the way into the marvelous scuzz of Tropic of Cancer, for example, but watching Fred lop off the top of a perfect soufflé, plop it on his plate, and pass the rest on is - fuck! - delicious.
One thing I do find intriguing. On the IMDb site that gives ratings, women give this movie higher ratings than men. I'd be interested in feedback on that from readers. I'm not going to link to it, but John Simon in The National Review gave it one of his most deeply misogynist spits.
I already have a VCR of this one, but, savoring (and not having a tape player), I am pretty sure I want the DVD. Part of me can never let go of la vie bohémienne, just for sanity.
Thursday, July 21, 2005
I was grateful this last weekend for HP6 - a comforting, fast read, and one you knew you were sharing with kids, their parents, and escapists everywhere. For me, a very brief vacation on-the-job. I have also been very glad to see the Rove/Plame/??? story stay robust. SCOTUS/Roberts will be interesting, but his relative blandness is not going to give much traction (or distraction); this is the price of loss last November.
Michael Bérubé's Theory Tuesday this week was also cool. The "grisha" I go by here comes from roomies and friends in Slav Lang at school, and one of them was writing her dissertation on Shklovsky, so his prominence was a nice vindication of her choices. Glad to see the Russian Formalists in the mainstream. Sometimes I miss all of that so much!
Friday, July 15, 2005
Update: Whoa! Check out the TWN post this morning (7/16) -
Thursday, July 14, 2005
Furthermore, it now appears that remnants of Khan's network - the guys the Brits couldn't catch in the resulting high-speed diaspora out of Luton - were the people behind last week's London bombings.
My god, blowing an asset like Khan, when we already have such difficulty penetrating terrorist groups, seemed like incompetence at the time; now it seems nearly criminal, given the long-term consequences. Chalk up a few more casualties to the Bushies' determination to pay any price for the rule of the Republican Party, for what other reason was there for this botch than to distract and detract from their political opposition? Every time this government starts yelling about National Security, I feel less safe - they're playing us. It's Plamegate, it's the Downing Street Memos - all of a piece. And they are actively endangering us in the process of maintaining their grip on power. They really do take us for fools, for sheep, and we have (collectively, at any rate) given them cause to persist in that belief. Hey, let's withhold for a while, like the heroines of Lysistrata, and see what happens!
Once again, days are passing between bursts of posts - just been too exhausted from the job. Apologies, and a promise that it won't last.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
As I'm writing this, Andrea Mitchell (aka, Mrs. Greenspan), just told Chris Matthews on Hardball that this whole Rove story was of interest only within the DC Beltway, and that no one else was paying attention. Whoa! Is she gonna be surprised! She must have been reading The Note a bit too confidently....
Listen, I get The Note sent to me by e-mail every morning - it was fun during the election cycle last year, but now that the courtiers can be courtiers again, it's full of pure preening and disdain. Makes one want to trash the place.
Saturday, July 09, 2005
Let each true subject be content to hear me what I say;
With gilded staff and crossèd scarf the Maylord here I stand.
Rejoice! O English hearts rejoice! O lovers dear!
Rejoice, O City, town and country! Rejoice, eke every shire!
For now the fragrant flowers do spring and sprout in seemly sort,
The little birds do sit and sing, the lambs do make fine sport;
And now the birchen-tree doth bud, that makes the schoolboy cry;
The morris rings, while hobby-horse doth foot it feateously;
The lords and ladies now abroad, for their disport and play,
Do kiss sometimes upon the grass, and sometimes in the hay;
Now butter with a leaf of sage is good to purge the blood;
Fly Venus and phlebotomy, for they are neither good;
Now little fish on tender stone begin to cast their bellies,
And sluggish snails, that erst were mewed, do creep out of their shellies;
The rumbling rivers now do warm, for little boys to paddle
The sturdy steed now goes to grass, and up they hang his saddle;
The heavy hart, the bellowing buck, the rascal, and the pricket,
Are now among the yoeman's peas, and leave the fearful thicket;
And be like them, O you, I say, of this same noble town,
And lift aloft your velvet heads, and slipping off your gown,
With bells on legs, with napkins clean unto your shoulders tied,
With scarfs and garters as you please, and 'Hey for our town!', cried,
March out, and show your willing minds, by twenty and by twenty,
To Hogsdon or to Newington, where ales and cakes are plenty;
And let it ne'er be said for shame, that we the youths of London
Lay thrumming of our caps at home, and left our custom undone;
Up, then, I say, both young and old, both man and maid a' maying
With drums, and guns that bounce along, and merry tabor playing!
