Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Way to go, Max.
Go read his response to the idiot nationalists.
What's next, "Peace with honor?"

And more from Democracy Arsenal.
I don't understand how people can write this way. It's not the ideas that bother me -after all they're mediocre, but so what?- it's the form. This is accountants' language, no more and no less: the complexities of the world supplanted by simple categories expressed with empty adolescent confidence.

According to Susan Rice of the Brookings Institution Iran is " ...a real and urgent threat in the form of a terrorist regime soon to have nukes..."
According to the New York Times today it is a nation where for the first time most of the best selling authors are women.
Who would I rather have tea with, Susan Rice or Riverbend, Laura Rozen or Samira Makmalbaf, Garance Franke-Ruta or Marjane Satrapi?

Political 'Science' or History: why should there be a conflict between the two?
But there is, and I'll side with the latter, every time.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

How Pathetic is Liberal Politics?
Progressivism as defined by Josh Marshall is the philosophy of the sincere interest of the strong in the welfare of the weak.
A realist would say it should by defined as the defense of workers by themselves.. Marshall's progressivism in domestic matters, unlike his nationalism in international ones, is a philosophy of good intentions. I'm amazed again and again by the inability of American liberals to perceive the weakness of their position.

The working class in this country, as evinced in its popular culture is apolitical or anti-political. I have no solution to this problem, especially since I'm a fan, but at least I admit the conflict between my ideas and my tastes.
---

"...and economists are at the "market fundamentalist" end of the spectrum of people."
---

This is both pathetic and hilarious:

"It is a mystery why fans spend almost all of their music money on product of very recent vintage. Until we untangle this puzzle, and we have not yet, we will not understand how Internet music is likely to affect consumer welfare."

and: "Right now we do not even know whether music is being oversupplied or undersupplied, relative to an optimum. Beware of any analysis of this case which does not consider these deeper underlying issues."

The complete dumbing down of intellectual life.
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And this courtesy of Laura Rozen: [The first link is dead. The author is Phil Carter]
On Thursday, I received orders from the Army mobilizing me for Operation Iraqi Freedom. These orders followed an earlier set, cut on Tuesday, which transferred me from the Army's individual ready reserve into the 101st Airborne Division. It's an honor and privilege to deploy with such a storied unit -- a band of warriors who have nearly all deployed at least once since 9/11. I'm scheduled to report for active duty in a little under 3 weeks to Fort Campbell, Kentucky. After some period of pre-deployment training and preparation, I will deploy with my unit to Iraq.

It's difficult to describe the swirl of emotions I have now. I'm excited about this opportunity to serve, but also apprehensive about what lies ahead. I'm worried for my family and friends (this will be harder on them than me), and I will miss them terribly; but I'm also comforted by the strength they have displayed over the past few days.
A 'warrior' is a killer and being 'excited' about an 'opportunity to serve,' is being excited about the opportunity to be a passive agent of abstract authority, in this context to kill while being absolved of moral responsibility for the act of killing.

Monday, June 27, 2005

I'm packing up books to sell, and I'm still finding things. My own pile of boxes is up to at least ten. Today I was in the basement, with the shelves for American literature, politics, and modern theater. I grabbed 5 issues of Partisan Review from 1950-51, some early printings of British plays known and unknown to me from the 50's and 60's, "The Report of the Cultural and Scientific Conference for World Peace" held in NY in 1949, and some pamphlets of the Weathermen and the Resistance. I also grabbed an old Modern Library Giant of Hawthorne and some things by Eric Bentley. Upstairs earlier I grabbed old editions, from a set, of Marlowe, Webster, and Dryden. Nothing is valuable. My parents were readers in the true sense of the word and I'm not, but there are still things I want. There's an element of nostalgia but less than I had feared. I'm letting a lot of stuff go.

An older post about family history and politics.

In the meantime:
What intellectuals lack in this country is a respect for craft. My parents were part of the history of this transformation. They dedicated their lives to the analysis of the meanings of craft, but were terrified of succumbing to its charms. Later generations are worse off. I'm speaking of course only of intellectuals, or of artists who pretend to have a prescient-predictive- awareness. Again I return to the difference between lawyers and philosophers of law. Lawyers are actors and actors of every other sort are the most anti-intellectual of artists, but I'm finding them less and less annoying as I grow older. My father wrote his dissertation on Nathaniel West and I joke that I want to be happy in the absurdity of Hollywood. Life is only tragic if you take it seriously

What things have we seen
Done at the Mermaid! heard words that have been
So nimble, and so full of subtle flame,
As if that every one from whence they came
Had meant to put his whole wit in a jest,
And resolved to live a fool the rest
of his dull life.


