“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, February 25, 2017

How is the Dem party like the Titanic? In every way. No Joke

So on the same day the Dems dub ex governor Beshear - a name that is well known to every American household - to reply to Trump's state of the union speech, they elect Perez to chair the DNC. And the Titanic sails on! If I didn't believe that the spontaneous disgust of the American people for Trump will find a form, I'd be in despair. Beshear is a dem best known for advocating bipartisanship and shilling against obstruction. The response of this unknown outside of Kentucky seventy year old white guy to Trump will go down like jello with a laxative chaser. I can just hear, already, the agreements we have with the President! How we all have to push together! Push push push, push into the abyss. If they were going to put an ancient governor up against Trump, they shoulda chosen Jerry Brown, who is 80 but sharper than the whole DNC. But why give a shoutout to the most populous state in the nation when we can give a shout out to the loser from Kentucky? It is decisions like these that make me wonder how much further down the D party is going to go.
But at least, while demonstrating our abhorrence at Islamophobia, D's have also shown the American people that we are all right with islamophobia if it comes from big Democratic donors like Saban. So there is that.
Another day, another small triumph of cretinism. But at least it is sideshow cretinism.
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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

reading while white: Hurston and an image


I was puzzled about a passage I found in Zora Hurston’s Tell My Horse, and looked around for a gloss. The passage interested me, as it takes up the idea of the extermination of a race or ethnicity – a menace much in the air in the 30s, when Hurston visited Jamaica and Haiti. And, really, this is always in the air, the radiowave patrolled air, where a majority, or a group of people having an image of themselves as rulers evolves a history of oppressing a more powerless skin color, religion, or ethnicity. Extermination is the end point of racism, its utopia, the Lebensraum where Leben is much of a sameness. After explaining that Jamaican “mixed bloods” set themselves up as much higher beings than “negroes’, and encourage valuing whiter skin over darker skin, Hurston writes:

Perhaps the Jamaican mixed bloods are logical and right, perhaps the only answer to the question of what is to become of the negro in the Western world is that he must be absorbed by the whites. Frederick Douglass thought so. If he was right, the the strategy of the American Negro is all wrong, that is, the attempt to achieve a position equal to the white population in every way but each race to maintain its separate identity. Perhaps we should strike our camps and make use of the cover of night and execute a masterly retreat under white skins.If that is what must be, then any way at all of getting more whiteness among us is a step in the right direction. I do not pretend to know what is wise and best. “

The one person I’ve read who commented on this passage assumes, with no reference to the cues in the text backing that assumption, that Hurston is just being sarcastic. And the idea of retreating under white skins is a sort of mix of Looney Tune cartoon and bible image that might, broadly, be an indicator of sarcasm. However, I take the sentence to be Hurston’s way of maintaining a certain authorial inscrutability.The deadpan presentation of an exterminationist vision without 'pretending' to know if it is wise or best is a way of making us look at that vision not as something we refuse right off, but as something that we might be complicit in.
So much for my own readerly sense-making. But what really struck me most there was the popping up of Frederick Douglass where I wouldn’t have expected him – on the white skin side of things. I went wha??? Since Douglass seems to me an emancipatory figure that I would figure Hurston would like. How did he get in here?

It took me a while to realize that this was a question that marked reading while white. For when I looked into it, I discovered that Douglass’s second marriage to a white woman had a tremendous effect on his reputation both during and after his life, especially in the African American community. Surely it is this marriage that Hurston is alluding to, since there are no passages in Douglass’s writing that urge such drastic amalgamation.

I of course could be wrong in this conclusion. Regardless, Hurston’s style here is beautifully modernist – a lightening stroke of reference, and the image of striking camp under cover of night – of darkness – that involutes infinitely a retreat that advances us literally into the arms of the White race. For sheer lines – and I read for lines – Hurston has that twenties, that almost Augustan, wit, playing the dozens Dorothy Parker style.

Of course, another reading would be that Hurston took her cues from the linguistic patterns of black folkculture. Of this, there can be no doubt – but at the same time, she wrote for Henry Mencken’s magazine, American Mercury, and she definitely bears some marks of the house style, just as Updike bears marks of the style of the New Yorker.

Monday, February 20, 2017

impressions from the arizona tourist belt

 I never spy anything instructionally pure with my little eye. My eyeball is attached to my prejudices, my experience, the perceptive style that is the endproduct of my personal input (to a very small degree) and my circumstances (both conscious and unconscious). So as we traveled the gamut of Arizona, from on hotel to another (from Great Westerns to Scottsdale and Sedona spa + hotels), I was comparing it to my abstract sense of Arizona as a rockribbed Republican state, the one that rejected MLK Jr. Day, the one with Joe Whatshisname, the Bull Connor of Maricopa County, as its sinister symbol.
It turned out that our brief vacation intersected with the massive retirement belt that goes to Arizona for landscapes and bargains. The contrast with California struck me first. In California hotels and vacation spots, there’s a babel of languages (Russian, Korean, Spanish, French etc.) and the caucasion monoculture is plenty diversy-fied. In Arizona, the monoculture rules. These, I kept thinking, are the faces that voted in President Dipshit. But – re that first graph – I had no way of knowing that. Perhaps, by some anomaly, the happy hour at the Dunbar Hotel in Flagstaff (I’m not going to check out its real name, which was something like Dunbar. But gotta recommentd the happy hour – free kickass Bloody Marys!) attracted HRC voters. I’d double down on doubting that, though. Thing is, the faces I saw were not smug or contented – this ain’t Flaubert’s bourgeoisie. They were puffy and aggrieved, pocky and sour around the mouth. Perhaps I was too – traveling has a way of thinning your glamor, and leaving you with yesterday’s shirt and socks to wear today. Still, I couldn’t help but think, looking at the people of that same socio-economic class gathered together in the Phoenix airport to await the plane to LAX, that our Cali bourgeoisie look happier. We all wear the skin that nature gave us – few of us have botoxed it up – but the skin looks less like it contains some outrage that this is not what we were promised. I usually try to take the side of the aggrieved, of the loser, being a loser myself.  Born a loser, sounding like a loser, resentful like a loser, and wanting, finally, to stuff my loserhood in the mouth of established wealth and make them choke on it. Me! But in the tourist belt, I felt some distance between real circs – I mean, these folks were in a pretty good retirement situation – and grievance.

Perhaps this was just an illusion created by my not so innocent eye. But it left an impression.