“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

Sunday, August 13, 2006

professor challenger, the stupidity seismograph, and the WAPO editorial board

In the world of Conan Doyle’s Professor Challenger, there is always another fantastic machine being tinkered with in one of the world’s laboratories. Unfortunately, Professor Challenger was undone by one of those machines, Nemor’s diabolical disintegration machine, that makes objects vanish. Before Challenger vanished himself, however, he said something prophetic: 'You cannot explain one incredible thing by quoting another incredible thing,' said Challenger.

The Challenger principle is, of course, denied every day by the current administration of cons and imbeciles and their minions in the press. But Challenger himself might be inclined to give LI some slack on our latest invention. It is called the stupidity seismograph. The principle is quite simple. Just feed the editorials of the Washington Post to the machine, and you can actually map waves of stupidity as they travel from one pole of conventional wisdom to the other. I’m not sure how to patent it, however.

Today’s editorial threatened to shake the machine to bits, so powerful were these particular waves of stupidity. The headline – hold onto your hats – is: “A Month of War:
And now, at least a chance for peace.”

This is, perhaps, not as self evident as a 7 on the stupid scale to the laymen, but to those of us who have been using the WAPO editorial page (not only for our scientific studies, but as a highly satisfying way to wipe our asses), the blood in their mouth whoops of the editorial board, which dines on roasted cadaver of Lebanese child, with a little cream sauce on the side (a perfect meal for you and your date at Signature, the restaurant to go to in D.C.!) have of course been all about delaying peace until the land of Lebanon, and its people, were all in pieces. Imagine the moral imagination of a serial killer, wrapped up in the dulcet tones of Charles Krauthammer.

Nemor baited Challenger in that last, dramatic episode of the Professor’s life. He pointed to his machine and said, with a villainous voice: 'This is the model which is destined to be famous, as altering the balance of power among the nations.’ The balance of power among nations does have a way of generating villainy, especially when it is all about preserving an essential imbalance among nations, in which some are heros, bombing calmly and humanely in the most expensive machinery, while some are evildoers that out evil do Fu Manchu, lurking around in their villages and not even painting targets on their roofs or clothes. Disgusting subhuman… er, subhumans! Or to put it in the stupid tones of the WAPO crowd (this is a 7.5 – watch out!):

“Now the United Nations has called for the Lebanese armed forces to deploy to southern Lebanon and -- because they are woefully weak -- for an international force of 15,000 troops to join them. The resolution doesn't explicitly authorize the force to disarm Hezbollah but it does authorize it "to take all necessary action" to ensure that southern Lebanon can no longer be used as a base for attacks against Israel. Importantly, U.S. diplomats resisted demands that Israel withdraw immediately, which would have created a vacuum that Hezbollah would quickly have filled. Instead, Israel will withdraw as the Lebanese and international forces arrive, which could take several weeks.”

Ah, the security, the peace, as of the grave, and the moral benefit all the way around, of a force that “fills in” those untidy vacuums. That exist, alas, outside of one’s own boundary lines – although, as we know from the unenforced and apparently unnoticed 40 years of U.N. resolutions, those boundary lines on the west bank are a tricky thing! It appears that Israelis grow, actually, on the West Bank much like mushrooms – who knew? Which is why Israel has a justified claim there, and - vide the delicious WAPO op ed page - to Damascas, and actually to Baghdad, and beyond. Israel should, as we know, be exactly the same size as the Middle East. It would be, well, an opportunity, n’est-ce pas? Birth pangs of the new Middle East, where opportunity runs through the streets like white phosphorus.

Now the stupidity seismograph had to be turned off at the next paragraph. It started throwing itself around the lab, and issuing a most unseismograph like horse laugh. It did a jig, thumbed its nose, and finally made a long and disgusting fart sound. When we finally de-activated the gizmo, we were curious to see what part of the WAPO editorial caused that behavior. These were the words (warning: may cause heartburn, madness, and diarrhea – or an uncontrollable urge to pie pundits):

“Secretary General Kofi Annan deplored how long it took for the Security Council to act, but it may be that the damage inflicted on Hezbollah during a month of fighting is what led it to accept the terms of the resolution.”

You can’t get stupider than that, surely. However, we have not yet fed the seismograph the editorials praising the progress we are making in the Iraq war. We are waiting for funding to get a new, special alloy, a combination of iron, bullshit, and flipundium. Anyone who wants to fund or work on this project is urged to contact LI’s lab.


Patrick said...

I thought I'd just seen something in this post about 'wanting to pie' some politician, etc., which would have made a poor but semi-legal segue into book reviewing I've read and that you have to do, because there is the pie assassin in 'Cosmopolis', which I just finished last night due to your reminding me of DeLillo. Then I just read 2003 reviews of the book by Kirn and Kakutani, both of which are so unimaginably stupid I was glad to find the Mailer quote on Kakutani (you probably won't want to ask him about this incident). Unfair, in atrocious taste, and disgusting, I am nevertheless glad he wrote it about this ludicrous book reviewer:

'Kakutani is a one-woman kamikaze. She disdains white male authors, and I'm her number-one favorite target. One of her cheap tricks is to bring out your review two weeks in advance of publication. She trashes it just to hurt sales and embarrass the author . . . But the Times' editors can't fire her. They're terrified of her. With discrimination rules and such, well, she's a threefer: Asiatic, feminist and, ah, what's the third? Well, let's just call her a twofer. They get two for one. She is a token. And, deep down, she probably knows it." (link)

Googling for this brought deep disgust by Amardeep Singh, of whom I read one outraged sentence.