Which to prolong, God save our King, and send his country peace,
And root out treason from the land! and so, my friends, I cease.
[Beaumont & Fletcher, c. 1610]
Crooked Timber cites Noel Coward on London Pride - and I post a picture of the hardy flower above. The anthem to London was set by Benjamin Britten (rounded with an even older tune); there's a "Fuck you" in there to anyone who wants to limit the joy of rich communal society - moralists, puritans, tyrants, scolds. Rich and honored words, those with four letters!
[And honor to Liam, Claire, Pauly....mates of my heart!]
Thursday, July 07, 2005
"Michael Clarke, director of the Centre for Defence Studies at King's College London, said six bombs would mean at least 24 people involved in planting them in a targeted operation. The fact that London had been hit when the resources of the security forces were focused on the G8 summit at Gleneagles indicated some clever thinking by terrorists.
"It will have been quite a big plot and months in the planning," said Prof Clarke, who declined to speculate who was behind the attacks at this stage."
I am waiting, with bated breath, for our splendid spokesmen at State and Defense and the White House to now explain to us how they were always on top of this hot plot, and to see which of their fucking fingers they will point at what state sponsor or - failing that - the insufficiently muscular Brits, and - naturally failing that - the aid and comfort and encouragement given to the terrorists by Liberal (but genetically traitorous) Americans for questioning our Dear Leader on his tipsy bike rides through G8 summits. Watch and learn.
It's croc tears for Perfidious Albion - if any of the perps is traced to Galloway's new constituency - "months in planning" or not - there will be hysteria here for the UK to get tough and to make things worse than they already are. Fools. Utter fucking fools.
It was always impure, but I think it was, at heart, benign, for American missionaries to venture forth to foreign lands and give the best of themselves - they had many predecessors, and they learned as much as they taught, humility first, perhaps. The sons and daughters of PNAC know no humility - they come to conquer, and we should cut them off at the knees, now.
This must stop.
Update: From a reader over at TPM, it looks like Fox was licking their lips like Bloody Ghouls - I'd forgotten about that potential response. Just didn't fucking occur to me.... Was in brief touch with friends in UK (and they are fine, thank heaven); they report the agitation as general - more on the mood as I hear.
Except it was a lie, top to bottom, and the Wilson/Plame case wasn't some side issue, it was part and parcel of the whole schmeer - it was crucial that Wilson's report on the non-existent supply to Iraq of WMD materials be quashed at whatever cost to our real security. And this keeps pointing - to my simple mind - again to the question, "If not our national security, then whose security is being protected - for what reasons and to what ends?"
Come on, smarties, fill me in.
Monday, July 04, 2005
People go by; things go by. A horse, drawing a buggy, breaking his hollow iron music on the asphalt; a loud auto; a quiet auto; people in pairs, not in a hurry, switching their weight of aestival body, talking casually, the taste hovering over them of vanilla, strawberry, pasteboard and starched milk, the image upon them of lovers and horsemen, squared with clowns in hueless amber.
A streetcar raising its iron moan, belling and starting; stertorous; rousing and raising again its iron increasing moan and swimming its gold windows and straw seats on past and past and past, the bleak spark crackling and cursing above it, like a small malignant spirit set to dog its tracks; the iron whine rises on rising speed; still risen, faints; halts; the faint stinging bell; rises again, still fainter, fainting, lifting, lifts, faints forgone: forgotten.
Now is the night one blue dew.
Now is the night one blue dew,my father has drained, he has coiled the hose.
Low on the length of lawns, a frailing of fire who breathes…
Parents on porches: rock and rock. From damp strings morning glories hang their ancient faces.
The dry and exalted noise of the locusts from all the air at once enchants my eardrums.
On the rough wet grass of the back yard my father and mother have spread quilts. We all lie there, my mother, my father, my uncle, my aunt, and I too am lying there… They are not talking much, and the talk is quiet, of nothing in particular, of nothing at all in particular, of nothing at all. The stars are wide and alive, they seem each like a smile of great sweetness, and they seem very near. All my people are larger bodies than mine,… with voices gentle and meaningless like the voices of sleeping birds.
