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Showing posts from August 5, 2001
Bits for today. --- One of my favorite French authors, Raymond Queneau, was fascinated by "homemade" science - theories developed outside the purlieus of rationality which unfold with rigorous logic from a set of illogical premises - like Novalis' "blue flowers" - encyclopedic offspring of the night, deviant heliophobes. Queneau worked, briefly, on creating an anthology of visionaries from old pamphlets, police reports, and other disjecta - rather like Foucault's later attempt to find, in the archives, micro-historical deviancies beneath the level of hegemony. Anyway, Queneau would have loved the internet. I just found the Ed Conrad site, which brought to mind, irresistably, some of Queneau's cases. If you've ever wondered if man really was around 300 million years ago, Mr. Conrad is your man. -- I was reading Richard Holmes Footsteps last night. Holmes is the biographer of Shelley and Coleridge. Footsteps is a collection of biographical essa
There's a sick and sad story in the The New York Observer about the end of Science magazine. The details are reminiscent of what has been happening at the Smithsonian - the same shameful trampling of a rich culture by honchos (in this case, an odious toad by the name of Nichols) who are under the delusion they are CEOs. There is, it must always be remembered, a price for charity. Name a stadium, a school, a museum after a corporation and soon corporation mores will haunt your hallways. To put an end to a magazine put out by a foundation that promotes science because it is a "drain" is outrageous - it puts the profit motive before common sense. I'll quote from two grafs in the article: "Its [the magazines] supporters have put up a Web site, , and are urging the academy�s international membership and other readers to register a protest at the site. "Naturally, The Sciences� impressive roster of contributing editors�Stephen Jay Gould,
Kiddies, gather round and let me tell you a story. This is the story of Mr. X and Mr. Y., who lived next to each other in a subdivision. Mr. X lived in a house approximately one hundred times bigger than Mr. Y. Mr. X held parties every night for hundreds of people, drove a SUV/Sherman tank, and kept his lights burning brightly 24/7. Mr. Y had nine kids, drove a used pick-up truck, and he and his wife together managed to scrape through. One day Mr. X appeared at the fence separating their property and called Mr. Y over to pow-wow. Mr. Y, Mr. X said, I have a problem. You see, I really want to get an SUV/Lear Jet next year � it is the newest thing. But I have to cut down on my living expenses, somehow, to do it. So I�ve decided to cancel my garbage service � it has been costing me a pretty penny! I�ve decided to dump my garbage on your property, instead. With that, Mr. X gave the signal, and his servants hoisted garbage cans and dumped two tons of leftover caviar on Mr. Y�s propert
Bjorn Lomborg seems set to be the most quoted environmentalist of the season. The reason? He has a conversion story. There he was, according to himself, your average know nothing Greenpeace schmoe, kvetching about mass extinction and Global Warming on Planet Gaia, when he got knocked down (spiritually, that is) by libertarian skeptics of the environmental model. No doubt, like Saul, he had his days of reclusion and blindness, the night sweats, the fever - but a vision of Gale Norton apparently visited him, saying, in an unearthly voice, go and tell all mankind about the wonders of cost benefit analysis! So he arose from his bed and now he's come out with a book, and at such a convenient time, too! What with the trashing of the Kyoto accords and all, which looks so terrible in the press. The book plays a theme dear to the corporate mindset - that is, that environmentalists exaggerate, and that such things as climate change, or environmental damage, are myths generated by inaccurate
Ah, Fascism. Two stories this morning about the fallout from the G8 summit - which has been abundantly underreported, as in not at all, in the US. Der Spiegel has a pretty shocking story: Genua: Wer ist verantwortlich f�r die Pr�gelorgien? - Politik - SPIEGEL ONLINE that, in the end, dovetails with what one suspects about the Berlusconi crowd - I mean, these people have deep roots in the culture of White terror. Certainly in the seventies, right wing groups used the tactics of the agent provacateur, as well as committing acts of terror - notoriously the bombing of the Milan train station - which they hoped would be blamed on the left. Genoa seems, more and more, like old home week - notice, in the Spiegel article, the references to Pinochet, a much admired old man in Euro right circles. Italian culture seems to have a talent for magnifying conflicts which are given a more discrete instantiation in other cultures. The second story about this is in today's New York Times. The Times