Is it possible to be political, to be engagé and to think the whole thing, politics included, is a joke?
I can't imagine it any other way.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

I've spent the last few weeks with my brother and sister sorting out our mother's -and my father's- estate, and the past week going over the six thousand or so books in the library the two of them built up together and separately over 60 years of reading. A friend of theirs once called it 'the best private library in the city of Philadelphia,' which was a bit of an exaggeration. She thinned it out a lot after my father died (tossing out nearly everything by Norman Mailer) but even after the culling it remains pretty much what it was: an archive of post-war American intellectual life, international and left wing in the manner of the day. My father went to Brooklyn College, the University of Minnesota and Berkeley on the GI Bill. My mother, who was from St Paul, attended the final two. She was two months shy of completing her course work when they moved east. Both were active in politics from the mid 50's, in the era in California of Caryl Chessman and Harry Bridges. My mother was one of the designers of the curriculum that Gov Ronald Reagan later used as one excuse, among others, to attack Clark Kerr, ending his tenure as President of the University. Her first husband went on to become press secretary to Vice President Humphrey, and her father, as I've mentioned previously, invented the thermostat, or at least the most famous one. He had owned a phone company, which explains the coil spring mechanism. Pop the top off of one of them and take a look.

Friday, June 17, 2005

The place where I stand gives way to liquid lino
Underneath the weeping willow lies a weeping whino
The place where I stand gives way to liquid lino
Underneath the weeping willow lies a weeping whino
The mind's a crowd -- search for the the spaces
And turn around time's gone, take ten paces.
Been up ahead - can't make head or tale of it
I drink till I'm drunk, and I smoke till I'm senseless.
You see in black and white, feel in slow motion,
I drown myself in sorrow, until I wake up tomorrow.
The illusion of confusion is not from where I am sat
(Tricky: recycle resemble me)
Different levels of the devil's company
[Primera.]
They lead us outside, take us out quietly
To the cage through the bars
You see scars: results of my rage
The place where I stand gives way to liquid lino
Underneath the weeping willow lies a weeping whino
The place where I stand gives way to liquid lino
Underneath the weeping willow lies a weeping whino
the mind's a crowd -- search for the the spaces
And turn around time's gone, I take ten paces.
Been up ahead - can't make head or tale of it
I drink till I'm drunk, and I smoke till I'm senseless.
You see in black and white, feel in slow motion,
I drown myself in sorrow, until I wake up tomorrow...
(Tricky: The illusion of...until I wake up....)

Tricky: Ponderosa
Two from 08/03:

On Hobsbawm and things in general

On the same, and the glories of the immigrant middle class

from the first:
People who imagine themselves as adventurous often feel frustrated around those whom they perceive as being static or unimaginative. The rise of liberalism is seen by many as the rise of freedom for the curious, and libertarianism is the most extreme version of this romance. Among the only groups who have seen it as their goal to defend the 'less imaginative,' to defend the people who want nothing more than to be left alone to their small lives, and who made this defense without defending reaction - among the only ones who have promoted the active involvement of such people themselves in their defense- have been those associated with some aspect or another of communism.

It takes a certain kind of intellect to defend the notion that the world is not the playground of intellectuals. My impatience with the hypocrisies of liberalism stems from the sense liberals seem to have that what's good for them is good for the country; but as my old neighbors in Brooklyn will tell you, that isn't true. I have as much contempt for the hierarchy that once existed in the communist party as I do for the hierarchy that still exists in the far older conspiracy that is the Catholic church. But I have the same respect for the minor, the unobservant, or the casually faithful in both parties.
And of the rest, my kinsmen, I prefer the company of honest machiavels to earnest liars.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Doug Ireland

And he's good on Dean
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I used to read Ireland in the Village Voice, and I've read him occasionally in the Nation, but I've been paying more attention to him than ever on the web. He's not a technocrat or a defender of technocracy, he's neither a futurist nor a libertarian (and not a technophile) and his internationalism is as matter-of-fact, as assumed, as the middling and puerile -unexamined- nationalism of Laura Rozen, Matthew Yglesias and Josh Marshall. Not for nothing is Marshall's new pet project now on my link list as 'Starbucks'.
Every so often I would find myself arguing with my mother about something or someone that annoyed me, only to realize that the only reason we were yelling at each other was that she could not imagine an educated person having the opinions I was ascribing to those who were pissing me off. Talking to a cousin after my mother's death, a woman from my mother's side of the family who is both older than I am and more familiar with the family history, I referred to her late aunt as 'a communist from a good family.' Cindy laughed a laugh of recognition I had not expected.

My mother would be disgusted by the current taste for engineering in intellectual life. The vulgarity of such a view mirrors the vulgarity of the rest of the country and adds to that the hypocrisy of pretense (vulgarity bothers me less and less as I get older.)

More than one person has made the comment that in order to allow even the slightest continuity in human experience, every sensation even or especially the new or anomalous must be 'recognized' or categorized in relation to what we already know and to patterns which we already accept. This defines and problematizes all perception and communication, and I doubt science will ever have an answer. Certainly the illusion of a 'science' of language or politics helps nothing. My experience of cognitive dissonance in the tastes and ideas of Brian Leiter and the headaches that result from my reading of mainstream moderates like Josh Marshall and Laura Rozen are not that different from each other. What does it mean to say that "Iran is a threat to US interests"? I really have no fucking idea, unless one takes for granted precisely those things I refuse to.

