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Showing posts from May 6, 2007

memes and hooks

LI is a pretty jaded reviewer. One of the things we like about doing anonymous reviews for Publishers Weekly is seeing the hooks we put in the reviews spread out to other reviewers. Amazon provides a big megaphone. So we noted that two reviewers we don't much care for - Kakatuni in the NYT and Dirda in the Washington Post - echo, in their disparaging reviews of Delillo's Falling Man, themes we set going in ours, mercifully and mysteriously pretty much as we wrote it up there on Amazon. We liked Falling Man - and though I don't really care to look it up, I would bet Dirda liked that awful, jello sweet Jonathan Safron Foers novel about 9/11. Dirda has terrible taste in contemporary American novelists - sorta Sub Michael Wood - without the eloquence to make me care one way or another.

Let's get out of afghanistan

“It is not clear whether the Ghanikhel raid was a case of mistaken identity or a successful anti-terrorist operation that also became a human tragedy.” LI’s question to ponder this weekend is: what the hell is the U.S. still doing in Afghanistan? In 2001, LI supported the attack on Afghanistan for the standard vanilla tit for tat reasons. But wars in the humanitarian intervention era ( “On your door I am a-knocking/with my toolbox and my stocking”) are sticky things, so sticky that the soldiers never seem to find the conditions just right to actually leave. Now, this is much to the satisfaction of all bien pensant people in D.C., and like a good little war, it is tossed into the forgettery of the back of the A section for bored householders to peruse if they will – although what’s the fucking point of that? Occasionally the news comes from the front that things are going swimmingly, or they are going backwards, or that American marines have become so adroit at their anti-terrorist o

and it rained trash for two thousand years...

LI is always interested in trash. Humans have always left a non-supply line behind them of stuff other than our scat and mortality – it goes along with being tool using beasties. But the heaping helpings of trash that issue daily from the courses of the average American/European/Latin American/Asian/African are producing a sort of global coral reef of garbage, a carapace over the planet. So we found this NYT article a timely treat, and we liked the f/x chart mapping the average mile of garbage along the road. Here are a few grafs: “In California and across the nation, where some freeway shoulders have come to resemble weekend yard sales, the nature of road debris has changed, and litter anthropologists are now studying the phenomenon. Where “deliberate” litter used to reign — those blithely tossed fast-food wrappers and the like — “unintentional” or “negligent” litter from poorly secured loads is making its presence felt. Steven R. Stein, a litter analyst for R. W. Beck, a waste-cons

death in the eyes

J. P. Vernant’s essay, Death in the eyes: Gorgo, figure of the other (doesn’t that subtitle sound like it was filmed by Roger Corman?) begins resoundingly, like this: ‘Why study Gorgo? The reason is that for a historian, and a historian of religion in particular, the problem of alterity or ‘otherness’ in ancient Greece cannot be limited to the representation the Greeks made of others, of all those whom, for the purposes of reflection, they ranked under different heading in the category of difference, and whose representations always appear deformed because these figures – barbarian, slave, stranger, youth, and woman – are always constructed with refernce to the same model: the adult male citizen. We must also investigate what could be called extreme alterity and sk about the ways in which the ancients attempted to give a form in their religious universe to this experience of the absolute other. The issue is no longer one of a human being who is different from a Greek, but what, by comp

Sadly, Blair is not going to jail

“But us, who never profit from anything, we are alone. Alone, like the Bedouin in the desert. We have to cover our faces, pull our sheets about ourselves and plunge, head bowed, into the story – and always, incessantly, up to our last drop of water, up to the last palpitation of our heart. When we croak, we will have had the consolation of having made our way, and navigated in the Grand syle. I sense against the stupidity of my age such floods of hatred that they choke me. The shit mounts into my mouth, as from a tied off hernia. But I want to keep it, fix it, let it harden… - Flaubert, letter to Bouilhet. Flaubert has a reputation for denouncing la bêtise. Sartre claimed that for Flaubert, betise was essentially identical with language itself. But if you read the language of the paroxysms of disgust which are provoked in Flaubert by the stupidity of his age, you’ll notice that the metaphors are about reversing speaking or eating. The body wants to come through the mouth. In another le

What's so funny?

