Saturday, March 16, 2002


Dostoevsky said that you could measure the degree of humanity of a civilization by its prisons. Limited Inc would like to suggest that you can measure the degree of literacy of a civilization by
its encyclopedias. If this is the case, the race is on and it looks bad for our culture. Right now, ancien regime France and Edwardian England come in at about no. 1 and no. 2, while contemporary American culture, despite its micro Britannicas and its multi-media Funk and Wagnalls, is back there with the melange of misinformation and rumor Isadore of Seville put together around 800. This isn�t good.

So you can, perhaps, understand Limited Inc.�s joy when we went to the On-Line book page, to
see what was new, and found a link to the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica. Joy turned to ecstasy
as we went to the link and behold, it worked! (which does add points, admittedly, to our culture).

A few days ago, Limited Inc was corresponding with a friend, and trying to press this friend
to go to the site -- Limited Inc has a used car salesman�s view about pressing our site upon people. And the friend asked, reasonably, what was this site about? Like, was it a personal diary? Limited Inc, horrified at the thought, explained that the idea goes back to the New Yorker�s Talk of the Town � little quasi personal, quasi journalistic pieces. Well, the Encyclopedia Britannica,
1911, unlikely as this may seem, is to us as the madeleine was to Proust � it unlocks every memory.

Here�s why. When Limited Inc was a mere stripling, a dewy suburban lad, there was a woman across the street, a Mrs. Brooks, who was, to the dewy lads dewy eyes, an ancient woman. Now,
of course, being closer in age to Mrs. Brooks than I ever thought possible, I estimate she was in her late fifties, early sixties. Like her, I'm getting ropy and rheumy -- although unlike her, I have no interest in what hymns are sung at my funeral. This was a constant obsession, as I remember. Her husband, Doctor Brooks, died, and Mrs. Brooks gave me his 1911 encyclopedia.

Probably no gift in my life has been as significant as that encyclopedia. It crashed like a meteor
into my suburban Atlanta habitus, one that had been bounded, on the one side, by Life magazine, and on the other side, by my parents native Republican Party mores. And then I get these blue-ish volumes, speckled with some gross mold, and it was well, Alice�s wonderland. I got my stock of cultural capital from going unsystematically through those books -- much more than I got from, say,
going to Tulane, later on.
By common consent, or maybe not common -- Borges says something close to this, and so does LI, so it is authorative around here - the 1911 encyclopedia was the greatest collective product of the British Empire. The Empire, which has lately become the object of much imperialist nostalgia on the part of the Weekly Standard crowd, was, let's face it, an organized crime against humanity, a much more successful theft than any mounted by the Mafia. Add up the casualties, throw in that nasty business of the opium trade, and it rather disturbs Rudyard Kipling hour in the bungalow, in spite of the Bushypoo nostalgia for the white man�s burden.

So what makes this encyclopedia worth the encomiums I�m lavishing here? The only way to understand it is to sample. So here is a comparison. LI went to another encyclopedia site, at Bartleby, picking a random entry � Quevado � and then picked that entry in the wondrous �11. Go down to the next post, where have put our excerpts. They are too long for one post.

