A Supposedly Good Book I’ll Finish Someday

Walk this way

I’m pretty sad David Foster Wallace is dead. I first became aware of his writing when “Shipping Out” was published in Harper’s in the mid 90s (later the lead essay in “A Supposedly Fun Thing…”). Besides giving me reason to never go on a cruise ship, he helped me be comfortable with the fact that I would never be comfortable with people who vacation on cruise ships. I never finished Infinite Jest not because I thought it sucked. I’ll give it another go-round one of these days.

Update: Presumably for a short time, Harper’s has PDF downloads of everything Wallace published with them in memoriam.

I watched Kansas City Confidential earlier tonight, another noir classic (viewable for free here). Ski masks were much scarier back in the day:

Jack Elam and Lee Van Cleef rock as the bad guys. Most of the action is in Mexico. For another south of the border noir movie that doubles as light comedy see Fred MacMurray in Borderline.

On Reality-Based Fantasies

Basement sunflowers

I had lunch in the restaurant above this basement karaoke bar but it was pretty unremarkable. Empty restaurants are even more creepy when the staff wanders around doing nothing looking sad. Maybe I’ll go back for karaoke and do my Jim Morrison/Ian Curtis.

My pal Foot Foot was telling me about a reality TV show she was watching based around funny animal tricks. In this one, a dog was trying to steal a ball from an elephant. Very exciting. The other day, I saw an ad for a show called “Ice Road Truckers.” There are lots of reality shows but of course, the irony is that “reality show” is an oxymoron. It’s all stagecraft innit in the same way a baseball or football game is stagecraft. Somebody has really funny ideas of what a reality show really is because “Deal or No Deal” is listed on the wiki. That’s a game show, but we get the point.

The Republican candidates have turned politics into a reality show which is [not] funny because I’m pretty sure the left coined the “reality-based” meme. Oxymoron city. I don’t wanna talk about it in this reality anymore. How ’bout that Hadron Collider? I want some of that glue that holds the universe together. That’s some real shit right there.

Throwing a Party? Fascist!

Fascists gather at Taxi Beach
Fascists gather at Taxi Beach

Pandagon and Digby confront the growing meme that Obama and his fans represent a rising onslaught of American fascism.

We have to recognize this and understand it. There is a very concerted and completely ahistorical effort to make “fascism” synonymous with “popularity.” As Jesse Taylor notes:

On the one hand, it’s an awful abuse of the concept of fascism, disrespecting the millions upon millions of people whose lives and livelihoods were destroyed because of the dream of nationalist identity and corporate power uber alles. On the other hand, it is remarkably entertaining to see them try to figure out how Barack Obama’s favorite ice cream flavor plays right into the hands of the fascist dream.

By this dumbing down of the word fascism, any concert, movie, speech, nice meal at a restaurant, disco dancing that a large group of people might pay money for becomes American fascism flexing its mighty fascist muscle. Give me a break.

Robots and Sunglasses

In which I shamelessly post in the style of This Recording….

I was watching Westworld (1973) a few weeks ago and a couple of images at the beginning of the movie struck me.

Obviously, they’re the same guy/robot and the implication is that they’re both robot pilots guiding the unsuspecting tourists to their doom at the hands of disgruntled robots. Even though Steve Vai believes his guitar is his personal window to his soul, the Hollywood tradition is that robots wear sunglasses to hide their eyes because eyes are the windows to the soul — and robots and governors don’t have one.

When Yul Brynner shows up in Westworld, he has creepy eyes with movie lights in them which is to say, this post is sort of about robot mythmaking. Oddly enough, in the movie, you differentiate the robots from humans by looking at their hands, not by the movie lights in their eyes.

(I was saddened when I realized that Yul Brynner had been reduced to a robot cowboy signalling the end of the Hollywood Western. The genre was briefly revived when Lawrence Kasdan did Silverado (1985) and then Clint Eastwood did Unforgiven (1992). Let’s face it: the genre will live on with a respirator the same way Elvis does).

People wear sunglasses in public, on the subway, and when they’re playing poker because they don’t want you to see their souls or their wandering eyes. Similarly, femme fatales and French film directors have souls of dubious provenance. Tut alors! They’re both (somewhat) French!

