Thursday, June 30, 2005

The epitome of epitome

Ken Tomlinson, the crack Bushhead now heading the Corpse for Public Broadcasting and the ace who hired Mr. Mann to decide which bits of public broadcast were "anti-Bush," "anti-Delay," or "anti-corporation," used to be Editor in Chief of Reader's Digest.

The Reader's Digest somehow failed to make this list. I'm guessing the list compilers all have the dog-eared mag sitting beside their porcelain thrones, or Lazy Boys. Porcelain Lazy Boy thrones. Flag decals, wet bars, noble stags.

According to Wikipedia:

The following are some of the basic values founding the discourse of the Reader's Digest.

  • Individual achievement. Digest characters are always struggling, against bad luck, against systems and regulations, against diseases, and their only weapons are their own courage, cooperation between individuals, and an occasional helping hand of God.
  • Optimism. Most Digest stories have happy endings. There is only one other case: the article may acknowledge in the end that there are still many difficulties to overcome, and give advice.
  • Free market economy. In almost every issue, the magazine fights taxes, government regulations, budget deficits, labor unions, and for many decades the Communist system. All these ideologemes fit into a rather elaborate and consciously reproduced doctrine.

Nothing less jocular than an epitomizing gesture that pretends to be offering a microcosm of the national scene ("Life in These United States." "Humor in Uniform." "Laughter: The Best Medicine." "Drama in Real Life"), when the editorial process has more in common with the compositional techniques of Ed Gein.

To someone growing up in New York City, the Digest was like background noise of the Big Bang -- evidence that something really big and nasty had happened, somewhere in the vicinity of Ohio. Which always made it a surprise that it seemed to emanate from Pleasantville, NY. Today it seems more a generational marker.

The power of the Digest lay in its power to produce, month after tedious month, a representation of USian reality that obeyed an editorial regimen the way objects obey the laws of gravity. A set of tonal tics and wry bits of humor and remembrance that are the publishing world's version of the politically innocuous personality - the hale fellow, well met, no qualities.

The Reader's Digest is apparently still the best selling magazine in the US. No more effective propaganda machine out there. I'll buy that for a dollar. Mr. Tomlinson simply wants PBS to follow suit. Yuk it up - you'll live longer.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005


Which of these journalistic claims is more phantasmagoric?

Pittsburgh's Safar Centre for Resuscitation Research has developed a technique in which subject's veins are drained of blood and filled with an ice-cold salt solution.

The animals are considered scientifically dead, as they stop breathing and have no heartbeat or brain activity.

But three hours later, their blood is replaced and the zombie dogs are brought back to life with an electric shock.
Or this:
A relativist America is properly inconceivable. Leave relativism, complexity and realism to other nations. America is the last nation left whose citizens don't laugh out loud when their leader asks God to bless the country and further its mighty work of freedom. It is the last country with a mission, a mandate and a dream, as old as its founders.

All of this may be dangerous, even delusional, but it is also unavoidable. It is impossible to think of America without these properties of self-belief.
M. Ignatieff, NY Times.

Monday, June 27, 2005

P2P or TCM?

P2P software folks can rest easier, according to this view of the Grokster case. If the determining element has to do with the "intent" of the business model, well, the business of sharing music we love is not business now, is it?
Douglas Lichtman: As the opinion makes clear, evidence of unreasonable product design can be considered only if there is also smoking-gun evidence of intent. Indeed, even outlandish design desicions are off limits without the relevant precursor.
Another astute observer, Douglas Patry, notes:
I view the Court as having punted: they decided mainly an issue that wasn't in front of them (inducement) and didn't decide the one that was, the effect of Sony in the Internet era.
So, the only way the Court could get unanimity was by demonstrating supreme dexterity in the Shell Transfer Protocol known as Three Card Monte?

Friday, June 24, 2005

home on the mange

"There were 3 million owner-occupied homes in gated communities." US Census Bureau News
It's difficult to say whether one's sense of an implicit general mood is actually there, or simply in the mind, let alone to accede to some reliable idea of what stands behind the glow.

A wild guess: The general smugness of some of the people you meet has something to do with the recent phenomenon of amateur real estate speculating. That glint began to throb like Sauron's eye as the awareness dawned that the largest asset many people own has doubled, tripled, or become n times more valuable than what was paid for it.
"Housing is often our biggest expense -- and an important reflection of how we see ourselves." The American Housing Survey.
The cheesy calm of the landed gentry is nothing new in the USian middle class. What may be new is how this sense of well being, or at least well owning, has broadened out to include a very broad swath of the more than 72 million homeowners in the US. Some of them are likely on thin ice. Others may be giddily fortunate.

The fathappiness of this economic tumor could well help explain how it can be that it's all good here. Despite how it all is.

