“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Saturday, October 27, 2001

Remora

The great images of prostitution in the 19th century - the century of Nana -- feed by unconscious and subterranian streams into the Storyville photographs of EJ Bellocq. Walter Benjamin would have recognized the spirit of the Passagen in the itchy copulations implicit in the professional smiles of girls reclining in desolate, straw cushioned cribs, or the sentimental decorations which cluttered the rooms of the higher class tarts, and the lost allusions to a debased and by this time comic myth of Oriental sensuality that runs right into the chinese motifs decorating the ceramic chamber pots under the often used beds in the quality houses as well as the porcelein bric a brac behind glass and lock and key in the overstuffed steamboat mansions along St. Charles from which the better, regular clients came. Ornament is crime, the Viennese Modernists said. Ornament is where the dream of Lustmord, sex killing, begins. Limited Inc saw Bellocq's work in Al Rose's book on Storyville. I was living in New Orleans then myself, and vaguely knew that Pretty Baby, the Louis Malle film, was based on this book. But when I looked at those prints, I knew I was seeing something mad -- something that Manet's Olympia hinted at. It was the madness of a man who can't get over what is between a woman's legs. He can't get over the sight, smell, touch of the thing, he can't get over how the vagina is the body becoming the body. Bellocq, of course, might never have read Nana, certainly didn't know Rimbaud, but this is what gives his work its power: he had to make it all up. The most startling photos were, of course, the ones with the heads of the women erased. The erasures are concentrated, jagged scribbles; they look as though they were done in some fury, figurative damage to a figure, the transfer of rancorous passion that still looks criminal. The story was that Bellocq's brother, a priest, must have worked over these photographs. Even then I wondered why a priest would be destroying the faces instead of the bodies -- what was the point? Now Lee Friedlander, who restored Bellocq's photos, is saying that he believes Bellocq himself did it. One of the Roses has a great article on the subject at Exquisite Corpse.



Here's a graf:

Recently, Lee Friedlander has re-examined the plates and tried to duplicate the scratching with a sample area, but the emulsion flaked off instead of scratching. The emulsion around the original defacement in some areas is folded over gently, and could only have done so when wet. Therefore, E.J. Bellocq probably defaced the negatives shortly after he developed them in the early 1900s.
In one photograph, however, a woman wears a carnival mask that has been incongruously positioned to hide her eyes, possibly echoing some ambivalence that made Bellocq scratch the faces from so many of the negatives. Yet the approach to the women's faces is not the only curious aspect of Bellocq's Storyville work. In one pair of photographs, a woman stands clothed in the first image in front of heavy wooden doors, but in the second image, she is nude, her face has been scratched from the negative, and a heavy couch has been pushed in front of the door. A locket, another repeating motif in Bellocq's Storyville work, also becomes visible in the second image. One of Bellocq's defaced nudes is actually shown examining her locket. But the pair of images mentioned above is not the only example of couches in front of doors in Bellocq's Storyville nudes. One such image shows clearly that there is already a lock on the door, and a cord from an electric light has further been wrapped around the lock in what looks like a final obsessive attempt at privacy. Why would Bellocq feel the need to use a couch, a lock, and a wire to keep the door shut in an expensive brothel? Rugs used as hasty partial backdrops and, in one case, sawhorses also suggest that Bellocq may have intended to drop the backgrounds from his images, vignette, or otherwise alter the images to imitate the saccharine romantic photographs and paintings he hung on his walls. In fact, one of Bellocq's portraits is clearly shown vignetted and framed in one of the two studies of his desk.


Friday, October 26, 2001

Remora

If you sup with the devil, use a big spoon, as Tolstoy, or my grandmother, said. Limited inc is always confusing our grandmother with Tolstoy -- difference is, our grandmother sold Avon, Tolstoy didnt. In any case, the saying means, if you dabble in evil, evil will get ya. And so it goes with this military campaign. Bombing Afghanistan, or Kabul and other targets, had a certain military logic. Just as prelimary bombardments in any war target military hardware, vulnerable personnel, and sites which are strategically key, such as communications systems, so I suppose -- we all suppose, here at Limited Inc, having only the filtered information that our patriotic media has so wonderfully denuded of any content shocking to the naive American citizen -- that was the point of the first wave of bombing.

