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Showing posts from April 17, 2005

wring the necks of the dying swans

The Washington Post published an almost perfect parody of the upper class voice in Mexico today. Rossana Fuentes Berain writes about Lopez Obrador as she would about an errant maid who had misplaced her best undies. Truly, this is undying dying prose: “Where a Lopez Obrador presidency could really be a problem is in the matter of unfinished structural reforms -- in energy, labor and fiscal affairs. His political shortsightedness could stall long-overdue action in these areas, with unfortunate effects on Mexico's competitiveness with China and other countries. "In a perfect world, this and Lopez Obrador's disregard for the law, as shown in the current case against him, would be enough for the electorate to reject him. In the real world, where there is deep discontent in many parts of the population, he must be regarded as a serious candidate. These are difficult times. We need to weather them and to keep our eyes on the main prize: a long-term North American compact.” Th

the soldiers in the trenches

The anti-Japanese riots in China – however they might have been instigated by the government for its own purposes – demonstrate the attraction of historical traumas. Attraction, that is, as a site for ceremonies of memory, for obsession, for re-enactment, for anxiety, and for that element of forgetting that goes into what one chooses, at any particular moment, to imbue with the energy of recollection. Memory has an opportunity cost. There’s a review, in History and Theory (Winter, 2005) of UNDERSTANDING THE GREAT WAR, by Stéphane Audoin-Rouzeau and Annette Becker. According to the author of the review, Ann Louis Shapiro, who teaches at the New School, Audoin-Rouzeau and Becker have taken it upon themselves to “demolish” the historiography of World War I. Underneath the rhetorical heat, that means two things: a., expanding the focus of the war to the civilian populations that were entrained in it – not as spectators but as participants; and b., understanding how the soldier in the t

Jesus’ politics.

As the few who have actually read the Gospels know, Jesus said relatively little about sex. For him, it was a thing that occurred in the structure of families. Jesus didn’t much like families. He was only half joking when he said that he had no patience for him who didn’t hate his mother. He thought if you entered into a marriage, that was the end of it – no divorce for you. Of course, marriage, back in Jesus' day, wasn't the love match it is today, but an exchange between parents and clans in which the individuals exchanged had little say. So this is a hard saying to understand -- was it a way of warning men not to desert their wives and children? In any case, he looked upon the marriage and family racket as hopelessly perverting -- there'd be no giving and taking of wives and husbands in the Kingdom of Heaven. On the other hand, Jesus had numerous opinions about wealth. He unequivocally thought that the wealthy would not be in the kingdom of heaven. He thought that they

Sympathy for a bitter old man

The pope crap keeps on coming. The media are intent on thrusting the doings of the Vatican in our faces for … forever, it seems. Or at least as long as it took to get O.J. to get out of that white car he was in. Remember, in the long ago, the golden days of Good King Clinton? In any case, it struck me that, aside from the general vileness of the new Pope’s principles, he might be one of the sadder people in public life. To reach out one’s arthritic, clawlike fingers and snatch the office one wanted – one earned, one deserved! – at a much younger age – now, now when the juice has been squeezed out of the grape, it seems so pitiful. And it isn’t like Ratzinger has had a life. Your ordinary churchman can chuck it all and get a beer and talk with buddies if he wants – he’s living, after all, in some urban crush, the bishop of someplace like New York or Chicago or the like. He can have some female companionship, even if he doesn’t make it sexual. He can go to the movies. But Ratzinger has

The people

LI’s friend, H., writes from Teheran to congratulate us. Apparently, this blog is being blocked on some Iranian servers. As H. rightly says, what does it say about a state that is afraid of LI? There’s a little pinch in that remark – H. knows how vain we are – but it is also true that LI does not exactly aim to get people out in the streets throwing bombs, or even pies. We aim for more, shall we say, multi-dimensional refusals, little glitches in the smooth operation of society here and there, question marks proliferating, comic strip fashion, above the head, punk rips in the veil of Maya. … Texas is much on our minds, recently, because our novel, which is meant to suck in the juices that make this state work, is starting to hum along. Any reader of this thing who is interested in being a guinea pig reader for this thing should drop us an email. In our quest for the genuine Texas, we’ve been reading T.R. Fehrenbach’s marvelous Comanches: Destruction of a People. Fehrenbach is a colu
For the last week, LI has been bothered by phone calls from Rome offering us the popeship. You’ve probably received the same phone call on your recorder: a voice says, Frankly, we’re surprised you haven’t called us back. You can now get credit card rates as low as 6 percent, as well as become the pontiff of the Holy Catholic Church, with a world wide congregation of over one billion, if you act now. If you aren’t a woman, have no problem condemning the use of condoms in AIDs infected areas of Africa, and have low credit or even no credit, you can still qualify for our program.” Unfortunately, we don’t have a credit card. In other news… Kenneth Emmond notes further gross abuses of the law by Fox’s PAN, as well as, of course, the PRI, even as the American press continues to report, without context, Fox’s contention that no man is above the law in Mexico. “A recent example of a successful application of the fuero is that of Morelos Governor Sergio Estrada Cajigal. Congress voted in f

Johnson

LI readers should immediately stop reading this fumbling attempt at a post and go to the TLS review (by Thomas Keymor ) of Henry Hitchings book on Dr. Johnson’s dictionary. Johnson is, along with Hazlett and Orwell, every freelancer’s hero. But the Dictionary sets him apart, in that space reserved for the more inscrutable sons of God, mysterious in their energies and inimitable in their successes: “The body of the Dictionary performs the troubled themes of the preface with striking virtuosity. This great work does its primary job as a standard dictionary with constant assurance, and of course part of Johnson’s achievement is to have produced, in less than a decade and with only routine assistance from six amanuenses, a feat that would not be superseded until the OED at last came to fruition in 1928, after the labours of huge teams over seventy-one years.” It is as if one man built one of the cathedrals. Keymor emphasizes Johnson’s shifting sense of the object of the dictionary – at t