We mortals are forced, though it may hurt us to bear the gifts of the gods. For the yoke lies on our necks. – Homeric hymn to Demeter Herodotus recorded the obscure origin of today’s schoolboy insult: “He tells us that Sesostris, king of Egypt, raised columns in some of the countries that he conquered, on which he caused to be figured the female organ of generation as a mark of contempt for those who had submitted easily,” according to Knight’s discourse on the worship of priapus. But as Knight adds: May not these columns have been intended, if we knew the truth, as protections for the peole of the district in which they stood, and placed in the position where they could most conveniently be seen?” Speaking of the female organ of generation gets us to the second myth that figures in Vernant’s essay: Death in the Eyes: Gorgo, figure of the Other. I want to place this myth next to Athena throwing away the flute – consider them as two paintings. This is the myth of Ceres and Baubo. Some b

Gorgo Head, Gorgo Head, what are you doin' round my bed?

The fragments I wanted to put together this week were all about genitalia and racism. That is, starting off with Aristotle’s reference to the perils of playing the flute in the Politics and going to Vernant’s essay on what made Demeter laugh when an old woman hiked up her skirt and showed her her privates. Vernant has a theory about Gorgo, the genital face, and the Other, and I think this is a good time to go down the trail with him, from whence we will all return refreshed and Freudened. But this week might be pretty tough, in terms of making bucks, so I can’t guarantee that I will give you all a genuine raree show. Still, to start things off, a quote from Aristotle’s Politics: “The flute, or any other instrument which requires great skill, as for example the harp, ought not to be admitted into education, but only such as will make intelligent students of music or of the other parts of education. Besides, the flute is not an instrument which is expressive of moral character; it is too

Notes of an editor

Lately,I've been trying to scuff up some decent labor. Times are slow, and the schedule of my bill collectors is starting to outrun my excuses. So, I decided, in desperation, to check out Craig's list - since none of the academics I usually go to knew of anyone, or had anything. Craig's list is crowded, it appears, with editors offering services and minted credentials, yet the adverts have that last chance aura of a used car dealer's smile, that awful sinking feeling one gets around zoo born predators, with the bars in their very eyes. I'm no springing Leopard of the Lord myself, but when I read of someone offering to put "snap and pop" into your next business proposal, I inwardly groan and the spirit do run low. I ruthlessly excise snap and pop whenever I see it. Lucidity, a cool intelligence, a minimum of five dollar words, and the grain of your voice when you have something fucking real to say - that's what I always hope the game is about. If it is

Why the hen won't lay no egg

The beast it cometh, cometh down The beast it cometh, cometh down The beast it cometh, cometh down ... It's Tupelo bound “I have to admit to being increasingly irritated at the tendency of British commentators and politicians to present the election as France's last-chance saloon, for in most things that combine to make up a decent quality of life, from health to literacy, to gentility and solicitude for the vulnerable, France has us beaten. Mr Sarkozy did not appear too convinced of this when he came to London three months ago to address expatriates who had fled high unemployment in France to find work in the City's booming financial-services sector. Referring to London as possessing a 'vitality' that Paris sorely lacked, Mr Sarkozy exhorted the crowd to return home - after casting their vote for him of course. 'France is still your country, even if you are disappointed by it,' he said, at the same time promising less regulation, more jobs and other free-ma

encore une fois de plus

On assiste sur les chaînes de Bouygues et de Lagardère à des tracts électoraux !» «Il nous reste deux jours, restez debout, c'est vous, le peuple français, qui allez décider. Dressez-vous contre tous les systèmes, dressez-vous pour une France juste et forte, dressez-vous pour la lumière, refusez l'esprit de revanche, refusez tous les mensonges et toutes les haines. En avant ! – Segolene Royal. If only she’d been this tough all through. Aye. Go Royal! France is about to elect its Bush, its spirit of revenge, its gleeful little bumpkin, its smug side, its action hero flic. We know this is going to be a fucking bust. Must we watch this cycle all over again? No to thatcher, reagan, bush, aznar, and berlusconi. Don't do it, France.