Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The artifical intelligence of contractual reality

One day after Donald Seither's mobile home was ripped up by Hurricane Charley, the 74-year-old retiree picked up a friend's phone and pleaded for federal aid.

Technically, he got it. But mostly, he got ticked off.

Seeking the government's help, the Punta Gorda resident -- after being put on hold for two hours -- got through to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and told his tale: a damaged roof, shattered windows, no electricity.

About a week later, a check from the U.S. Treasury came in the mail.

Here, Seither figured, was the hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars, he and his wife would need to help rebuild their lives.

Then he opened the envelope and read the fine print. The check's value: $1.69. Miami Herald


So, I'm living in my van. The intelligence of which prompted this from Trish, one of my mordant correspondents:

Poor Tom!

So now you are "van trash" or perhaps, if alliteration is de rigueur, van vomit? van vermin? van victim? Do you expect to be under roof again soon?
Thanks, Trish -- really. Almost broke the library's glass doors and my gut when I read it. (I resort to the library for bandwidth now that MCI's brilliant mobile unit has departed).

Call me Vanna Whiteguy, tutelary spirit of the downwardly mobile USian middle class.


Learjet Dumbshow

(Lumberjacks dance as chimpmunks scream:)
Poor Tom; that eats the swimming frog, the toad,
the tadpole, the wall-newt and the water; that in
the fury of his heart, when the foul fiend rages,
eats cow-dung for sallets; swallows the old rat and
the ditch-dog; drinks the green mantle of the
standing pool; who is whipped from tithing to
tithing, and stock- punished, and imprisoned; who
hath had three suits to his back, six shirts to his
body, horse to ride, and weapon to wear;
But mice and rats, and such small deer,
Have been Tom's food for seven long year.


The New York Times:
As the insurance companies see it, if people are underinsured it is primarily their own fault.
We signed on to be publicly gangraped by corporate America before corporate America even existed. This occurred when the Federalists, led by Hamilton & co., wormed the doctrine of the sacredness of contracts into the Constitution.

Contracts, as divine objects, must be honored, we are told. But do insurers honor them when they modify existing wording so that the promise once held forth no longer exists? When their lawyers find 10 additional dimensions of spacetime inside words like "of" and "is"?

Contracts have deflated the spirit of the US -- thanks to their executional and evacuatory powers, we no longer have even the memory of community. "The law will protect me. I have it here in writing," we say, like the shameful, cubicled breed of spineless slugs we de facto et de jure are. If you have a contract with a corporation, that corporation has a Calvinized contract out on you. You'll get exactly what you deserve.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

3,2,1 liftoff

The other morning I woke up in a reverie of trees. Their former canopies, now strewn at our feet like the flowers of Dante’s Matelda, reveal a whole shitload of stars up there, nearer bei Gott to we for the anomalous absence of Florida Power and Light. We see racked clouds in Mexican sunsets where once stood thick barriers of Florida oaks, palms, pines, mangroves.

There is something cartoonish about major acts of Nature. I was talking with Eddie yesterday, who pronounces his name Iddie. He’s from Tennessee, had a small boat repair business that morphed into an auto hauling concern. The 'Cane hurled an old unfixed-up boat from his former life over four of his proud tractor trailers and into the Chrysler LeBaron he’d just about gotten to the point of being ready to proudly sell. In one toss he’s out a $34,000 boat and a $4,000 car, both uninsured.

Like many around Charlotte County, Eddie awaited Hurricane Charley in his home. He watched as the wind in front of the Eye torqued his pool cage to an acute leftward angle. Then a calm blue sky appeared and summer returned for about three and a half minutes. Then the winds swung round the other way and didn’t bother bending the cage to the right. Flicked it out of view like a bit of lint instead. As Eddie was taking that in, his neighbor’s entire roof, a new-fangled design held altogether by some gluey tarry shingleshit, lifted in one piece into the air, rode about 20 yards downwind, and dropped onto a small grove of orange trees. Whereupon he retired to a closet.