Now, however, the bombing is serving another, and less justifiable purpose. In fact, unjustifiable, I'd say -- nasty, illegitimate, criminal, these are other terms that come to mind, but I'm a bit saturated with invective right now -- and that is to remind the Heimat that the commander in chief is still ferocious and on point. We have to consider the neandrathal element in the populace. In fact, they find ululation, here and there, never so clearly as in this posting from Scott Moore at Slate.

"But regardless of the source [of the anthrax], if you believe, as I do, that the poison is being spread by al-Qaida operatives in the United States, you have to ask: What the hell are we waiting for in terms of killing the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan? From what I read in news reports, we�re taking our sweet time about bombing their front-line positions. There have even been reports that senior Taliban leaders were fleeing Kabul and other cities to go to the front lines because they thought they would be safer there. Wouldn�t round-the-clock B-52 raids reduce the front lines of the Taliban to something resembling the pile at 1 WTC in a matter of days? But we aren�t doing that because we hope �moderate� elements of the Taliban will defect and form a coalition with the Northern Alliance after the war. Let me offer a suggestion: Let�s worry about post-Taliban Afghanistan post-Taliban."

Notice the clever/unclever phrase, "reduce the front lines of the Taliban to something resembling the pile at 1 WTC in a matter of days?" As if there were anything in Afghanistan that, standing or ruined, was going to resemble the tallest skyscrapers in New York City. It is the American conceit that all wars are winnable if you use enough ferocity. It stands in troublesome disjunction with another American conceit: that we fight for moral reasons only. If, for instance, Scott Moore had said that he desired, like Charles Manson, or Jeffrey Dahmer, to play in the slimy viscera of dead Afghanis, he probably wouldn't have had his forum -- but of course, he keeps his bloodlust technologically condomed, so we think, sure, let's use our vast explosive capacities to spread jihad warrior gore over the mudhuts of Afghani villages. Something in me, however, thinks this isn't a good idea.

It seems that all involved confess that the military gain to begin with was small. Now it is miniscule. And there is this thing about bombs -- explosions pick out bodies randomly. So with each new bombing, we increase the amount of collateral casualties. We in fact move from warfare slowly but surely to organized terrorism, in the classic sense of spreading terror among an unarmed population. The Times headline story today has definitely turned Limited Inc against continuing this phase of the war. Here's the banal first graf:

"Huge explosions shook Kabul today on the Muslim day of prayer as United States jets kept up their bombing raids on targets in and around the capital, witnesses said."

Tickets go to the first caller who names how many NYT headlines stories begin with "explosions shook Kabul today"...

If the UN does intervene here, it might save us from ourselves.

Guardian Unlimited Observer | Observer site | UN set to appeal for halt in the bombing

Wednesday, October 24, 2001

Remora
One Vincent Browne for the Irish Times has written a scathing newspaper column revealing a scandal of major proportions -- people on the Net were mean to him! In his first graf, he describes the response to an article he'd written, entitled Afghans victims of US terrorism:

"A Mr Nelson ... wrote: "I read your article and all I have to say is: go f**k you f***ing queer butt f***ing . . . I hope the US bombs Assolastan until every rag has been killed . . . Hope you get AIDS f***er".
There were tens of other such responses, in all 339 e-mails, almost entirely from the United States from people who had read the column on the Yahoo.com website, where it was posted. The response was overwhelming vituperation offering an insight into part of the mind of America at this time. Of the 339 responses only about 30 were supportive of the views expressed."

