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Showing posts from October 18, 2015

the decoder ring

We name our epochs or ages like we name our pets – to give them a handle. Spot may have spots, and the industrial revolution might, in some places, have indicated an enormous increase in manufacturing. But when we fall to quarreling over the name, we are, perhaps, succumbing to magical thinking. Spot may also rove, like Rover, but she still has spots. She thinks of herself in entirely doglike terms, so it is impossible to say that she gives herself something like a name at all. There is something, well, vocational about a name – a name is also a calling. Mysteriously, an age seems to conjure into being its symbols, which coalesce around what we call it. This happens even on a trivial level. Thus, the post-war era, in which transistors and computer languages figure so largely that it has been called the information age, gave birth, on the level of children’s toys, to the decoder ring. The decoder ring evolved in the twentieth century about the same time structuralism as a rec

a day in the life

This weekend we had a late afternoon picnic over at Emerson Reed Park with some friends. The friends had two kids, one five and one seven. We have Adam, now three. The Park is a heterogenous space. There’s a large structure that houses a theater, a typical California house circa 1940 with the Spanish look – whitewashed walls, red tile roof. There are tennis courts, two rows of them, behind large fences with green netting to give the players privacy from the steet, I guess, which go down to Wilshire and up to the right wing of the theater, almost, leaving a little space for a garden and a fountain and some rose bushes in the between area. There is, next to the left wing of the theater, an almost acre area of grass and trees. There is a basketball court, or rather, a large asphalted area that boasts three basketball courts. There is, behind the theater, a sort of garden, with a pathway that leads down to a structure with four bathrooms. Then there’s another house, also Spanish style,  t

Mark Bowdon interviews enlisted men! Bystanders applaud. Heroes win!

This paragraph by Mark Bowden, defending his version of the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, is the loveliest expression of the pres bubbleI have seen in a long time : “While Hersh’s story (and Mahler’s) suggests that mine was, in effect, handed to me by administration spokesmen, it was (as the book notes) based on dozens of interviews with those directly involved, including President Obama. One wonders where else the story might come from, since the hunt for bin Laden and the mission to kill him were conducted by government officials, right down to the enlisted men who conducted the raid. Basing a story on those government sources directly involved makes it “official” in some sense, I suppose, but I have never been in the employ of the government, and have carved a fairly extensive career working with complete journalistic independence. ” Yes, one does wonder where a story about an event in fucking Pakistan would come from if not from American officials, including the Pr

the heteronormative American tone

I have a hunch that the comedy of self-consciousness, in other words, self-consciousnessery, has about exhausted itself. It is the prevailing tone adopted by white male American novelists and writers from about the 90s forward. I’ve been reading 10:04, Ben Lerner’s novel, and finding it both less irritating and less amazing than Leaving the Atocha Station – and this is significant. Lerner’s first novel was to self-consciousnessery what, say, Henry Vaughan’s Silex Scintillans was to metaphysical poetry – it pushes the tone and tic to such an extreme that it undergoes a fatal crisis. Hmm, perhaps my analogy isn’t perfect – to my mind, the self-consciousnessery of LAS produces something interesting, the picaresque rouge as uber-self-conscious American. Perhaps it was the Spanish locale. Perhaps there was a subtle reference to Lazarillo de Tormes or Quevedo. As David Foster Wallace made clear, self-consciousnessery with its endless fastidiousness and play of retraction and assertion wa