Dennis and Liz, a couple in their late 60s, listened from a bathroom to the deconstruction of their home right on Charlotte Harbor. Invariably people liken hurricane impact to being in a train that’s shaking, rattling and roaring at 100 mph. Dennis, a burly guy, used himself as a prop to keep the wooden bathroom door closed. For 45 minutes he applied every ounce of pressure to that door, as winds tore off the roof, mangled the pool cage, and noisily played with the innards of their home. After the Eye’s brief calm, he resumed the position. Days later, his upper body still ached.

Down the same street, Joel, 54, also stayed in his home on the water, with his beloved dog, Kamca. Kamca had recently undergone a costly chemotherapy that Joel willingly spent for her, but would not have bothered with had it been his own cancer. He remembers how a few weeks ago she was jumping around like a puppy, seemingly recovered. Since the storm Joel has had nightmares full of the sounds of rattletrap freight trains. Two days ago, on the advice of his vet, Joel put Kamca to sleep – kidney failure, the vet said. But Joel and the vet knew, she'd lost her desire to live.

We were less vividly affected. Our house is not on the water, but near enough that when we heard the neighborhood was being evacuated and that the storm was now heading straight for us, we moved up the road about five miles, to a small house full of people, kids and dogs, with a flimsy back porch on which Flo, the unflappable owner and grandmother of many of the kids, was grilling burgers and hot dogs. We sat around various TVs watching the storm as though it were a NASCAR event.

We still have electric poles instead of underground wiring, and we could hear one power transformer after another explode with a brisk popping sound. The pops came closer and faster, then all at once the house was empty of TV noise, the hum of the fridge, the lights, the music. For a moment, the progress of the storm was unmediated. The flimsy back porch swayed a little as the winds pushed the trees to the right. I kept thinking about that hot grill. In a back bedroom, two younger kids sat silent, nauseated. Then Jesse, 14, switched on a tiny battery powered TV and we resumed our spectator status. A tree fell. Without advance notice there was the calm Eye, then more winds, but never high enough to touch a threshold of terror. Sooner than we expected, the rear end of “Charley” had waddled off towards Arcadia and Orlando. We walked out into a landscape whose scale of ruin belied our modest notions of what had just come over us.

Some large trees stood like the venerable Squarepants, Bobless, or with their crowns hanging by a thread, like botched victims of Robespierre’s guillotine. Others were cracked in half, and landed across roads, or on roofs, or on cars. The more we saw, the more we saw our own experience as fluke, a grace of the storm’s capricious architecture.

Later we drove to our neighborhood, which had suffered much greater damage than the one we’d resorted to. Roads were impassable, so we walked down to our homes. Miki’s had a large tree on the roof, another larger one down in the yard, but was dry inside. Flo's daughter's home had roof damage, a couple of broken windows and water damage. Mine had a corner caved in, trusses blown off, collapsed ceilings, water damage and a new snowfall of attic insulation. A spear of red wood from a small house across the street had, with deadly accuracy, shot through a small window and impaled a lampshade next to my bed. My backyard was an unrecognizable mulch of other people’s roofs, pool cages, and our old, old oaks, providers through many summers of stooped, gnarled shade.

We can rebuild. There will be, has already been, the usual nonsense science of insurance adjusters – the stories you hear. But we have homes, properties, capable of being reconstructed. This is something, quite a bit really, compared with those living in trailer parks whose “mobile” or “manufactured” homes wouldn’t fetch $4 on eBay. So today’s news of FEMA’s solution to the homeless problem seems a tad disconcerting:

CHARLOTTE COUNTY -- Federal officials plan to house hundreds of families displaced by the hurricane in mobile homes and trailers on county-owned property near the county jail.

The 92-acre site near I-75 and Airport Road could accommodate up to 800 mobile homes or travel trailers. Sarasota Herald Tribune
This certainly qualifies as a solution, getting people out of shelters, out of their cars, out of other people’s homes. Only, this hurricane season hasn’t peaked yet. That comes in September, and hurricane activity continues through the end of November.

Permit a minor detour here. When Jeb Bush first spoke of the effects of Hurricane Charley, he did not speak of it as an act of Nature, but rather as a manifestation of the will of God:

Jeb Bush spent much of the day with storm victims in Charlotte County.