Mr. Browne goes on in the tone of shock I associate with schoolteachers asking, who threw that paperwad. He has either never written anything for the Internet, or has only transacted with the most high minded sites, say, the Wilfred Sellars Philosophy Portal. His last sentence is a good gauge of his mindset: we have either the unruly students over there, or the ones that did their homework over here. I especially like the "insight into the mind of America." Hmm, I wonder if Mr. Browne has ever been tempted to go to an Irish pub, and if he has, I wonder if he's ever strolled to the the Gents with a belly full. Now just Imagine him, dear reader, shaking off the excessive Harp, and surveying, with increasing consternation, the racism, the unwarranted, impossible and sometimes drawn suggestions re the female anatomy and its uses, and other scribbles indicative of the "mind of Ireland" at this time. Mr. Browne would no doubt tuck in and fly in the horror Christian shows in Pilgrims Progress for one of Satan's typical lures. Browne doesn't apparently know that between the ages of 12 to 21, there are a lot of boys out there, and they like nothing better than to say, "you f**cking c*cksucker", or use Assolastan (which just doesn't have the ring of the well beloved Assotollah of the hostage years). The prim, shocked tone, and the idea that the only correct response, indicative no doubt of the better sort, would be 'supportive of the views expressed" is the clincher -- I mean, this is the school teacher in a nutshell, this is the one it was so much fun, when I was in high school, to discombobulate -- the fart sounds coming from the back row, the stray spit ball, the furious threats to make all the class stay after school. It comes back to me in a rush, darling Clarkston High, which has proudly produced more than its share of illiterates and crack addicts. Join me now in a rousing hymn of the Pink Floyd favorite, 'We don't need no Education." Or no, don't. Just join with me in sending Mr. Browne a message.

Turning to the right, we have Andrew Sullivan, who seems to be thrown at me from all directions. Why is he famous and I'm not is the question many in my household ask. But let's not get into that. Two friends have recently sent me columns of his, and one of them was rather astonished at the flood she produced -- she said that my inexhaustibility on a subject where I was not being remunerated might have something to do with my lack of remuneration in general. This friend goes for the jugular, sometimes. Anyway, Sullivan, in a benign mood, turns his eye to the "loony left,' the knee jerk anti-Americans, the traitorous pink, and his eye alights, at last, on Christopher Hitchens, who Sullivan thinks shows some glimmering sanity, as he so manfully did about that outrage on the Constitution, Clinton's infamous bj, so that maybe, as these lefty cohorts fade away into the sunset, conservatives can grapple with respectable people on the left who agree with them at all times. The usual tripe, in other words. What I do think is interesting is the graf about Hitchens:

"One immediate response is to argue that the U.S. itself created Osama bin Laden in its war against Soviet communism. This isn't true--but even if it were, doesn't this fact, as Mr. Hitchens has argued, actually increase the West's responsibility to retaliate against him?"

Someone once said that in foreign affairs, as in love affairs, you always forget your next to last partner (okay, someone didn't say that, I said it, I just thought it sounded more sophisticated if I put in the someone said part). In the Gulf war, we turned on a dime from watching Saddam decimate Iranian troops with billions pumped into him from the Kuwaitis and the Saudis, and with our connivence in keeping his chain of material supplies alive, to Saddam as Hitler. Of course, the US didn't create bin Laden, they merely created the fundamentalist muhadjeen of the 80s, and then pronounced the ruins of a Soviet free Afghanistan a stunning success. What the left said at that time is that encouraging people to battle against communism is one thing, encouraging them to battle, as was done in the 80s, against atheism and civil rights for women in the name of Islam --- and if Sullivan was interested, he could find plenty of material that showed the US Intelligence people were not only doing this, but were quite proud of doing this ---- did infinite damage to the country. And that damage would be multiplied as the battle against godless Communism became the battle against the Infidel. Back in 1982, the latter phrase had a stirring ring, with CIA men fancying themselves little Lawrences of Arabia. Now, of course, we know what that means. To pretend this didn't happen is, well, did someone say the loonie right?
Dope

We at Limitedinc, in a vain attempt to become the Yuppie we used to despise (ah, and now we think, if only I had that much disposable income! And the insurance! And the SUV!), run � we run around Town Lake. This has become a necessary adjunct of thinking � we have an article to write, or a totally unremunerative post to post here, and we think it out while running.