One is an artist, he is living at home. One is a musician, she is living at home. One is my mother who is good to me. One is my father who is good to me. By some chance, here they are, all on this earth; and who shall ever tell the sorrow of being on this earth, lying, on quilts, on the grass, in a summer evening, among the sounds of the night. May God bless my people, my uncle, my aunt, my mother, my good father, oh, remember them kindly in their time of trouble; and in the hour of their taking away.
After a little I am taken in and put to bed. Sleep, soft smiling, draws me unto her: and those receive me, who quietly treat me, as one familiar and well-beloved in that home: but will not, oh, will not, not now, not ever; but will not ever tell me who I am.
- James Agee, set by Samuel Barber to glorious music.
Saturday, July 02, 2005
Friday, July 01, 2005
The Embarrassment/Psycho-Surgery Meme:
Question number 1: What are three of the stupidest things you've done in your life.
a) High School Health Class, my junior year. It was held in a theater, not a regular classroom, and on this occasion was being taught by the football coach, who could have doubled as a slim sumo wrestler - for him, not an oxymoron. For some reason he called me out and asked if I liked contact sports, and if I would be interested in football. Much mirth among my classmates. No one had ever asked me such a question before, directly, but looking back I believe it was a sincere and honest offer. I was pissed off from not knowing how to answer (and from years of never having been offered), so I said, "No," even as I knew I did so out of pique. Would have done me a lot of good to take him up on it, and to this day I thank him for his generosity. As a good friend said, many years later, "When the cookies are passed, take one; they may never be passed again."
I would add that even if I had gone with the experiment, and it had not turned out well - if I had made an ass of myself - it would still have flushed out any number of other insecurities and doubts that I continued to bear (and bore myself with) for a few years thereafter.
b) Taking to heart what a cabdriver said to me. Big mistake.
c) Falling for a glamour/Psycho - this was while I was coming out, and this gorgeous guy took me for a ride. Huge black Benz, clear demo of criminal behavior, therapeutic manner - marked for Danger head to toe, and manifestly unstable, but absolutely fascinating. Everyone I had ever known before was just normally fucked-up, not insane. It did not end well (tho it galloped on very quickly), and I lost a great deal, but I also wised up. Fucking closet - get out of it! You learn nothing in there.
Question number 2: At the current moment, who has the most influence on your life?
Question number 3: If you were given a time machine that functioned, and you were allowed to only pick up to five people to dine with, who would you pick?
Dinner Party! - Socrates (a good listener), Ovid; Ben Jonson (allowing Will to take a nap for a change); Jane Austen (good manners, good eye and ear); Anthony Powell. This is not to pick brains, it's to have good company! And I don't think any of them had food allergies, or eschewed drink. There should be seven, so I could add two more women (I think Jane and Anthony might hit it off). Socrates can have his way with me. Pauline Kael would be great, I think.....
Question number 4: If you had three wishes that were not supernatural, what would they be?
a) Peace to my relatives
b) Health and long life to my friends
c) Regime change in the U.S.
Question number 5: Someone is visiting your hometown/place where you live at the moment. Name two things you regret your city not having, and two things people should avoid.
Regret Not Having:
a) A bigger, older, deeper, richer art museum - what is here is fine, just none of those things.
b) Less complacency
a) Clackamas Town Center - mall where Tonya Harding used to train - and environs.
b) Downtown Beaverton (if you can find it)
Question number 6: Name one event that has changed your life.
My friend Jeff walking into my office, looking for an apartment I had advertised.
Question number 7: Is not a question. It's a command. Tag five other people.
Command, eh? Who the hell are you? We'll think about this.....
Where the hell are the opportunities any longer to climb the apprentice-journeyman-master ladder? You make them yourself, if you are nimble, or else you cave, and settle for comfort, perhaps a hobby, at worst a taste for revenge. Nothing so corrupting as bringing down a boss whose job you don't really want - I've seen it in action, and it is ugly.
Jack-of-all-trades and master-of-none is, now, it seems to me, an old formula. Expertise is essential, or at least the capacity to acquire it (no one wants an amateur craftsman tinkering with their house, permanently). We are living through a time of governance by wish and whim, and it is not going well. There is no apparent love of country, justice, or law in it. These are dilettantes in the most shallow and worst sense - triflers, and they are playing with loaded guns, and waving thieir contempt - their big dicks - in our faces.