And as per the NYRB letters section this week, those involved in the philosophy of mind are bogged down by the same problems: the inability to see and accept a solution in ongoing dualism. A mind as opposed to a computer processes information in two ways, as continuation of a process of conditioned response and as sense data that can be responded to by means of logic. These two means of organizing data are in conflict, and whichever wins the fight in any given case, the struggle leaves a mark. Is the mind a computer? Give me an indecisive computer, a neurotic computer, and I'll say yes.

And Brian Leiter says he has no close friends in english departments.
Go back to high school kids. And try growing up this time.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005



It was very hot this past week, and my mother never owned an air conditioner. I put a bucket of ice in front of the fan in the window and a few of us took turns putting wet towels on her arms, legs and face. Soon before she fell asleep for the last time she sang a short funny lyric. I laughed and asked her what it was from. She said Oklahoma, and I googled it.

"He's lookin' oh so purty and so nice
He looks like he's asleep,
It's a shame that he won't keep
But it's summer and we're running out of ice."

She died the next day; after a crisis that we were told was probably more painful for us than for her.

Jane Edenbaum, née Klingel
Nov 1 1928- June 11 2005.

---
The music is Rosalyn Tureck's performance of the Aria from The Goldberg Variations. My mother had been playing Bach for the past 30 years -my earliest memories were of Debussy, Satie and Scott Joplin- and Tureck's performances were favorites. Her father bought her a baby grand for her 5th birthday, picking it up in a local department store in Minneapolis. She replaced it a few years ago with a Yamaha, donating the old one to a local high school.
If anyone around Portland Maine is interested in a 10 year old grand piano (under 6') with a good sound and in excellent condition, drop me a line.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Pore Jud is Daid

Curly:
Pore Jud is daid,
Pore Jud Fry is daid,
All gather 'round his cawfin now and cry
He had a heart of gold
And he wasn't very old
Oh why did such a feller have to die?

Pore Jud is daid
Pore Jud Fry is daid,
He's lookin' oh so peaceful and serene

Jud: And serene!

Curly:
He's all laid out to rest
With his hands acrost his chest
His fingernails have never been so clean!

(Spoken)
Then the preacher'd get up and he'd say:

(Chanting)
Folks, we are gathered here to moan and groan over our brother Jud Fry, who hung hisself up by a rope in his smokehouse

(Spoken)
Then there'd be weepin' and wailin'... from some of those women. Then he'd say:

(Chanting)
Jud was the most misunderstood man in this here territory. People used to think he was a mean ugly feller and they called
him a dirty skunk and an ornery pig stealer

(Sung)
But the folks that really knowed him.

(Chant)
Knowed that beneath them two dirty shirts he always wore

(Sung)
There beat a heart as big as all outdoors
Jud:
As big as all outdoors.
Curly:
Jud Fry loved his feller man
Jud:
He loved hes feller man

Curly (Spoken):
He loved the birds of the air and the beasts of the field. He loved the mice and the vermin in the barns, and he treated
the rats like equals, which was right. And he loved little children. He loved everybody and everything in the whole world!
Only he never let on, so nobody ever knowed it.

(Sung)
Pore Jud is Daid
Pore Jud Fry is daid
His friends'll weep and wail for miles around

Jud: Miles Around!

Curly:
The daisies in the dell
will give out a different smell
Because Pore Jud is underneath the ground.

Jud:
Pore Jud is daid
A Candle lights his haid
He's layin' in a cawfin made of wood

Curly: Wood...

Jud:
And folks are feelin' sad
Cause they useter treat him bad
But now they know their friend is gone for good

Curly: Good..

Both: Pore Jud is Daid a candle lights his haid!

Curly:
He's lookin' oh so purty and so nice
He looks like he's asleep,
It's a shame that he won't keep
But it's summer and we're running out of ice.

Both: Pore Jud, Pore Jud.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

There's a difference between caring for someone, in the sense of emotional attachment, and being attentive to them, to their wishes or their pain. Pain itself is lonely and expressions of sympathy are often theater used to hide incomprehension and fear.
I'm watching the old watch their friend die. They have become professionals at this. They are honest actors: the most aware both of the distances between people, and the similarity of their experience.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Thank you, Max.

"We should also note a bit of revisionism on the liberal side. In a quest to simplify this to a black hat/white hat story, Felt is getting some kind of memorialization. Hear me now, and believe me later: Felt is scum. He was part of the scum-sucking FBI leadership, which had been neglecting real criminals and harrassing innocent persons on the left for decades. One of the more hilarious lines from some righties is that Nixon's people were trying to reform the FBI, and Felt was interfering. As I've said before, this was a dispute between rival crime families."

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Places to go and things to do. Life is short.

Still:
Amusing to think -however darkly- that, after all the shit I toss at the academy, in a few months I will be receiving the benefits of full professorship at a major east coast university.
My father had his pension guaranteed for 20 years, and now it seems that neither of my parents are going to make it to that point.

"I've had a pretty good run" she says.