So perhaps our mind is a little too vigilant, a little too quick to catch hints, but for the last five months, ever since the pedestrian bridge was thrown across the lake, we have been bugged by an architectural faux pas. The bridge is really a pretty structure, with scoriated cement arches footing it in the lake. It loads onto the South shore footpath from the North Shore. The north shore has a spiral entrance, which carries the pedestrian or bicycler about two stories up to the bridge proper. Or you can take the stairs, which also goes up to the bridge. There�s are two arms for the two entrances, which then come together to form the main bridge thru-way.

What is bugging Limited inc in this arrangement, which shows a maximum appreciation for us athletic Austin citizens? The entrances on the North Shore, as I said, go up about two stories, so the last supporting pair of arches on the shore face the spiral entrance. These arches have capstones. And --- here it is � the capstones are at different angles. In other words, the capstone front sides, which are marked by the symbol of Texas, the Lone Star, are wall eyed to each other. It looks disgraceful.

Now you are saying, perhaps the architect intended that asymmetry, and the angle between the capstones, which is some jagged number, 153 degrees or something, is subtly multiplied by some feature of the South shore landing. Well, short answer is no. We�ve gone over and over this bridge, and it turns out that Gaudi isn�t working for the department of highways and bridges of Texas. The capstone angle is a mistake.

How did this happen? Here�s what we speculate. Originally, the capstones were supposed to front the north shore in traditional alignment, one with the other. Then the entrances were added, or changed, in some way. And when the entrances were changed, they were speced according to some formula for bearing a load, and they discovered that the last supporting arches were somehow misplaced. So they moved the arches, and then they made room, in the more cramped space between the arches and the spiral entrance, by wall-eyeing the capstones.

Taking that scenario as true, for a moment, I imagine a further mistake was made. I imagine they specced the bridge with a weight per unit figure reflecting cars and trucks, not pedestrians. And if that is true, and here Limited Inc has become the paranoid he so dreaded becoming, perhaps THIS ISN�T A MISTAKE. In other words, the bridge was built so it could be converted to cars and trucks. And how would this happen? It would happen if the city, in its infinite wisdom, decided that the Lamar Boulevard bridge wasn�t big enough. In other words, they would decide they needed yet one more road to carry traffic through the city, north to south and vice versa. Now I think they wouldn�t dare do that right now, but it is easy to imagine a scenario. There�s a five car pile up on Lamar, for instance, and talk of how crowded it is, and how expensive to expand. And then covetous eyes are cast upon our pedestrian bridge.

So I say: change the capstones! The people, united, want symmetry or will fight, yeah! � we want them chanting that in the streets.

Tuesday, October 23, 2001

Remora

We love stories like this one. We love them because the people who accord them respect are the same kind of people who scoff at wild Kennedy assassination conspiracies; yes, people, like George Will, who accused Delillo of being treasonous for having written a novel, Libra, that implies the CIA bumped old JFK; or the people from the commentariat of the nyt who decry (oh, decry me a river, as Tallulah Bankhead once said) Oliver Stone's JFK for its fictions and hyperbole. But even Oliver Stone at least tried to make a convincing link. Here's the first two grafs of an AP story:

"Former CIA Director James Woolsey says Iraq likely was involved in the attacks of Sept. 11 and that the United States will probably confront President Saddam Hussein as part of its ongoing campaign against terrorism.

``There are too many things, too many examples of stolen identities, of cleverly-crafted documentation, of coordination across continents and between states ... to stray very far from the conclusion that a state, and a very well-run intelligence service is involved here,'' he told the national convention of the American Jewish Congress on Monday."

Here's Georgie Will on Libra:

"DeLillo says he is just filling in "some of the blank spaces in the known record." But there is no blank space large enough to accommodate, and not a particle of evidence for, DeLillo's lunatic conspiracy theory. In the book's weaselly afterword, he says he has made "no attempt to furnish factual answers."