QUEVEDO Y VILLEGAS, FRANCISCO G6MEZ DE (1580-1645), Spanish satirist and poet,
was born at Madrid, where his father, who came from the mountains of Burgos, was secretary to Anne of Austria, fourth wife of Philip II. Early left an orphan, Quevedo was educated at the university of Alcala, where he acquired a knowledge of classical and modern tongues �of Italian and French, Hebrew and Arabic, of philosophy, ;heology, civil law, and economics. His fame reached beyond Spain; at twenty-one he was in correspondence with Justus Lipsius on questions of Greek and Latin literature. His abstruse studies influenced Quevedo's style; to them are due the pedantic traits and mania for quotations which characterize most of his works.He betook himself to the court and mingled with the society that surrounded Philip III. The cynical greed ofministers, the meanness of their flatterers, the corruption of the royal officers, the financial scandals, afforded ample scope to Quevedo's talent as a painter of manners. At Valladolid,where the court resided from 1601 to 1606, he mingled freely with these intrigues and disorders,
and lost the purity of his morals but not his uprightness and integrity. In 1611 he fought a duel in which his adversary was killed, fled to Italy, and later on became secretary to Pedro Tellez Giron, duke de Osuna, and viceroy of Naples. Thus he learned. politics�the one science which he had perhaps till then neglected,�initiated himself into the questions that divided Europe, and penetrated the ambitions of the neighbours of Spain, as well as the secret history of the intriguers protected by the favour of Philip III. The result was that he wrote several political works, particularly a lengthy treatise, La Politico, de Dios (1626), in which he lays down the duties of kings by displaying to them how Christ has governed His church. The disgrace of Osuna (1620) compromised Quevedo, who was arrested and exiled to his estate at La Torre de Juan Abad in New Castile. Though involved in the process against the duke, Quevedo remained faithful to his patron, and bore banishment with resignation. On the death of Philip III. (3ist of March 1621) he he commended himself to the first minister of the new king by celebrating his accession to power and saluting him as the vindicator of public morality in an epistle in the style of Juvenal. Olivares recalled him from his exile and gave him an honorary post in the palace, and from this time Quevedo resided almost constantly at court, exercising a kind of political and literary jurisdiction due to his varied relations and knowledge, but especially to his biting wit, which had no respect for persons. General politics, social economy, war, finance, literary and religious questions, all came under his dissecting knife, and he had a dissertation, a pamphlet, or a song for everything. One day he is defending St James, the sole patron of Spain, against a powerful coterie that wished to associate St Theresa with him; next day he is writing against the duke of
Savoy, the hidden enemy of Spain, or against the measures taken to change the value of the currency; or once more he is engaged with the literary school of G6ngora, whose affectationsseem to him to sin against the genius of the Castilian tongue. And in the midst of this incessant controversy on every possible subject he finds time to compose a picaresque romance, the Historia de la Vida del Buscdn, Ilamado Don Pablos, Exemplo de Vagamundos, y Espejo de Tacanos (1626); to write his Suenos (1627), in which all classes are flagellated; to pen a dissertation on The Constancy and. Patience of Job (1631), to translate St Francis de Sales and Seneca, to compose thousands of verses, and to correspond with Spanish and foreign scholars.But Quevedo was not to maintain unscathed the high position won by his knowledge, talent, and biting wit. The governmentof Olivares, which he had welcomed as the dawn of a political and
social regeneration, made things worse instead of better, and led the country to ruin. Quevedo saw this and could not hold his peace. An anonymous petition in verse enumerating the
grievances of his subjects was found, in. December 1639, under the very napkin of Philip IV. It was shown. to Olivares, who exclaimed, �I am ruined �; but before his fall he sought vengeance on the libeller. His suspicions fell on Quevedo, who had enemies glad to confirm them. Quevedo was arrested on December 7, and carried under a strong escort to the monastery of St I~Iark atLeon, where he was kept in rigorous confinement till the fall of the minister (January 1643) restored him to light and freedom, but not to the health which he had lost in his dungeon. He had
little more than two years to live, and these were spent in inactive retreat, first at La Torre de Juan Abad, and then at the neighbouring Villanueva de los Infantes, where he died September 8, 1645.

Okay, now tell me that doesn�t hop out at you like one of the Arabian Nights Tales? It is the
same mindset with which Richard Burton doggedly penned his translation and footnotes of the
latter. The "betook" is good -- there's a certain Victorian antiquitarianism about the locution that is, at this distant, not as terrible as it would have been for the Bloomsbury crowd. And how about the napkin, man? This isn't an encyclopedia entry, it is a mini-Dumas novel, and Errol Flynn should definitely play Quevedo. Still, the tensions within the monument shouldn't be overlooked. It is easy to see how it would seem to the Edwardians that this was the way to impart the sum of knowledge. Knowledge was itself an imperial form. This entry couldn't have been written by a person who was not aware of the globetrotting spirit that animated his own society -- one that sought profits in Africa and Asia, one that depended on free trade, and hypocrisy, to pull through.