Very nice essay by Walter Johnson - Common-place: Re-readings: Roll, Jordan, Roll . Eugene Genovese, the historian of slavery in question, is one of those odd American figures, like Sydney Hook, who advanced, by a somnabulistic logic, from left to right without ever seeming to notice where he was heading - which is why he can consort with Confederate revivalists today without a qualm. Johnson is sharp about two of Genovese's controverted themes in Roll, Jordon, Roll - paternalism and hegemony. Here's a quote: "The notion of slaveholders fabricating themselves for an audience of their own slaves in a kind of Hegelian dialectic is an extraordinarily powerful one, and it illuminates countless aspects of American slavery. It does not, however, quite capture the quicksilver slipperiness with which slaveholders could reformulate the nominally beneficent promises of paternalism into self-serving regrets, reactionary nostalgia, and flat-out threats. Can it be mere coinciden
Yesterday I wrote two long pieces about the need to raise CAFE standards. I wasn't nice to the auto companies in those posts. I feel like continuing my mean streak by linking to the main story at Commercial Alert : Nader Criticizes Smithsonian Head For Proposed Naming Rights Deal With General Motors. First graf is in R.N.'s best meateatin' style: "Following a news report that the Smithsonian Institution has offered General Motors the right to name the museum's new transportation hall for $10 million, Ralph Nader said that Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence Small "seems to recognize no limits to the commercialization of this historic, non-profit, taxpayer-supported institution. To let GM pay for, be associated with and influential over a transportation exhibit, given its decades long record of criminal convictions, buying up and displacing mass transit systems, producing unsafe and polluting cars, is to confess to a complete abdication of any standards o
Chubby Checker ( Biography )has written a letter to the world in which he makes a dignified plea to the Nobel Committee to finally give it up and give him his prize. The key graf is this: "Chubby Checker gave birth to aerobics. He gave to music a movement that could not be found unless you were trained at some studio learning something other than dancing apart to the beat. It's easy. It's fun. The "Twist" [is] the only song, since time began, to become number one twice by the same artist. Oh yes, we're talking about the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. But lets face the truth. This is Nobel Prize Territory." Mr Checker, you'll notice, talks about himself in the third person, imitating Henry Adams. Well, let's compare Mr. Checker to Mr. Henry (the butcher) Kissinger, who did get a Nobel Prize, for peace no less. On the one side you have The Twist, the invention of aerobics, and an eponymous brand of beef jerky, which you can buy from his
This week saw the House, in a typical display of cowardice, greed, and ideology, pass an energy bill that would mandate drilling in the Arctic refuge, license more coalburning and nuclear power plants, and (oh acme of corporate happiness! Oh Tom Delay�s toupee! Oh American satanic mills, asleep in every garage! � to get all Allen Ginsburg about it) block raising the CAFE (corporate average fuel economy) standard, and in particular the notoriously lower CAFE for what are comically called light trucks, officially defined as those having a �gross vehicle weight rating� of 6000 pounds or less . This action comes on the heels of our latest amnesia � that is, the announcement in the spring, when fuel prices were high, by the Big Three that they were voluntarily going to raise the miles per gallon for both passenger and light truck. Yeah, right. Because amnesia leads to repetition � memory loss being one thing, and habit, or addiction, being quite another, this the double track of human natur
Another argument about CAF� that has become popular among the auto hacks and their political allies is that fuel efficiency is dangerous. When the House voted on raising CAFE standards for SUVS, the Times quoted Billy Tauzin, the petro point man in the house, as saying "This amendment will end up killing Americans." The argument goes like this: since the automakers have unleashed a flood of heavier �light trucks� on the roads, small cars are less safe. And so any attempt to reduce the throw weight of a car, now, is a sort of unilateral disarmament in the arms race. Of course, this argument is in itself a little screwy. In fact, it is the logic of power Detroit always, in the last resort, relies upon. It is as if a bankrobber were to argue that since he now is in effective possession of the bank�s money, there�s no sense in preventing him from investing it. USA today published a canonical, and influential, version of this script in an article by their automobile journalist
Saturday. Hmm. Since my posts are all going into the archive, and hence will remain unlooked at and unneeded, in that state of suspended animation known to vampires and retired vice presidents, I figure this is a good time to make some recommends - you know, explore the Net's Black Sea, those odd and mystic reaches, where who knows what can jump out and seriously scare you. Recommend one is a magazine named Vice - the site is named Viceland. They have an interview with a twenty-four year old Italian director and actress who wants to make an even sharper nail out of porn and violence, like her daddy, an old shockmeister moviemaker, did. And then they have this: THE ROAD TO EUPHORIA - A True Story of Dealing E back in 1993 . This is an absolutely funny account of trying to sell a drug before its time - namely, Ecstasy to Manitobians and the like in 1993. Those lumberjacks and meatshop men want to party like its 1988, with your standard crack pipe, and they don't know what to ma