Celebrities wear the sunglasses and take their endorsements because even Republicans know that celebrities don’t have souls. And the whole history of sunglasses is wrapped up in celebrity culture and power culture. You can be an instant rock star by popping ’em on!

I’ve recently watched the first two seasons of the newer Battlestar Galactica. The show has a giant fanbase and a lot has been written about it already but maybe…. not…. I’m the first to observe that the robots … well, “skin job robots” … don’t wear sunglasses because they have souls. The best mindwarp of the show is that the “skin jobs” are made by the “Danger Will Robinson” Robby Robots. Thank goodness.

There’s an old science fiction book the Jesuits made me read called A Canticle for Leibowitz where humanity is doomed to reach The Nuclear Age, destroy itself, then evolve back up into another Nuclear Age, ad infinitum. The stories and the sunglasses just keep coming, don’t they? Here’s me editing this post….

Let’s watch a robot video. Robot video looker….

Drilling It All the Way In

Mirror dancing
Mirror dancing at Coney Island

Observed: faux pool sharks in the bar drilling their cues into the chalk cube for a full minute before each shot and circling the table like a vulture hawk. What a waste of chalk.

Naomi Klein has a follow-up on her book The Shock Doctrine up at The Nation and Alternet. It’s funny to me that both the far left and far right sometimes criticize her for raking it in off her book and “the system” she decries. That’s not it at all. Good ideas and sound thinking should be rewarded by any system. That’s it.

Back in Gold

Hudson River sunset, spring
Golden Brown, texture like sun

This blog was down all day as I have one of the “cheap hosts.” That’s all I’ll say about it except that I’m glad it’s back as I was wanting to blog all day– except now that I had to be uppity with the tech support and I’m not going to blog about that, I’ve lost the essay steam.

I saw Teenage Jesus and the Jerks last week and Lydia Lunch blew my mind. I hung out with her and Cesar in New Orleans for a day or two in the early 90s. At that time, Lydia was a retired no wave punk and a poet. Holy hell. She hated New York then and I really don’t think there are words to describe what she feels about New York now.

I went to the Mermaid Parade at Coney Island. It was fun but the buttloads of tourists, the millions of muscle cars and classic cars, the billions of digital camera shot putt clicks, have placed it on a new plane. Development is coming. I want them to tear down the block on Beach Blvd with all the furniture stores and put the shopping mall there. Keep most of the cool Coney.

My nephew is in Ghana and my brother sent some emails that have been coming back. Almost half of one letter was about his iPod and how he could recharge it.

I can feel a more substantial blog with many links and feigned outrage coming soon…

Survival of the Crunchiest

sfmoma catwalk
sfmoma catwalk
SFMOMA catwalk installation by Olafur Eliasson

Judging from other photos I’ve seen of this catwalk with nothing on it, Eliasson accomplished something unexpected in removing all sense of vertigo I usually feel when traipsing around in high places. I’ll have to see his show at P.S. 1.

I had a nice birthday yesterday. I have good friends.

I’ve been looking at Survival Acres and it’s all a bit fantastical. As a business selling survival gear, the fear-mongering is no less shameless than the posturing against Iran that’s in vogue. (See also Iraq WMD.) From the “About Me” page, “I am expecting a collapse of society and particularily [sic], the United States, someday, hopefully soon.” If it really all comes down to roving gangs smashing doors down for the last cans of Campbell’s Soup®, ShopRite Oatmeal, and freeze-dried stroganoff, a lot of us might justifiably off ourselves, thank you very much. Even if you’re out in some rural fenced-in compound with your own farmland and biosphere, will it be worth it? Maybe I’ll become an Eco-Geek.

Update: I heard about this the other night as it was happening. What the hell is going on in Harlem?

Redrum. I Mean Red Room.

Redrum, still at that bar

My nephew won a Battle of the Bands contest in Eureka, California. That’s pretty great when you hear someone play and you think, “That’s nice. Keep practicing.” And he does and wins a Battle of the Bands just like in the movies six months later.

The quality of blogging at This Recording has been prolifically surreal. I can’t think of a better way to spend your Sunday evening than clicking on all the links posted there in the last week. Or just look at the pictures and say, “Holy mackerel, that’s funny.”