Now, here is the Quevado entry from Colombia Encyclopedia:

�Spanish satirist, novelist, and wit, b. Madrid. In 1611 he fled to Italy after a duel and became involved in revolutionary plottings. When Philip IV ascended the Spanish throne, Quevedo narrowly avoided a long prison term. He was later imprisoned (1639��43) as the presumed author of a satire on the king and his favorite, the conde de Olivares. Quevedo was one of the
great writers of the Spanish Golden Age. Los sue��os [visions] (1627) is a brilliant and bitterly satiric account, after Dante and Lucan, of the inhabitants of hell. Other major works include the philosophical treatise Providencia de Dios (1641), the political essay Pol��tica de Dios y gobierno de Cristo (1626��55), and the important picaresque novel La vida del Busc��n (1626). Also a major poet, his verse was collected in El Parnaso espa��ol (1648). His Ep��stola sat��rica
y censoria (1639), a poetic satire against Olivares, is well known. Quevedo was a determined
opponent of Gongorism (see G��ngora). 1 See studies by D. W. Blesnick (1972) and J. Iffland

Friday, March 15, 2002

Our far-flung correspondents.

For some reason, for the last week Limited Inc is getting an alarming amount of traffic. In the high 20s, messieurs et mesdames. Yes, the views we ventilate here are slowly seeping into the Weltgeist, where, like CFCs in the stratosphere, they will do their silent and peculiar damage.

The last post elicited a nice little letter from D., who said he liked it, and his wife, who said what are you thinking of, describing D. as drinking like a fish. We replied that we were not saying D. was in any way an alky: "A drunk is a guy who is always longing for a drink; this is the exact reverse of the true artiste of drinking - in which case, the drink is always longing for the guy. The act of drinking, in the latter case, is just obliging the angel of history. Who is always saying: another round for my friend!" That post also elicited this opinion from the habitual scourge of Limited Inc's ill thought out attempts at humor, Alan C., who said he could reply to me in a on the one hand, on the other hand manner, but would be "brief and
polemical instead:"

"Freud said that the goal of psychoanalysis was to free people from neurotic
misery and to make it possible for them to experience ordinary human
unhappiness. Antidepressants and other psychiatric medications can in fact
do that, a lot more effectively than psychoanalysis ever could. Some of
your remarks seem to me to reflect an inability to understand the

Our favorite Memphis-ite, M.B., who once had to travel through Round Rock on her way to a teaching gig in some Texas outpost town, liked the Round Rock post. As did the particular European woman mentioned in it. So, Limited Inc is just love festing with the good vibes, right? Well, we must be doing something wrong to please people as much as we have this week. Hmm. We'll try harder in the next couple posts to be really contrarian and mean-spirited.

Wednesday, March 13, 2002


D. called up this morning. He told Limited Inc a funny tale.

Seems D. and his wife went to a cowboy dancehall a couple of days ago.

Now, D., like Limited Inc, is an unhibited dancer. He dances like he has fishes in his britches, he flails galvanically, he pogoes to the sweet strains of trucker nostalgia coming over the loudspeakers, and he isn't afraid to dance alone.
He also, it should be said, drinks like a fish. Of course. He's a friend of mine.

Anyway, a good time was being had by all when D.'s wife was approached by a woman who identified herself as a school teacher. As you know, you can go through the education department at many of our illustrious institutions and come out without a clue as to how to do, say, long division. But one thing you can't skip is the class on how to drug the a- and anti-socials. Dumb em down, drug em up -- is this a win-win situation for your local school board or what? So, being a good diagnostician, this teacher had immediately spotted D. for what he was -- a sufferer from ADD. D.'s wife is doing the slow burn when the teacher, sly as a cat, made off with D.'s drink. Apparently, she didn't want this ADD guy running around drunk, who knows what he'd do.

D. told Limited Inc this story partly because he wanted to make us laugh. ADD is Limited Inc's current favorite designer disease. It is more than a state of mind, it is the state of the union, baby! If America pays attention to anything for more than two days, we all agree that it is world history, there's never been anything like it before, and, in short, "everything (as they say) will be different."

A designer disease is such a money maker that I feel it a public duty to reveal to my select audience, entrepeneurs all, how a designer disease work. Take any assortment of bad habits and aches and pains, package it, and baptize it with a nifty acronym. SDD, XDD, whatever. You need to link it to some neural jargon, and thence to a neuro-toxin, which can be had for x bucks a pill. Or as a wonderous site on ADHD puts it, licking its lips and rubbing its hands: ADHD in adults is very responsive to pharmacotherapy. Very, very big boy. Can't you just hear the pharma guys purring that line into the local doc's ear? Throw in eye of newt, whiskers of cat, and bingo:
"Research and clinical experience have shown that the antidepressants Norpramin (desipramine) and Tofranil(imipramine) effectively increase attentiveness.' In Limited Inc.'s case, attentiveness is also increased by the promise of large sums of money or ready sex, but alas, the pharmacist doesn't purvey such things.