"You can't plan for the unforeseen," the governor said. "God doesn't follow the linear directions of computer models.”
(International Herald Tribune)

It is indeed comforting to have political leaders who are on such terms with the Almighty.

Now, the FEMA bookies might think lightning won’t strike twice, but in fact it can and does with some frequency here. Placing Florida residents into a densely aggregated trailer park could, in the event of another strong storm, turn FEMA’s solution into something more like the Final Solution. It's one low-maintenance way to alleviate the social burdens of poverty and homelessness. At which point, with all the sanctimony of homegrown Republican piety, Mr. Bush will ponder the mysterious yet Calvinistically vindicated ways of God to men, and, (beggin' yr pardon, Guv!) get on with the main order of the Lord's business: jiggering the November election in good faith.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Arundhati Roy

On the global stage, beyond the jurisdiction of sovereign governments, international instruments of trade and finance oversee a complex system of multilateral laws and agreements that have entrenched a system of appropriation that puts colonialism to shame. This system allows the unrestricted entry and exit of massive amounts of speculative capital - hot money - into and out of third world countries, which then effectively dictates their economic policy...

...when we speak of "Public Power in the Age of Empire," I hope it's not presumptuous to assume that the only thing that is worth discussing seriously is the power of a dissenting public.
TIDE? OR IVORY SNOW? Public Power in the Age of Empire.



Former blog will continue to mouth texted vocables

It seems my former blog home will continue existing for the forseeable future, thanks to the inestimable menschitude of Rogers Cadenhead.

Sunday, August 22, 2004


Wundruous proud to say the mall is now open and so is the movie theeater. Me and the kid took in Alien vs. Predator during the afternoon heat. We both liked Sanaa Lathan, and a jolly clarifying time watching violence and mass destruction, embedded in preposterous ancient historical claptrap, was had by all.

and the water running down...

...as with everything else in our country these days, FEMA is now just another Gestapo-like organization whose primary mandate is anti-terrorism. Wayne Madsen, Online Journal.
A friend sent the link to the above article, which is more about Bush than about disaster relief. I do have a bit of trouble with the blanket characterization of FEMA as gestapo-istic. As far as I can tell from the recent unpleasantness on Florida's Gulf Coast, FEMA appears to be fronted by a species of Federal People who have taken refresher courses in eye-contact avoidance, terminally bland neutrality, feckless ass-coverage and other technical accomplishments, but not in executing open force against citizens.
(That specialization goes to the local constabulary, who enforce the curfew with a twisted peevishness: Driving home at 9:03 p.m. -- late for the 9 p.m. curfew! -- I'm stopped by a police officer who asks to see my license, takes 10 minutes to review the fact that it says I lived on the very next street, and returns it to me with the community good will statement of the week: "Next time have your fun before 9 o'clock instead of at 9:15.")
No, the problem with FEMA is, it has become a Republican artifact. That is to say, its role here in Charlotte County, as far as I can see, is to help Mr. Bush win Florida in November. If it continues as it has begun, it could help him lose.

Yesterday as an unbelievably helpful group of friends and friends of friends were helping me do some debris removal at my house, a FEMA fellow drove up and told me about free tarps to protect leaking roofs which were available at FEMA disaster recovery. Four thousand of them. He was a tall fellow, imported from Hawaii by the agency, going through areas hard hit by the storm. FEMA had thoughtfully rented him a car and placed him in a three-bedroom apartment in Venice, the nearest intact town on the coast. In one stroke, a FEMA employee had eliminated housing that could have held one or more families in need of housing.

I went to the "Disaster Recovery Center" this morning, early. Too early. The tarps were over at another center, at the stadium. Could anyone call over there to see if it was open? No, they could not. No one at one FEMA center had the phone number of anyone at the other recovery center. One state employee finally assured me it was open, and had tarps. When I arrived, about 8:30 a.m., no staff had yet arrived. An armed National Guardsman courteously instructed me to park and wait for them, explaining that it was his first day, and no one had told him anything. No sign pointed to it, but there was a room with lots of contributed items - canned food, toilet paper, rakes, brooms. Shortly a backhoe began unloading bags of ice, placing them on the grass in the already rather warm sun. I asked a Red Cross volunteer about the tarps. He said they were around behind a large truck. Eight or 9 used tarps indeed lay on the grass for anyone to take. I took one.