Weaselly, huh? It's weaselly to say, I wrote a novel, not a history book? Hmm, well, wonder what George thinks of the phrase, "...stray very far from the conclusion that a state, and a very well-run intelligence service is involved here." Let's see, stolen identities, check for Oswald; cleverly crafted documentation, ditto; coordinated between continents, well, that is what you call petitio principii, begging the question, no? Still, I would like Woolsey to tell us who he thinks was at the crossroads in Dallas, 1963. But we know his answer: Saddam Hussein!
Dope
Limited Inc tossed and turned last night. In fact, we sleep so poorly lately that Insomnia has become our least favorite devil, and we are at a loss as to how to make terms with it. Benadryll doesn't help any more. Warm milk, not a chance; walking to and fro, exhaustion, lying still, lying under the sheet, pretending to be dead, turning on the light and deciding to read, turning off the light and trying to think of nothing, then trying to think of one thing, then trying not to let the mind get carried away by the thing that has to be done tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. All those nice, luscious stories about incubi and succubi are nothing compared to Beelzebub, Lord not only of the flies but of all buzzing night thoughts. The thought that we could open our eyes at any point last night was itself enough to drive us crazy.

Well, so we go to the National Sleep Foundation, my fave charity, and see what is up. We are greated with one of the great headlines of our time:


NATIONAL SLEEP FOUNDATION WELCOMES NEW FINDINGS SHOWING MINNEAPOLIS TEENS SLEEPING MORE DUE TO LATER SCHOOL START TIMES.

Where were these people when I was a punk?
Here's the kind of graf that makes teenage wasteland seem not so bad.

"Sleep studies indicate adolescents need between 8.5 and 9.25 hours of sleep each night. NSF surveys show that during the school week, only 15 percent sleep 8.5 hours or more, and more than one-quarter sleep less than seven hours. Because of their physiological changes, adolescents tend to fall asleep and awaken later, which can find their body clocks in conflict with school clocks if classes begin at a time when teens want to be sleeping. The result is that too many teens come to school too sleepy to learn. "

Well, the greatest non-sleeper in history is Macbeth. But Freud points out that Macbeth was not exactly the sleepless one:

"One is so unwilling to dismiss a problem like that of Macbeth as insoluble that I will venture to bring up a fresh point, which may offer another way out of the difficulty. Ludwig Jekels, in a recent Shakespearean study, thinks [Endnote 5] he has discovered a particular technique of the poet's, and this might apply to Macbeth. He believes that Shakespeare often splits a character up into two personages, which, taken separately, are not completely understandable and do not become so until they are brought together once more into a unity. This might be so with Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. In that case it would of course be pointless to regard her as an independent character and seek to discover the motives for her change, without considering the Macbeth who completes her. I shall not follow this clue any further, but I should, nevertheless, like to point out something which strikingly confirms this view: the germs of fear which break out in Macbeth on the night of the murder do not develop further in him but in her. It is he who has the hallucination of the dagger before the crime; but it is she who afterwards falls ill of a mental disorder. It is he who after the murder hears the cry in the house: "Sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep ..." and so "Macbeth shall sleep no more"; but we never hear that he slept no more, while the Queen, as we see, rises from her bed and, talking in her sleep, betrays her guilt. It is he who stands helpless with bloody hands, lamenting that "all great Neptune's ocean" will not wash them clean, while she comforts him: "A little water clears us of this deed"; but later it is she who washes her hands for a quarter of an hour and cannot get rid of the bloodstains: "All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand." Thus what he feared in his pangs of conscience is fulfilled in her; she becomes all remorse and he all defiance. Together they exhaust the possibilities of reaction to the crime, like two disunited parts of a single psychical individuality, and it may be that they are both copied from the same prototype."

Distributed insomnia. Well, whoever lost his insomnia, I found it. Call immediately. It answers to the name of Warmed Over Death.