Still, once you have your SXXD, you need a market. To get it across, most trained medical personel feel that you need to tell some tales of the tribe. Brochures, books, stories about people just like you and me, people who are sufferin' terribly from life dysfunction. A guy I know who is convinced he has adult ADD once proved it to me by telling me of a story he'd come across in a book on the subject. The guy in the book had a presentation to make, but kept putting it off, putting it off, couldn't concentrate until the last moment, did it, then, exhausted, fell asleep and slept through the time scheduled for the presentation. And, here's the killer, the reader told me, he'd done exactly the same thing . Is this Q.E.D. or what?

Tales like this are glommed onto by the great mass of men who lead lives of quiet desperation. Now they suddenly understand that their desperation is a medical condition, and so they become much less quiet -- become positively noisy. This is the second phase of the designer disease profile -- the viral stage. It spreads from mouth to mouth, as people compare anecdotes and recall their own multiple failures and unhappinesses. It turns out it was this scoprion lurking in the shadows! ADD is just sitting there, in the biography, waiting to strike.

The importance of the anecdote can't be underestimated in this process. In this, it reminds me of fortune-telling. Fortune telling is a communicative emblem, really, because all of the cues plug in to a good fortune telling session. First, the fortune teller casts back into the past. Relationship problems? perhaps with a man who didn't appreciate you? perhaps this man, though, he had some good qualities? Of course. Play the averages, here. If you are dealing with a lesbian audience, the bad boyfriend thing isn't going to work, but you simple have to shift the gender stuff around, plug into a different regime of sentimentality. Ditto if you are dealing with a guy. Then some unusual circumstance that is statistically distributed: she told me all about that time X (the relationship reject in question) threw a fit about the car. about the dishes. About the insurance. About the vacation. Fortune telling relies on the odd relationship between our self consciousness and our unconsciousness of our fit into regular social patterns. The broad shapes of our fates within a population in which like social constraints apply are really not so different. Plug in the variables, take a ride on the wild side. But fortune telling also depends on vanity. The fortune teller who predicts, I see you marrying a man who will go bald and pudgy in ten years, pick at his food, and watch way too much television is not going to get a big tip, even though she gets points for truthtelling. You can only play the odds so much. L'amour propre is still the goddess.

From the WP a story ostensibly detailing another instance of environmental degradation:

"The first nationwide study of pharmaceutical pollution of rivers and streams offers an unsettling picture of waterways contaminated with antibiotics, steroids, synthetic hormones and other commonly used drugs.Of the 139 streams analyzed by the U.S. Geological Survey in 30 states -- including Maryland and Virginia -- about 80 percent contained trace amounts of contaminants that are routinely discharged into the water in human and livestock waste and chemical plant refuse."

But only the naysayers, the nattering nabobs, will jump on this story from the pollution side. Because this is a classic good news/bad news story. See how the liberal press typically showcases the bad side -- when the good news side of it is right in front of their collective noses: here's the solution to the pesky problem of universal health care! The compassionate conservatives can now make the case that health is just a glass of tapwater away from even our poorest citizens! Is this a great country or what? In other countries, to get your steroids, you have to know a doctor. You have to go through the state socialism of a bureaucracy. It is all the Soviet Union out there in the world where the parts aren't American (except for Britain, of course. They love us in Britain. They kiss our butts in Britain. They're crazy to go along with us when we do the darndest things -- oh, like attacking the axis of evil --in Britain. They have Tony Blair in Britain, and he understands our sorta sometimes hostile needs like perfectly!), and people have to queue up at the steroid store to get those necessary muscle builders. Imagine!

There was a story back in October (a month devoted to recoil from 9.11, and thus essentially a blank, as far as news goes, in Limited Inc's mind) in Salon that has a lot more fun facts to know and tell. For instance, the author, Mark D. Uehling, quotes some water honcho as saying: the presence of "endocrine-disrupting chemicals in potable and nonpotable water has not been established."