Not to lose perspective. There are bigger fiascoes than FEMA on the Gulf. But there is a figure in the tapestry of the Bush administration, a consistency of malapropism, only it is a malapropism of realia, not verba:

"The only thing that could've been more botched would be if America had landed on the moon using a rocket that flew one way -- with a crew of 130,000 astronauts who then killed 10,000 innocent moon men. We botched this motherfucker like botching was going out of style. This thing was so botched I'm surprised the name of the war wasn't misspelled."

What rankles most is not the failure of sensible communication, the absence of basic signage to point people to where they can get help -- these simple matters are apparently too much for FEMA to comprehend, but they are not going to de-elect Bush. What really rankles is how, at the official FEMA Disaster Recovery Center, where FEMA "workers" stood surrounded by stacks and stacks of bottled water, while I spoke with one FEMA staffer after another in the Air Conditioned facility, and as it became clear to these officers that I am unable to live in my home as a result of the disaster that is the alleged reason they are here, not a single one of them asked me if I would like some water. All resources at their disposal, apparently, were not for disaster victims, but for FEMA Disaster Recoverers.

Mr. Bush, your disaster recovery agency is intensifying the lack of housing, taking up valuable space with its own infrastructure, and failing to take the simplest steps to alleviate a jot of the monumental problems here. I applaud FEMA's effort to undermine your political future; I simply do not wish anyone who is not the "beneficiary" of the agency's services to believe it has anything other than a hollow political purpose in being here.

I live in Southwest Florida under a mask called FEMA, a latter day Republican meta-agency. Its task is to mitigate the impact of any natural disaster upon the political fortunes of the Bush Administration -- the major disaster from which we all need immediate long-term relief.

Friday, August 20, 2004

riders on the storm

High intensity events arrive with the force of dreams. You drive up a road to higher ground, hoping your home will be there when you return. After the hurricane, you drive back down the same road, but it is not the same. It is a vector of indices of power. The broken power and light poles, the crushed hardware store, the truck flung into the liquor store tell of something that has come this way and this way will never be the same.


The most annoying element of this has been the headlines. Every day, newspapers tell us, in bold letters, there has been a RAMPAGE. we are BATTERED. We are COMING OUT OF OUR HOLE. We are starting THE PUSH FORWARD. BETTER DAYS ARE AHEAD. WE. WE. WE. The headline is an outmoded, fascist imposition of Order erected upon a lie about a fiction of disorder.

The first moment after a disaster, we do not need news anchors unchained to any news, no shred of useful information, but plenty of unctuous sympathy. We do not need roads filled with NBC-2 vehicles containing anchorites powdering their noses in rear view mirrors. These we have, in droves.


Disasters happen. Some learn from prior experience. MCI, with its Big Blue mobile phone/broadband satellite trailer, with AC, water, snacks, has learned. They have been to Oklahoma City. To New York City. They have acquired some knowledge, and it shows. MCI’s unit posted itself near the worst hit area, but also near a Publix, (another company with some memory of what can be done), which reopened within a couple of days of the storm with generator power, and porta-potties. To these essential ingredients came people from Siesta Key offering burgers and hot dogs, cold water, etc. State Farm set up its mobile office. In very little time, a self-organized multiple-use node has replaced a distressed stripmall parking lot.

Others, who should have learned from experience, have not. It was edifying to hear a radio news interview with the head of FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, who, asked what might happen if one or more additional disasters happened at the same time, encouragingly said his agency was equipped to easily handle several Hurricane Charleys and 911s and more. Thank God for the Media, so we know that Mr. Bush’s administration is simply bursting with resources, know-how, and ingenuity.

