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Showing posts from August 12, 2007

the psychology of homo peckerwoodus

Over at TPM, M.J. Rosenberg refers to this perfectly wild interview with Wolfowitz published in the beating heart of the Murdochian nightmare, the Australian. After a brisk summary that can only bring a cheerful heh heh to the hearts of its readers ("He was forced out of this job for allegedly organising an over-generous promotion out of the bank for his partner. It was an absurd charge and the bank ultimately decided he had behaved ethically. Nonetheless there was a kind of frenzy of hostility to Wolfowitz, really from the day he started at the bank"), we then turn reverently to the man himself. The first question, of course, is: 'O WHAT can ail thee, knight-at-arms, Alone and palely loitering? The sedge is wither'd from the lake, And no birds sing…” But no, that isn’t the first question, I’m getting my notes mixed up. Rather, the birds are singing like jiminy, and they are singing in Iraq, that happy happy land. As every rightwinger knows, follow

the price of a man

Was ist eigentlich ein Mensch? Weiß ich, was ein Mensch ist? Weiß ich, wer das weiß? Ich weiß nicht, was ein Mensch ist Ich kenne nur seine Preis. - Brecht, the Measures Taken I’ve been thinking about witnesses and testimony to that change in emotional custom I outlined in my post for Brian. Here’s one. In a letter in response to criticism made by his English friend, A.N.W. Nassau, to his Democracy in America, Tocqueville defended one of his phrases about England –“the good of the poor ended up being sacrified to that of the rich.’ “You attack me on this point, of which you are certainly a very competent judge. However, you will permit me to disagree with your opinion. Firstly, it seems to me that you give to the phrase “good of the poor” a very restrained interpretation that I hadn’t given it: you translate it by the word wealth which applies particularly to riches. I had wanted to speak, myself, of all the things which could concur in the well being of life – consideration, political


Infinite Thought’s latest post from Berlin is a heartfelt cry against the pyjamarization of the world. Adam Gopnik wrote a similar piece in Paris to the Moon. Now, some people can’t stand Adam Gopnick – Renata Adler, baby, I’m lookin’ at YOU – but I thought Paris to the Moon had some of the funniest american in paris pieces since the battling Thurbers settled in the berg in the 20s while Jimmy tried to work on his sketches. Gopnik wrote about trying to dress as an adult in Paris – which was a very unamerican thing to do. He makes the same point in this little essay: “The first great difference [between Parisians and Americans] is the one already mentioned—the preference in Paris, puzzling to an American, for adulthood over adolescence. There are very few Americans—and very little American culture—not haunted by youth and the idea of the superior happiness of teenage life, by memories of happiness found and lost (or happiness just lost, and now too late to recover). Americans like to

for brian

Brian asked me a good question in the comments of the last post. He asked me to write what I’ve been writing in plainer english. Let’s see if I can do that. My thesis has three parts. The first part is that there are emotional customs – norms that organize the way people make sense of their feelings and moods in the past, present and future. Moreover, there is a sort of gray area in the West in which the good life has been associated with a certain mood – happiness. Now, given this, as capitalism took hold as a total system in Europe and the U.S. in the 19th century, I’m saying that there was the beginning of a shift in emotional customs – in what counted as the emotional norm. It is, remember, with reference to the norm that emotions are organized as to what is appropriate. The second part of my thesis is that a vocabulary and models were devised for feelings, beginning in the late 19th century, which codified the hedonistic emotional norm while at the same time attempting to capture

emotions among the wormfood

After Delacroix, the painting of historical scenes generally devolved to the second tier of painting: to the painters of dioramas and of battlescenes housed in fairway tents. While the Mexican muralists did some pretty good battlescenes and pageant pictures, basically, paintings of battles today are alive mainly among comix artists, and of course the world of those digital artists who work on action pics (and hey, for you painters out there who want to make some bucks on the next big thing and go out with pop star divas, I’d suggest freeze framing action movie scenes and repainting them a la David. Pretty easy to do, the irony so up front that even the dumbest Vogue editor can see it, and you are on your way to a life of making subpar videos and such a la Matthew Barney). Well, getting all the elements together to portray the total social phenomenon of the happiness culture has a certain unavoidable dioramic feel. Just as in the diorama, where heroic figures alternate with the wormfoo

A fundraising video for LI

Mr. Scruggs made this great little fundraising video for Limited Inc. Check it out!

the charming Mr. Rove

Rove’s resignation today is in secret correspondence with the post I was going to write, but haven’t, because I am exhausted – for some reason, I’m not gettin’ my Zs. Well, let me do some of this in my sleep. I’ve been reading Allan Brandt's The Cigarette Century. I read Helen Epstein’s review in the NYRB, and thought that the tone was off: Epstein claimed that her Mom’s death from lung cancer could be directly blamed on the cigarette companies. Myself, I always think, we all know quite well that smoking causes lung cancer. But I picked up the book, and I have had to modify my view about cig companies. There is a beautiful chapter in this book entitled “Constructing Controversy” which outlines not only the way the tobacco industry manufactured a “scientific controversy” as a political tool to prevent regulation of cigarettes, but the way their procedure introduced a whole new, dire dimension to American political life. The deal went down like this. After Hill and Doll’s epidemiolog

Robots should not be allowed to own dogs

As LI readers know, there is only one issue for us in the Presidential primary so far: revenging Seamus! This video of Mitt Romney is revealing – for instance, it reveals that he is a robot. LI thought that he simply looked like a robot from photos we’d seen. We hadn’t seen him on tv or video. This interview proves, I think conclusively, that Mitt Romney is a primitive robot. The chuckle, for instance, is a voice response first put into robots in 1956, I believe. The plasticene skin, which was developed at the same time, was also used on the 3314 Ken Busy Doll, 1971. You’ll also notice other features that were borrowed from the Ken Doll: bendable elbows. Hands that can grasp and hold items, bendable legs. The accoutrement for the Romneybot is pretty sophisticated. Some of the clothes seem almost to be designed for human beings, although, if you take a closer look, most of the buttons and zippers on the front are fake. The clothes unzip from the back, so you can pull your Romneybot cl

Tony Wilson, rip

Yesterday I read that Tony Wilson died Friday. This bummed me out. If you lived in Austin in the eighties and you were a grad student in philosophy – there were an amazing number of us – or a bright and likely undergrad in the Art school, the movie sound track for your life was very likely to come from Joy Division. I moved to Austin in 1985 from New Orleans. My New Orleans sound track was Donna Summer and the Talking Heads. Even though Donna was well on her way down in 1985, I had an abiding sentimental attachment. And fuck, I still do – don’t be telling me that Bad Girls isn’t one of the great albums, cause I don’t want to hear that shit. Well, I had a sort of marginal knowledge of Ian Curtis. It was one of the people in the house I lived in who piled on the Joy Division. She had picked up the bug from a very popular instructor at that time, Rick Roderick, who’d also, I think, introduced Louis Mackey (my master’s director or whatever you call it) to Joy Division. And according to s