But Uehling

Scientists in Minneapolis presented abundant evidence to the contrary. For one thing, most farmers liberally dose pigs, cows and chickens with hormones. Those male and female hormones are definitely reaching the environment in both liquid and solid animal wastes. Birth control drugs, even steroids used by body builders and pro athletes, are making similar deposits. The question is what effects the chemicals are having, and whether the water (or something else) might be the source. One new clue came from the Mississippi River, where James Levitt of the University of Minnesota studied a variety of fish coping with endocrine mimic-molecules. Levitt compared walleyed pike upstream from a lock, where there were no endocrine mimic-molecules, with fish caught downstream from the lock, where there was plenty of sewage effluent and no shortage of estrogen disrupters.

The male fish swimming in the dirty water had no sperm, and malformed testes. The female fish in the same water had similarly degenerated ovaries

The old joke, from W.C. Fields, was that he didn't drink water, because fish fuck in it. The new joke is something like, I don't drink water, because fish can't fuck in it. As they say in the Reader's Digest, humor is the best medecine.

Monday, March 11, 2002


The usual process of putting out my posts involves proofreading them once they are up on the web page. For some unknown reason, the Blogger won't go into editing mode. So in the post below, there are several mistakes. For instance, "were does this woman, this woman flying around the Middle East alienating Egyptian journalists,. come from..." would have been edited to "where does this woman, jetting around the Middle East and alienating Egyptian journalists on US government time, come from..." Anyway, I apologize in advance for certain inelegancies.
Limited Inc.

Limited Inc, predictably, is a fan of Naomi Klein -- or at least is a fan of the idea of Naomi Klein. Sometimes, though, we feel that Ms. Klein allows the writerly ocassion, as Henry James might have put it, to pass her by. This is what we felt about her column, for the LA Times, on Charlotte Beers, America's official Image-meister:

"As undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, Charlotte Beers' assignment was not to improve relations with other countries but rather to perform an overhaul of the U.S. image abroad. Beers had no previous State Department experience, but she had held the top job at both the J. Walter Thompson and Ogilvy & Mather ad agencies, and she's built brands for everything from dog food to power drills."

Unsurprisingly, Charlotte Beers task, orientation, and administration are not to Klein's liking.

"So why, only five months in, does the campaign for a new and improved Brand USA seem in disarray? Several of its public service announcements have been exposed for playing fast and loose with the facts. And when Beers went on a mission to Egypt in January to improve the image of the U.S. among Arab "opinion-makers," it didn't go well. Muhammad Abdel Hadi, an editor at the newspaper Al Ahram, left his meeting with Beers frustrated that she seemed more interested in talking about vague American values than about specific U.S. policies. "No matter how hard you try to make them understand," he said, "they don't."

"The misunderstanding likely stemmed from the fact that Beers views the United States' tattered international image as little more than a communications problem. Somehow, despite all the global culture pouring out of New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta, despite the fact that you can watch CNN in Cairo and Black Hawk Down in Mogadishu, America still hasn't managed, in Beers' words, to "get out there and tell our story." In fact, the problem is just the opposite: America's marketing of itself has been too effective."

And the drums go drum drum drum. The discrepancy between the American reality, which is a pretty consistently pursued imperialism, and American rhetoric, is hauled out, and we fade Charlotte Beers to black. All honorable stuff. Yet Limited Inc feels a distinct sense of the cobbled together, the held back, in Klein's piece. When Charlotte Beers went before the senate during her nomination, Time magazine's Richard Stengel wrote:

"It would be easy � too easy � to make light of Charlotte Beers, the former big-time advertising exec recently named undersecretary of state for public affairs. The so-called "queen of branding" who helped promote Head & Shoulders shampoo and Uncle Ben's Rice has now been assigned the job of helping to boost the U.S. image in the Muslim world."

Because a thing is easy does not mean it is not worth doing. Surely we should ask ourselves, were does this woman, this woman flying around the Middle East alienating Egyptian journalists,. come from, and why is she working for us, and why can't we make fun of her? According to an Economist piece, she once impressed a dog food client by eating dog food; she once impressed Sears execs by taking apart and putting together a power drill (she is apparently a woman of endless resources). She puts sweaters on her toy poodles and lounges around, apparently, with Martha Stewart, when Stewart is prepared to lounge.
This is the standard media identikit re Charlotte Beers.