This came as something of a revelation to those who, like me, came to a FEMA center in Port Charlotte early one morning, a few days after the hurricane had left town. Finding the office was not a simple matter. Once there, I found several FEMA people milling about, avoiding eye contact with us, and 15 or so phones, some of which worked. The FEMA agents did not try to take questions or offer information. They simply told us to dial an 800 number. It was 7:30 a.m., and the room was already filling with people who had somehow found out where the FEMA center was located. Apparently in George W. Bush’s Washington, disasters may only occur after 8 a.m. and prior to 6 p.m. We waited for the emergency experts to arrive at their desks, then we got busy signals for more than an hour, as they handled the first calls, one plodding 25-minute interview at a time. It also seems to be federal policy that victims of disasters come equipped with everything necessary to bureaucracy. There was no water, no porta potties, no pens or paper, although the FEMA interview requires that you be able to take down important information like your case number, etc. After an hour I got through to a FEMA agent, a nice-sounding but somberly legalistic woman who tried to make clear the federal intricacies and limitations of FEMA obligation while taking my info. As I connected, I waved frantically to a FEMA badge to request a pen. It took minutes for him to return – “it belongs to the black lady over there,” he said, indicating a victim who was talking on another phone.


We don’t see the precariousness of our world. Moments like this – the world turned upside down by a storm, by a war, by a famine or flood – peel back several layers of insulation, but there are always more. Still, disruptions are to be welcomed because they offer glimpses of how our lives, which we often think of in rich, multi-colored hues, are actually stick-figured sketches, capable of alteration and annihilation whenever the artist grows bored, restive, or frustrated.


Driving through Punta Gorda looking for early morning coffee, I see a gas station occupied by two large Convoy of Hope trailers. Boxes of water bottles and milk, baby food, diapers and other things are strewn about. It’s still dark, the only people there are a media crew, its cameras and lights aimed at a female reporter with a mike, getting ready to TELL US ALL ABOUT IT. I asked the only not busy person if there was anything hopeful about this convoy other than the Media. She said I could help myself to anything that was lying around. She said she was with ABC news.

Instead of the massively supported media gear, trucks, satellites, etc. that beam out to us and to the world a heap of, on the one hand, terrifically optimistic and bogus information spewed from the lips of officials, and on the other, fatuous human interest stories about people in whom the cosmetically perfect reporters have no human interest, I recommend:

FEMA, or a replacement, saner agency, create compact mobile disaster rescue and aid units that consist of:

1. Triage nurse or medic.
2. Mini-bulldozers to clear streets.
3. Self-contained, satellite-based communications units – phone and internet – like that provided by MCI, equipped with AC and water.
4. Porta potties for neighborhoods – staffed or organized to be maintained by volunteers who keep it supplied with toilet paper and frequently cleaned and disinfected.
5. Portable units with generators that can provide ice making, potable water, foods, and propane stoves for people to cook on.
6. Agents who actually talk to victims.
7. An information desk that keeps updating the latest key info – where to find gas and other essential items, which hospitals are open, etc.
8. A unit that deals with missing persons. People in neighborhoods know who lives there, and can report missing persons. This area has many, many elderly couples and single people, some of whom are disoriented in the best of times. People need to be looking out for them.
9. Create a couple, or even just one, larger centralized space organized to address the most pressing needs. E.g.: you need temporary shelter? Get on this line. Need medical assistance? Over here. Insurance claims? Line C. Find a licensed contractor? Here. This sort of thing requires a lot of sensible coordination between fed, state local and private people who have common sense. Therefore it has not happened.

When Aeneas saw Troy, through the ruse of Odysseus, breached and burning, he ran toward the disaster, to fight the invaders. His mother, a goddess, peeled back the veil of his limited vision, and Aeneas saw gods, giant in form, fierce in aspect, hacking his city to ruins. There would be no saving the old Troy; the path was opened to founding a new city, a new Troy, built on violence and blood, Amor's inverse, Roma.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

analog - y

Many digital friends and acquaintances, some of whom I have never met in the flesh, have written to ask what they can do in the wake of our recent storm. Thanks to all. Our needs at the moment are simple and nondigital: water, ice, bug spray, shelter, roofers, a better president, universal justice, world peace. If you can attach any of the above to an email (especially the last two), we'd be most appreciative. But if not, no biggie - we still are very grateful for the good wishes -



Wednesday, August 18, 2004


On the radio the other day, apropos of "Hurricane Charley," some Clear Channel announcer was saying, "I can't imagine going five days without a shower."