The Great Communicator’s Communicator

Plugged in at Beauty Bar
Manicures at Beauty Bar
Friday Happy Hour Blogging

An exchange with a friend about Peggy Noonan’s column in the WSJ prompted me to dig out a few of the responses amongst the reality-based crowd. Firedoglake calls out her invocation of Henry Ford, an avowed anti-Semite honored by the Hitler regime in 1936. Media Matters notes Obama wrote a whole book on what he thinks about America. In 2006, Glenn Greenwald outed the Nooners for her slimy hypocrisy and what’s wrong in general with other pundits like Thomas pie-in-the-face Friedman.

Plus what’s with the whole smarmy “everyone is sick of standing in lines at airports” line? If you read some of the comments, even wingnuts are perfectly happy showing up a little earlier for safety’s sake.

PS: Yes, Beauty Bar has $10 manicures with a drink coupon during happy hour!

If It’s Spring, We Can Cozy Up With Them

Identify this flower, feel good for a minute.

A friend loaned me a camera! Haven’t used it yet… this is still old stuff.

Just some links to follow up on yesterday’s weirdness… Wolcott on Men Evolving Badly. I know what he’s on about but I am Superman, Underdog, and Spiderman all rolled into one. Just because I don’t blog about that part of my life doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Gosh, I know who Ayn Rand is.

I usually like Michael Pollan’s writing a lot but in the Sunday Times, he wastes a lot of space excusing poor leadership and encouraging us all to plant our own vegetable gardens because it’ll feel good. I’ll be looking at more of the green coverage coming out these days but the Me Decade was the 80s. This needs to be the Earth Century.

Hillary Clinton used to be very impressive. She just ran a horrible campaign.

The Next Feminist Platform

A fountain in the Brooklyn Botanical Garden
Riding a fish is funner than birthing one.

Feminism isn’t a topic I’ll post about much but I find the idea of Orgasmic Birth fascinating. Any wedge that puts a dent in the conventional Biblican wisdom, here specifically Genesis 3:16 –(“…I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children…”) — now that’s a good kick in the pants. Further irony lies in OB’s strong foundation in new age type spirituality and things like water birth, yoga, meditation, the “spiritual diet,” and ye, even Robert Bly stylee Male Energy. Contrast that with the criticism of Islamic attitudes towards women (not uncalled for) and you can see a clear modern-day evolutionary arc of human spirituality. Any anthropologists out there wanna discuss this?

I’ll almost be surprised if ABC follows through with broadcasting a special about this on 20/20 on May 16. If they do, it’s because of the sexy title and you know they’re going to have a C-section specialist crowing that a C-section is the safest, most pain-free way to have a baby and how could there be anything better than Modern American Medicine? Snort.

On a tangential note, just now, Martha Nussbaum was on Bill Moyers’ show talking about “Freedom of Conscience” and how the right doesn’t get it. This OB thing is going to be heavily ridiculed by the establishment thought police.

(Full disclosure: My upstairs neighbor, who I respect very much, is a doula specializing in water birth and also a talented birth photographer. And I read Feministing once in a while. I suppose that makes me a sensitive new age terrorist.)

Celebrity Endorsements
Obama sports a much vaster and cooler list of celebrity endorsements than Clinton does. Huffpo rightly puts this stuff in their Entertainment section but why not also list McCain’s celeb endorsements? Maybe because he’s only got four although I’d wager conservatives consume more celebrity gossip than others do.

Torture Through the Centuries; The Concise Wingnut

buffet from above

Walk on the ice cubes, not the hot coals

Want to know more about torture? I know that you do. Condi apparently discussed whether detainees should be beat, slapped, sleep-deprived, water-boarded, all the above. McCain’s own accounting is that he broke and falsely admitted to war crimes to make it stop. And yet he has recently flip-flopped on his advocacy. Torture is mostly useless for information-gathering. At best, the threat of it and knowing that it happens is a fear tactic used by tyrants to keep the hoi polloi in line. We’re no better than “our enemies” if we do it. I’ll take the soft cushions please.

My favorite wingnut watchdog has a big piece up at the Village Voice on the conservative blogosphere.