Alan Rosenshine, in Advertising age, has risen to Stengel's call to seriousness, and delivers several solemnities about Beers' onerous task. He makes the point that we aren't selling our brand to terrorists. No, we aren't. We just aren't a-going to do that:

"Audience segmentation is a primary principle of branding. Terrorists and those who have turned hatred into violent fanaticism are not our audience. Their psyches are warped beyond any possibility of communication. Terrorists are criminals and enemies of civilization who deserve destruction in the name of justice and self-defense. The message of America must instead reach the many millions still in the process of being taught to hate us."

I'm glad that Rosenshine got that off his chest, but the interested by-stander has to disagree. Surely it would be cheaper to send Beers deep into the mountains of Afghanistan with an Uzi and letting her demonstrate to puzzled Al Quaeda execs stripping it and putting it back together again. She could also sample their simple fare, and get them rolling with her imitation of Martha confronting a badly done coq au vin. Instead, we waste her talents on Egyptian journalists. Even Beers seems to know that there's something hopelessly porkbarrel about her Nile tete-a-tetes. According to the NY Metro,

"Beers, for her part, seems to be busy managing expectations. Testifying before Congress, she recently characterized the propaganda war's goal as reaching young people. "It's the battle for the 11-year-old mind," she said, sounding ominously like someone who has decided that the 12-and-over demographic may already be a lost cause."

Actually, it isn't that the over 12 demographic is enfolded in the process of cult hatred. No, as any Piagetian psychologist can tell you, between the age of 11 and 12 the world begins to take on a cause and effect density. Bushiepoo, whose very ascension to the throne was in defiance of cause and effect, loses his aura of plausibility to the well tempered sixth grade mind. Best appeal to em while they are still in nappies.


Limited Inc was raised in the suburbs, but escaped those wastelands at the end of our larval stage. Still, sometimes there is a thing that calls us, a beckon in the sweet air, and we must go back to haunt those teen tedious reaches, those bloated wood and brick tents each on its own independent half to one acre� Well, really there isn�t, but for anthropological reasons we took off with a friend to explore Round Rock, Austin�s bedroom community, yesterday. The friend had romantic visions of Penny Lane, or at least the Cal-friendly colors of the Truman show, but we knew better. We knew that this is the South, after all, and that suburbs are where Yankees have traditionally coped with the South � by voting Republican, adopting Northern racism � a primness about language combined with a ferocity about money and who (and what color of who) it goes to � to Southern norms, and exuding around them, like the shell of some strange crustacean, that outlying reef of oddly monotonous shopping centers, among which old Southern remnants � the visibly unhygienic barbecue place, the commercially dubious shacks, usually sprinkled over with some disgusting grayish sludge of oil and rubber, somehow connected with the auto trade, the bakery outlets (white bread discounted) � exist in an uneasy symbiosis.

My friend, a product of Europe, had never taken a close and loving look at suburbia. Well, to the unaccustomed sensibility, it does come somewhat as a shock. She kept looking for waterfalls and greenery � Limited Inc never did find out where these inviting, though wavering, images came from. Alas, the only waterfalls to be found in the Round Rock area are artificially constructed, and usually involve railroad ties and some sprayer on an automatic timer. As for greenery, it has been a brown winter.

Paradise is getting everything you want � hell is the necessity of living with having gotten everything you want. Any teenager can tell you that. What makes America perpetually different is the p-to-h ratio � it is just at a different multiple from everywhere else. For three hundred years there�s been a bull market in paradise; but also, inexplicably, hell never disappears -- just take the next exit off the interstate if you want a taste of it. We Americans have produced the first real blackmail empire in world history � we have the weapons to end it all, and that armament has penetrated the pores of our very dreams. Assyrian lust for power, and the British conviction of our essential righteousness, this is a heady mixture. We like to think we are giants. But oh my friends, why, why, does all that power seems to leak away in the bungalows, at the end of the day? Why can one drive down the streets of Round Rock and feel something deadly, a tedium that seems to visibly weigh on the Dell Baseball Stadium, the HEB Grocery store, the Gatti�s Pizza Delivery place?

The ethics of integrity or the Baker at Dachau

    Throughout the 19th and 20th century, one stumbles upon the lefthand heirs of Burke – Red Tories, as Orwell called them. Orwell’s inst...