Dear Clear Channel Bonehead: this is normal in much of the world. It was normal in Mexico, where I lived last year. It's now normal in Southwest Florida, where power, water, phones and internet are largely unavailable, and many are among the nation's newest homeless. People in the US really need to understand: much of the world is living on borrowed time. This has ethical, political, social, and humanitarian repercussions, which those living inside the frames of digital life, walls, water, electricity, and roofs cannot begin to appreciate.

When circumstances require that you piss around the place like a dog, you start to get it.

I just posted a few photos of my town, Port Charlotte, Florida on Flickr.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

a bit

How cool - MCI just dropped a mobile phone/broadband unit into Port Charlotte - not far from us. Free calls. Free internet. Not wireless, but still brilliant.

On the other hand, Sprint, our local telephone provider (formerly United Telephone), offers one payphone to the entire community - the same one it has offered for years. They just missed a splendid PR opportunity. I think I'll go back to calling them Shrimp.

Thanks to all who have written, blogged, cared. I will try to compose something more legato about all this disruptive aftermath. But, fragments have always interested me. This chaos connects with Mexico, with myth, with something beyond the bullshit reality that takes our attention from what's just outside the frame.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

The rain it raineth...

We are ok, our property less so. Mother Nature ("Hurricane Charley" - how folksy) has caused widespread destruction, power and phone outages, etc. Thanks to those who have been trying to get in touch - it might be a while before even the basics of organization return to this small part of the Sunshine State, but we do appreciate your thoughts.

One good story: Gov. Bush seems to have taken credit for sending in 1,500 national guard forces, but as far as anyone knew yesterday, they were nowhere in sight. Except one woman, whose brother was among those who were called in. When she managed to speak to him, he was busy untangling wire from a cow over in Arcadia, 40 miles away.

Friday, August 13, 2004

"scary scary"

There is a difference between warning and alarming. When the path of a storm lies in your face, stories like this, with Governors like Jeb, are really annoying.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

AKMA and Margaret's placemat

Is there a way to advocate a plain-sense interpretive theory without inscribing the discourse in an ideologically-determined control game? AKMA and Margaret at dinner
I'd missed this revised essay of AKMA's in June, when I was driving through Mexico. Am in the midst of traveling again, but will be printing it out as soon as I get home. (I print out long things, even some blog entries. I remember Jeneane being surprised when I mentioned this to her. That blogs could have anything to do with print seemed odd to her, so thoroughly, imaginatively, is she a blogger.)

Wisdom in the aggregate

Very interesting comment here on Surowiecki's Wisdom of Crowds. Aggregation is the crucial element in the book's argument, and it does seem as though much of its richness remains unexplored.

Related: Benoit Mandelbrot suggests that the market, to better its self-understanding, might do more than listen to self-interested economic pundits. It could, he says, undertake research that is structured more like, hooha, a market.

Rather Schick

From Wired, a story about Fark failing to tell its readers that some of its links are paid for. Fark publisher Drew Curtis dodging questions. What motivates your secrecy, Mr. Curtis? It's a brave new world, values, norms in flux, etc., you bet. Why keep it a secret, unless you do see it's a fraud?

Then the story expands, just not far enough:
Paid placement is a long-running issue with search engines. Google does not accept payment for ordering search results, while Yahoo does. But while newspapers and magazines have traditionally been loath to blend advertising and editorial, product placement is common on television and in movies.

But even on TV, said Jon Fine, a reporter at Advertising Age, product placement is generally seen in entertainment programming and less so on the news.

"You see Coca-Cola plastered all over American Idol," Fine said. "You don't see Dan Rather holding up a Schick razor on the evening news."
Actually, you do. And, you see the New York Times holding up Manhattan real estate, wine merchants, and antiques dealers. Not talking about those clearly demarcated ads now. Adding a notice that "this is an advertisement" -- reinforced ably by the dogma of journalistic "objectivity" -- merely blurs the fact that every bit of news copy is composed within a representation of a world that is constructed by industrialists of journalism to comport with the protocol and decorum of the Chamber of Commerce.
Still, while the journalistic establishment might get worked up about mixing editorial and advertising content, Fine isn't sure anyone else does.