Monday, October 22, 2001

Sunday, October 21, 2001

Remora
We at Limited Inc are a little nostalgic for the blood sports of yesteryear -- the homicides that use to fill our tv time before the 9/11 6,000. Remember when all of America was obsessed with whether an aging ex-football player slaughtered his ex-wife and her boyfriend? Remember how this was considered (God knows why) some kind of naked encounter between black and white skin (Limited Inc must confess that we were less than enthralled by the OJ Simpson case and its ultimate meaning. That millionaires commonly get off of homicide raps was not news to people who have lived in Texas for more than a couple of months -- surely you could throw a good sized party with just the unconvicted Sugar Daddies of Fort Worth, not to mention Dallas. The revelation, to us, was not racial, but the house guest situation in Brentwood. That it was possible to roll in the lap of luxury, swilling liquor and eating hors d'oeuvres, without paying rent - and that the only job requirements were good grooming and availability for any late night hints from your host that his hands and teeth were dripping blood and gore for a secret reason -- that this job actually existed was was a crushing blow. We wanted to be Kato Kaelin! If you out there, reading us, are a homicidally inclined rich person in need of a house guest, please, we'd be more than happy. Just keep the fridge stocked, and we will bear infinite witness for you.)

Luckily, there will always be a Texas. The Washington Post has an amazing story this Sunday by Paul Duggan. It profiles the only full time pseudo hitman in the nation. And of course he works for the Houston police. The story begins with a typical day in his life -- there he is, sitting in a hotel room, listening to a wife's emotional plea that he take her money and eliminate her husband, so that she can find true love in the arms of another -- paid for, of course, by her husband's estate.

These two grafs are for those of you out there who don't believe me:

"Playing the part of the hit man was a 54-year-old undercover cop named Gary Johnson. Investigating murder solicitation plots and posing as a killer for hire is his full-time job, a busy specialty in Harris County, population 3.4 million. His beat is rife with big-money schemers and low-rent dreamers, many of whom, to their regret, have made the hit man's acquaintance.

In the last dozen years, working for the Harris County district attorney's office, Johnson has posed as a contract killer in about 100 meetings like the one with Lynn Kilroy. About 55 of those meetings led to murder solicitation charges against more than 60 people -- housewives, barflies, business owners, burger flippers, pencil pushers, an Elvis impersonator, even a church pianist who wanted the choir director dead."

And, okay, I can't resist one ghoulish note, though I usually try not to quote this much of an article. Here's my fave:
"Once he was offered a $22,000 speedboat, but normally his fees run in the low four figures. In 1993, a high school computer whiz named Shawn Quinn told Johnson he wanted a romantic rival slain, and he gave the hit man three $1 bills and seven Atari video games for the job.

"You want a $3 killing?" said the hit man, nonplused.

Quinn handed him a fistful of coins, making it a $5.30 killing, and said to look at the bright side.

"If you drive back on the toll road, you won't need to get change."

Apparently the neighborhood hit man is as much in demand as a good dentist. You see, you never know when your going to get tired of your loved ones in Houston.

Remora
Having an ancien regime taste for irony here at Limited Inc, we found this story somehow, well --- ticklish.
Vietnam Calls O.C. Group Terrorists

It appears that President Thieu's successors are alive and well and living in LA. Where else? An organization named Free Vietnam, which claims to be the true government of Vietnam (an obvious falsehood, since Limited Inc is the true and duly elected government of Vietnam), has been tending to its cred -- by which it earns "loans" from nostalgic Vietnamese businessmen -- by supplying available young and unemployed men with machine guns or bombs and turning them loose in Thailand. The Thais aren't amused. Two grafs:

"Vietnam has asked the United States to bring terrorism charges against the group's leader, former civil engineer Chanh Huu Nguyen, 52.

"Many times [group members] have organized bombings in Vietnam and against its agencies abroad," said Thuy Thanh Phan, spokeswoman for the Vietnamese Department of Foreign Affairs. "Vietnam has asked the U.S. to stop harboring, tolerating or supporting that group. It should punish those who commit terrorist acts on Vietnam . . . like Nguyen and his group."