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Showing posts from April 23, 2023

corruptions of empire - the case of Sean McElwee

  In his essay, The New York Gold Conspiracy, about the exploits of those great American rogues, Jay Gould and Jim Fiske – the former likened to a spider, the latter a comic giant who never told the truth (so as to keep in practice with the lying), Adams has some Gibbonesque fun with the Erie Railroad, the corporate entity that those two swindlers controlled. It employed 15,000 people, and 773 miles of road in all. And it was bound to the direct control of its owners: “Over all this wealth and influence, greater than that directly swayed by any private citizen, greater than is absolutely and personally controlled by most kings, and far too great for the public safety either in a democracy or in any other form of society, the vicissitudes of a troubled time placed two men in irresponsible authority ; and both these men belonged to a low and degraded moral and social type. Such an elevation has been rarely seen in modem history. Even the most dramatic of modern authors, even Balzac himse

situation comedy, the good, the bad, and the "allegedly" rapist

  All happy families are situation comedies. All unhappy families are situation comedies, too. This is the wisdom of television, I have been impressed with this wisdom for about three, four years – which is when we started ending our nights with Adam by watching a television series. One series at a time. We started with the Office, the American version, and we have worked our way through Schitt’s Creek, Brooklyn 99, Fresh off the Boat, and Blackish. Each time we have completed the entire cycle – partly because Adam is, as he puts it, a completist. I’ve been perfectly happy with our choices, even if we all have various complaints about this or that show, gag, character, etc. But our last choice threw me: Scrubs. Right away the music made me grit my teeth – the bastard children of alternate radio’s obsession with the Hooty and the Blowfish sound, the bane of the nineties. But more, I was thrown by the racism and the sexism. The racism was pretty much in your face – it was white liberal r

imaginary lives

  Marcel Schwob’s preface to his Vies imaginaires makes a plea for the vita as art, instead of history. History, Schwob writes, aims at the general, and puts the stress in the meaning of human lives in their connection with greater events. For history, “all individuals have value only because they have modified events or made them deviate.” Art, on the other hand, “doesn’t classify; it de-classifies.” The preface carries out the argument, such as it is, with brio. But the imaginary lives do not all carry out that de-classifying imperative. The life of Herostratus, for instance, distinctly lacks a certain detail – or rather, Schwob lacks a certain wonder at this detail. Herostratus was famous, or infamous, for having torched the temple of Artemis in Epheseus. Schwob does an interesting, proleptic thing about Herostratus by describing him from the beginning in terms of the tortures to which he was subjected after his act. This proleptic magic act is nice. I applaud it. But then, when we

journalism and protocol

  I was talking to a friend the other day, and she said something that opened my mind. She was talking about a meeting she had gone to, and remarked that one of her colleagues there was talking to everyone in a tone that was out of protocol. It hit me then, this thing I have been puzzling over. The style of Le Monde. The lead articles on politics in Le Monde, even more than the political reporting in the New York Times, have a curious tone. I guess it is the tone of the servant who is following the rules of protocol at the court. In such ceremonies, as we know from countless movies, there is not much room for maneuver. The names and titles on the list must be read out distinctly and smoothly. They are communication of a sort, but to who? Sometimes to the king, or the master of the revels, and sometimes to the assorted guests. But mostly, these people know each others titles and names. Here, communication is subsumed in pomp. It is just this surplus of information that is the point. Jus

Dial 0 for the operator, 1 for billing

  Dial O for the operator, 1 for billing   Who invents? We repair, or we have the man Bring his tools for a look-see. We aren’t familiar With the specs,   the codes, the at-hand Or have anything at our fingertips.   We have to back up, we miss the appointment. We talk to the secretaries of those who have secretaries Wondering who is holding when we are put on hold. Are they the holders, really? Is this a hold up   That the Lord has made, we in his hands He in our hearts, the hold em and fold em Of gross contingency? Are we being Offered muzak and headache again,   Like when we were   little girls in the back seat When we had to go so bad And mom said hold it And we couldn’t, we couldn’t?