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Showing posts from March 20, 2016

sure vs. absolutely

Somewhere in Delmore Schwarz’s journals he remarks on the brilliance of the American “sure”. He doesn’t say anything more, but I’d speculate that Schwarz intuited that certain words are novels – and not just novels, but state of the nation novels, U.S.A. novels. Like so much in the U.S.A, the word has mutated since the forties. It has become the bogus absolutely. Of course, this mutation is not unrelated to other mutations abroad in the land – for instance, the systematic skinning of the working class, from their place in the popular arts to their dignity to their paychecks. Sure was both the extended hand and a word to be spoken out of the side of the mouth by private dicks and mobsters. Sure was off the farm – as was the population, draining into Detroit and Chicago and Los Angeles and Cleveland, making steel in Youngstown and Pittsburg, waging labor war in Flint. Sure was familiar with numbers runners and the overflowing toilets in neighborhood taverns on Friday night. Sure had

there will be blood - reflections on the present state of the human meat grinder

Jeremy Harding’s long review essay about Angola in the LRB is a fascinating exercise in the history of the Cold war as pursued in one of its side pockets, even if Harding recounts it at a cold blooded jet fighter height, mainly. Clearly, one of the many things Obama could have congratulated Castro for in Cuba was his strong contribution to the end of apartheid. Without Cuban troops and Soviet weapons in Angola in the seventies and eighties, the South African apartheid forces and the Americans would have rolled over Namibia and Angola, and apartheid might still have its leather gloved grip on the region. I read it with some memory of the events that it went through. However, I found it suprisingly relevant to today’s politics. Reagan’s under-secretary of state, Crocker, was the author of the doctrine of linkage and constructive engagement with South Africa, which meant, generally, supporting the racist regime.Its the same cynical, immoral and ultimately futile policy that

rom com imperialism

A and I set out to enjoy a fun, forgettable movie last night. The movie we chose, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, will, eventually, be forgettable, but its not-funness was very wrapped up in memory: the memory of that corrupt and vile decade, the 00s in these here United States. The overwhelming Orientalist stereoptypes, from Gunga Din to Savage to Wise Native; the political blankness (this is a movie that locates one of its first scenes at the Bagram Airforce base in 2002, which is famous for containing a torture chamber in  which at least two Afghan civilians were tortured to death by American interrogators, without pausing to allude to it)); the ridiculous intrusion of a sort of lean-in feminism as our moral justification for being in Afghanistan (real feminism was introduced by the Communists under the PDPA in 1978, which began a revolt that was stifled by Soviet soldiers. The US then funded the mujahedin freedom fighters, as Reagan called them, who put the subordination of women at the to

My theory, which is mine, which I have, cough cough

Ever since I was knee high to a mockingbird, I’ve been reading about the lamentable state of American innumeracy. Seems like we Americans, unlike Koreans, Finns, and Albanians, just can’t find our way in even the lower mathematics. Many theories have been advanced. Many studies, at great expense, have been launched. Well, I was sitting out at the playground today, watching Adam and other kids and parents, and it struck me that it might have something to do with the way us parents threaten.  More specifically, the way we say: I’m going to count to five and you better get in your seat, eat your dinner, get off the jungle gym, etc. Nobody ever says, I’m going to go to “e”. It is perhaps for this reason that the alphabet really does seem composed of friendly little mountaineers, each with its little hammer, all of them climbing up one after the other the cliff face of language. Whereas numbers always have the whiff of the disciplinarian, as if they all waved rulers at us threatening