Saturday, June 13, 2015

tpp - die! die!

The TPP is this year's Iraq "liberation",  pressed in the press with pure bullshit and a patronizing tone for those who, inexplcably, oppose it. For an almost perfect example, look no further than the business section of the NYT, where the TPP is presented as an orthodox free trade pact about lowering tarrifs - which we know, by now, is a lie, pure and simple. Itt's all 1850 in the way the NYT has tailored their presentation of the deal. 
“I’m still hopeful,” said Gary Hufbauer, a senior researcher with the Peterson Institute for International Economics, who characterized the vote on Friday as a vehicle for Democrats to show their displeasure with aspects of the pact. “This was a way of them stomping their feet, but in the end I think the president will get his way.”
Bill Lane, director of global government affairs for Caterpillar, echoed Mr. Hufbauer’s view that the door was not completely shut. “Even though the process is temporarily stalled, we are optimistic,” he said.
Mark Grayson, a spokesman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, an industry trade group, said that the group was hopeful “that the House will pass the bill so it can get to the president’s desk.”
Notice how the press rolls. These quotes are unaccompanied by questions. There's no sense that there are any questions to ask Caterpillar, or Silicon Valley, or the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. Rather, we first get a cascade of quotations which all push a p.o.v., and then at the bottom of the article we get a few opposing quotations, which are treated much as though their locutors were advocating man boy love. That is how it goes at the NYT. 
The headline for the political analysis by the ever rebarbative Peter Baker (whose reporting back in the heady days of the Bush era showed how sycophancy can be a real career upper) calls the vote against the TPP political dysfunction - so much for thinking that the anti-TPP side has any reason behind it. I mean, in Baker's world, a bill to fasttrack a pact that is highly classfied except for its makers among the plutocracy is an obvious slam dunk! Oh those slam dunks. We all have to swallow them over and over. 
In fact, using the method of mirror reading that helps one see through the bullshit, the vote Friday was a rare instance of Washington functioning - functioning as it was set up to function. Only in the ruinous 21st century would a poisonous secret tractate like the TPP be considered the kind of no-brainer deal that we should all let ourselves be yoked with.  
I hope the Dems reading the holy NYT don't get the shakes. They are doing the right thing. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

a realistic ellipses in Edith Wharton's The Reef

The Reef  is not  I think one of Edith Wharton’s more popular novels. It is the one everyone calls Jamesian. I think part of the problem, popularity-wise, is that it sets out by putting us in the consciousness of a man, George Darrow, who is incorrigibly snobby. There’s the snobbiness of having a standard of taste that reveals broad experience and reading, and the snobbiness that comes with having a social position and assuming that one has broad experience and reading. Darrow’s is the latter snobbiness. He’s no Swann. At the beginning of the book he meets a young American in Paris, a Daisy Miller cast-away without Miller’s family money given the name Sophy Viner – an almost insurmountable moniker as far as readerly sympathy goes. However, Viner is sympathetic, young, and unbearably patronized by Darrow, who escorts her around Paris due to circumstances I don’t really want to get into.
No, what is important here is that Darrow, who is hunting for bigger social game, in effect makes Viner his girlfriend, or, as they would say at the time, his mistress. Here, Wharton does a wonderfully subtle thing, something that James must have loved. Her problem is how to make us know that after Darrow spent some time escorting Viner around Paris, they became sexual. How to do this without becoming vulgar. This isn’t just a matter of censorship because American publishers would freak if one described the beast with two backs too narrowly – it was more a matter of tone. There has to be a certain tone to this affair if the book is going to work.
Thus, the wonderfully subtle thing. Darrow’s hotel room in Paris is right next to Viner’s. On his last morning of this visit to Paris, Wharton gives us, first, a post-coital shower, blotting out the Parisian landscape, then a look around Darrow’s room, which he perceives, for the first time, is in need of some cleaning, and then this great melodic invocation of a knowledge that, by indirection, seeks direction out:
“A different noise aroused him. It was the opening and closing of the door leading from the corridor into the adjoining room. He sat motionless, without opening his eyes; but now another sight forced itself under his lowered lids. It was the precise photographic picture of that other room. Everything in it rose before him and pressed itself upon his vision with the same acuity of distinctness as the objects surrounding him. A step sounded on the floor, and he knew which way the step was directed, what pieces of furniture it had to skirt, where it would probably pause, and what was likely to arrest it. He heard another sound, and recognized it as that of a wet umbrella placed in the black marble jamb of the chimney-piece, against the hearth. He caught the creak of a hinge, and instantly differentiated it as that of the wardrobe against the opposite wall. Then he heard the mouse-like squeal of a reluctant drawer, and knew it was the upper one in the chest of drawers beside the bed: the clatter which followed was caused by the mahogany toilet-glass jumping on its loosened pivots...
Those squeaks and creaks and jingles = Joyce, in Ullyses, will have Bloom imagine the jingling of his bed, the bed Molly lies on with Blazes Boylan. Consciousness is more repressed, or at least, represses itself, in Wharton’s world. What I love is the realisitic ellipse. All of those things, and their sensual properties, mark what isn’t being said. And that gap accrues a force – the umbrella and the wardrobe, here, are moral witnesses. For a snob such as Darrow, incredibly harsh witnesses – since in this story, the fall is not so much Sophy’s, but that of the male snob.
I love how Wharton accomplishes this.

Southern California Death Trip

    “He was kind but he changed and I killed him,” reads the caption of the photo of a woman in an old tabloid. She was headed to ...