"Journalistic watchdogs get really (excited) about it," he said. "But does the public give a shit? I don't think so."

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Manchurian stumping

Rebecca Blood reports on the strength of Ben Affleck's commitment to the Kerry campaign. Springsteen with a host of other musicians will also be touring in support.

If announcements like these fail to excite, there's probably a good reason: An abyss distances the power these entertainers have in their own worlds from the power they bring to bear upon things like politics, which we in the US like to think of as a separate domain. I.e., Ben A. in a good film is one thing; meeting voters in the streets, he's a different thing. Same with Bruce, etc. Context has everything to do with their rhetorical force.

This is probably as it should be. But, speaking with complete speculative abandon, might there exist a hacker-type capability to bridge this gap between illocutionary and perlocutionary force, by tapping into the contexts of star turns in order to harness the full freight of their power?

I don't think it's been tried yet. Basically one would hack Manchurian signals, sleeping messages, into star performances in film or video. E.g., Affleck stars in a film, in which, when we first watch it, nothing unusual happens. Then, as his real-life candidate's campaign begins to build, a dormant bit of digital movie code wakes up. Now, as we watch the same film again (assuming we would ever do such a thing), Ben or Bruce starts projecting pro-Kerry messages. These could be anything from a silent icon to new dialogue or entirely new scenes that convey a political message, inserted like a trojan horse at some crucial point in the film or video.

Now it's Ben Affleck, or Bruce Springsteen, the star qua star in his/her own element who is supporting the politician. So, instead of futuristic and offensive highly targeted ads (a la Minority Report), we get contextually potent signs, retractively activated political product placements, as it were. The impact from bringing together the works and lives of stars, their heightened images and their ethical actualities, undergoes a quantum gain.

It sounds hideous, but not impossible. So, in good PhilipKDickian fashion, it's probably already on its way.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

tiny actors

When a news organization, e.g., the NY Times, accepts a rubric like "Age of Terror," it recites the script of the Republican perception planning dept. hook, line and sinker. (Note that the semantic field of "rubric" goes beyond mere headline or title to encompass "direction.")

Mug's game: play Fair and Balanced after you've given away the store. Or, not.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Yesterday's news today

The top story in the New York Times today - the one about how yesterday's orange alert was based on superannuated info? It was on NPR, early in the morning, YESTERDAY. I linked to it yesterday, under 3.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Yes, we have no explanations

Outside the New York Stock Exchange, media vans outnumbered police trucks. For people who work near the exchange, the alert was met with indifference. "I see guys with machine guns everyday," said Stephen Macken, 27 years old, a vice president at J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. Wall St. Journal (subscription)
How comforting. More comforting is the market's discounting of orange terror, what with September crude nearing $44 a barrel. As The Wisdom of Crowds notes, markets do that. Explanations of market movements after the fact are just journalism.

Reporting for Doody

Today's Orange Alert provokes three hasty thoughts as we media-whipped weathervanes mix our metaphors and roachscuttle for safety.

1. Any assertion by the State of impending Enemy Attack has the effect of framejacking: Suddenly Kerry and Edwards, campaigning out there in the hinterlands, are reduced to Click and Clack in slow-motion sepia, doomed warriors charging into silent butchery before the fade.

2. Large-scale State Alarmism tries one's patience, then reaction sets in. In short order, outdoor cafe types are wishing Tom Ridge would enrich his palette. If they offer an alternative to fear and horsefeathers, Kerry and Edwards can gain huge aesthetic points.


Sunday, August 01, 2004

Fair and Balanced R.I.P. to Convention Blogging

The Times' Fashion and Style dept. takes the measure of convention blogging. The narrative arc moving from Atrios (unmasked) to Wonkette to the 17-year old gay guy filling in for Wonkette offering "Yes, we do know HOT when we see it (even if she's a chick)" is warm viagra-ette to the gelid testicles of real newsmen all over this great land.