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Showing posts from December 4, 2005
I was reading William Everdell’s superb book, the First Moderns, the other day, and came across an unfamiliar name: Valeriano Weyler y Nicolau . Everdell’s book explores the emergence of the “vortices” of modernism by tracking the various conjunctions of theory and practice not only in the obvious places, the big metropoles, but on the periphery. And, indeed, even in the metropoles modernism was a negotiation between outliers and the establishment. One of the monuments of modernism, Everdell claims, was invented by Weyler y Nicolau: the concentration camp. Or campos de reconcentraciòn, as he named them. It is an interesting story. According to Everdell, Weyler y Nicolau, fighting against the Cuban insurgents in 1897, decided to experiment with an American invention, barbed wire. Why not string barbed wire around areas that were insurgent strongholds? Since insurgents weren’t formally organized, it seemed like a good way to contain them, a sort of cordon sanitaire. No sooner thought of

action movie principalities

LI urges our readers to pick up the 11/28 issue of the New Yorker and read Tom Reiss’ quite instructive essay on the literature of invasion, “IMAGINING THE WORST.” What we found most interesting about the essay was the knitting together of literature and surveillance. At the same time that Yeats’ was worried about choosing life or art, much lesser writers in England were worried about the lack of a security state, and they set about destroying the liberal English nonchalance that was decried, in Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent, by the Russian attaché who frightens Verloc. Reiss’ essay begins with the first modern invasion fantasy, “The Battle of Dorking”, by a military man writing for Blackwood’s Magazine – that most tory and clubbable of Victorian magazines. The military man, Lieutenant-Colonel George Tomkyns Chesney, had recently returned from India (ah, the imperial effect – see my little read and apparently tedious posts about which) in May, 1871, when the story was published. Jus

notes of a non-native son

The codex of everyday life is lost. The epiphanies of Babylonian woodchoppers, Sea Island cotton pickers, line order cooks and leasing agents have been scattered irretrievably in the ethereal babble that hugs the glob, a smog of unknowing. Long ago I vowed this wouldn’t happen to me. I’d take a toehold in life and battle death. It is the only reason I give a shit about politics, philosophy, art, or any of the grander vistas. So far I haven’t kept my promise. Defeat after defeat, you know. But I’m still here, and I still might. … My old man made his money in temperature modification. He started out as a farmer, switched to carpentry, and then discovered his real road to wealth as an HVAC man. At one point he deviated, trying to make an endrun around his fate by becoming the ice mogul of metro Atlanta, which is why I spent my youth, like Dickens, in a factory. Charlie put labels on boot polish, I believe. I bagged ice: ten and fifty pound bags and the treacherous twelve pound blocks – tr

birthday greetings

It is LI’s birthday today. I am going out to some Gwinnett county restaurant to celebrate. The telegrams, of course, have been pouring in: “Little Father of the Revolutionary Movement! We pledge to die for you!” is typical. Others (Comrade Commandante!” and “Our Lady of the Sacred Heart that waters all Living Beings” also seem to be popular salutations) have been highly complimentary. What can we say? We’ve already written several poems to ourselves, comparing ourselves to the Sun, the demiurge, the snake with no name, and Br’er Rabbit. Presents, too, abound. Last week, the White House gave us a special present by revealing that Bush’s current Iraq speeches are being penned by a man named Feaver. And then there was this NYT story that Weicker just might challenge Lieberman. Oh bliss indeed, to see Joe Lieberman forcibly retire to some million plus a year job pushing accounting “reform” for some major lobbying group of business thugs! Weicker, however, is an old man and predicts that h

leaving south carolina

As I was leaving the Charleston area, the headline of the Sunday Courier and Post proclaimed 110, 000, which it turns out is the number of new housing starts projected in the area for 2006. Now, I have no sympathy with Southern Gentry and Dixie leaves me cold, but that headline gave me a distinctly Gentry shock. From Charleston to Beaufort, you see an area that is irrevocably changing, as it hasn’t changed since the end of the Civil War – a massive act of Schumpeterian creative destruction. That dogeared phrase disguises the creativity in what is being destroyed, of course, the human face beneath the Gucci heel. A liberal such as myself has to make a rather complicated distinction, here, since it is so easy to be invaded by a reactionary nostalgia in these dire days of the Bush disorder. There is the desire for a past system, on the one hand, and a desire to reawaken past opportunities that opposed that system, on the other. The conservative element in my makeup consists of taking seri

patriot's point

We went to Patriot’s point and toured a sub and the U.S.S. Yorktown yesterday. And today, I read the revealing column by Robert Kagan in the WP, which probably reflects the type of tough bar talk that gets up on its hind legs and presents itself as foreign policymaking in D.C., where any idiot with a belligerent enough world view can rise to the top of somebody’s vanity project for massacring the natives and inflicting unnecessary injuries and death upon America’s military men. This is our favorite part of Kagan’s column. Rather like an epicurean cannibal explaining the delicate tints of his favorite repast, Kagan simply oozes disdain about lesser meats in his poetic evocation of years and years of war crimes in Mesopotamia, thinly disguised with a peek-a-boo rhetoric of democratization, his like, botched and boiled in think tanks, eternally pulling the strings: “Talk of reductions and withdrawal is as unhelpful as it almost certainly is ephemeral. For 2 1/2 years, despite the endless