Anyway, that's by the by, the fact is that DeLillo has managed to describe the dead areas of the virtual new world and the 'last buildings of the exterior' with real gravity. He is able to write in weighty prose about what is being beamed up and liquidated. Rushdie can't do this; things evaporate even if they're earthy. Even worse in Eco's atrocious fiction. There's a painter named Christian Hellmich I saw at a Chelsea gallery in July who was able to paint the dead places in contemporary architecture much as DeLillo does with words. DeLillo gets a character which is much like Ray Kurzweil, Bill Gates and John Malone all rolled into one--and these reviewers act as if you could have ever written about these people before. You could not write about them, because they didn't exist yet. That is what is so different about today's world--mainly it is completely different and becoming more so. Didion cannot even do this, although she certainly does not evaporate.

Of course, it's fun for a jerky bitch like Kakutani or Kirn to put down the great author; they'd been anticipating the day. That's why I'm even glad your Norman Mailer wrote this unfair filth. At least it doesn't just vaporize with the computers at Long Sunday or many another place which has sterilized all its corners of lustmolch, the so-called Troll of Sorrow; and the way the world is sterilizing everything at increasing speeds.

All right, I know everything else is unfair too, but I am impressed that 3 years ago DeLillo didn't give a shit to impress people who want him to 'fulfill still further his great promise' (mainly for their own cheap beckonings, i'm sure, since he writes about a world in which they're going to lose their jobs). I am pretty sure the intense bastard can still do it, but he's the only one I've read in the 00's who still does it in fiction. There are some clumsy things in 'cosmopolis,' but it is a great novel. Stylistic criticisms they make had actually had rhythms that reminded me of 'Eumaeus' in 'Ulysses.'

In summary, I was interested to find out that book reviewers of fame can be remarkably ignorant.

roger said...

Patrick, here I disagree. I was so primed by Underworld -- for instance, the whole first part, with the wonderful re-enactment of the crucial baseball game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Giants that inserts his macguffin in the book (a certain now you see it, now you don't baseball that stitches zigzags in the plot -- a plot that attempts to swallow the whole of the Cold War --that it was almost hard to read. Because I thought, how can I ever compete with this (which is what I always think when I'm reading someone writing now who blows me away). But Cosmopolis let me down - I did not think Delillo got it, what was happening in the late nineties. He got the obscene wealth, and the limo as bubble - but not the way that wealth was made, or the fact that really, the nouveau billionaires were not the seventies heirs to wealth, sitting around doing coke and trying to cop feels of Bianca Jagger. When they tried to do that kind of thing - vide the infamous Kozlowski party - they ended up looking all too much like Arthur Anderson accountants who'd wandered into a sex club in San Francisco under the mistaken impression that it was a massage parlor were playmate hostesses. This was a different kind of Monkey pavlovian exercise -- the thrill was entirely in working the numbers. The drug was work itself, the feeling that the whole network was there at your fingertips to fuck with, but I got the impression that Delillo found the work itself boring. The office became the bubble. Usually, Delillo gets his sites right. It is totally important. The subway train for Oswald in Libra, the Greek Island in the Names, the North Carolina university in White Noise - they start out as sites. But I felt he never got the site right in Cosmopolis, and that the limo idea was a starter -- something you revise after you get the story going - which he, unfortunately, never changed.

Of course, we are being entirely off topic here, you know.

roger said...

were playmate hostesses -- with playmate hostesses. I'm typing typos today.

new york pervert said...

It was supposedly about the late 90's, but had already been infected by the post-9/11 world when those potentials were actually being realized (they had not gotten nearly that far in 1999). It's the first work I've seen which actively goes against the speeding technology as if there could really be an alternative to a vacuum. The idea of 'living on a disk' eternally is not that different from what you read now in Kurzweil's newsletter and books about the wonders of living 1000s of years in your new robot body. Kurzeil himself has weekly 'nutritionals' that are exactly like the daily checkups Packer had. Anyone who doesn't support these ideas as not only desirable but inevitable anyway is 'a Luddite.' The limo I couldn't swear to, but the 47th Street environments, new and old, have not been described as they are this well--it is that they seem to be beyond description, the very idea of trying to describe the electronic displays of financial info and outmoded ATM's in old-fashioned prose is so wearying a thought that there can seem to be no reason to bother with it, it seems so impotent compared to what is being described. I'll admit that it's the kind of novel only possible to write after you already have a huge reputation. If anyone today is writing with more real power about the moment in fiction, I'd be glad to know about it. Sorry for being so off-topic.

roger said...

I was just being a little Professor Unrat-ish with my off topic comment. Obviously, any comments are more than welcome!

I made it seem like the only standard was in capturing the moment, and I know that isn't true. However, there are novels that somehow do succeed by presenting some event in which, as though in a magic mirror, we can see the who's who of the fairest and the ugliest of them all. My favorite of those moments is the horse racing scene in Nana, which jumped out at me the first time I read it since it so seamlessly showed what Zola thought of the society that was heading towards the debacle that lay ahead and at the same time shows only what was happening with Nana going to the races, the jokes, the bosoms, the picnic lunches, the faux nobility. While I think Delillo is really good at that kind of stuff - painting, somehow, the very tug of the meaning of the thing on the burnished or rusty or tawdry or common or oh so trademarked thing itself - I didn't see it in Cosmopolis.