But the thing that strikes me about this goes back to a comment Rossellini made, on the difference between society and community cited before on this blog:
People today only know how to live in society, not in community. The soul of society is the law. The soul of community is love.
In society, beneficiaries of asset enhancement (and the media who assuage their simple needs) add an inch to their waistbands, tell themselves it's a zero-sum game because their next manor will cost more, and attend to gossip about housing market bubbles.

In community, people know that the very gain in property value that benefits many is baleful damage to those who don't happen to hold title to their subdivision of the rock. Every increase in property value for owners results in a commensurate dimming of the prospects and hopes of ever owning a home for renters and other housing-challenged USians.

To register this would be to representationally experience economic events simultaneously as personal boon and communal blow. Do you know of any places in USian media where this dimension of our social experience has been "covered"? Love to see a few pointers.
[Here's an example of the usual sort of thing, found through Dan Gillmor's Bayosphere. Here's hoping initiatives like Dan's will take us beyond it.]

Thursday, June 23, 2005

It's getting better all the time

Starting in the 1980s, we began seeing popular TV dads like Philip Drummond of "Diff'rent Strokes" and Cliff Huxtable of "The Cosby Show" start to earn higher incomes. Since then, TV dad salaries have been on the rise.'s team of compensation experts studied a sampling of 60 TV fathers from the most popular television shows over the past six decades. Today's TV dads have an average salary of $195,000 per year, which is more than twice the salary of their 1950's counterparts, who were earning the equivalent of $75,000 (in 2005 dollars).
The number of interlocking agendas served by this bottled sacrament is difficult to overestimate.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Have you heard of one Humpty Dumpty
How he fell with a roll and a rumble
And curled up like Lord Olofa Crumple
By the butt of the Magazine Wall,
(Chorus) Of the Magazine Wall,
Hump, helmet and all?
He was one time our King of the Castle
Now he's kicked about like a rotten old parsnip.
And from Green street he'll be sent by order of His Worship
To the penal jail of Mountjoy
(Chorus) To the jail of Mountjoy!
Jail him and joy.
He was fafafather of all schemes for to bother us
Slow coaches and immaculate contraceptives for the populace,
Mare's milk for the sick, seven dry Sundays a week,
Openair love and religion's reform,
(Chorus) And religious reform,
Hideous in form.

He was joulting by Wellinton's monument
Our rotorious hippopopotamuns
When some bugger let down the backtrap of the omnibus
And he caught his death of fusiliers,
(Chorus) With his rent in his rears.
Give him six years.

And not all the king's men nor his horses
Will resurrect his corpus
For there's no true spell in Connacht or hell
(bis) That's able to raise a Cain

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

a useful inquiry

On Jon Husband's Wirearchy:
... an interesting and matter-of-fact article titled The Power Of Us in Business Week, stating in no uncertain terms that the use of interpersonal communications on the Web, in interlinked interconnected environments, is having significant impact on business logic, organizational structures and the power relationships between established and more traditional organizations and their constituents.
Just as some individual bloggers have become mini self-promotional industries, so too the blogosphere as a whole seems to do nothing better than come up with ever new and astounding ways to take credit for the most amazing transformational developments.

But here's something -- a task, if you will -- for some sociopolitical mythologist to study: What evidence is there that the use of interpersonal communications on the Web, in interlinked interconnected environments is having any effect on the glurgian mystifications of nationhood*?

That is, is it possible to study the blogosphere and say with any degree of certainty that (a) the mythos of nationhood is undergoing serious critique leading to a new sense of human order and systems, (b) the activity of global interconnected environments is exaggerating and deepening traditional notions of national identity, or (c) the group intelligence of the blogosphere is having no impact on the matter whatsoever?

One might argue that group intelligence cannot exist without some reduction in the aura of nationality. After all, one definition of intelligence has to do with reducing the number of unexamined lies in which the mind is suspended. Given the exemplary intelligence cited by Business Week, however, it might be hard to say:
The Internet's supreme group-forming capability suggests the rise of an almost spooky group intelligence. Within minutes of Pope John Paul II's death, hundreds of eBay sellers had posted related products for sale.

*E.g.: "Lo stato, cosi come il fascismo lo concepisce e l'attua, e un fatto spirituale e morale, poiche concreta l'organizzazione politica, giuridica, economica della nazione; e tale organizzazione e, nel suo sorgere e nel suo sviluppo, una manifestazione dello spirito." Mussolini, March 10, 1929, speaking at the Teatro reale dell'opera in Rome.

[trans. As Fascism conceives and realizes it, the State is a spiritual and moral fact, because it concretizes the political, judicial and economic order of the nation; and such organization, in its rise and in its development, is a manifestation of the spirit.]

Monday, June 13, 2005

politics and philology

Found on a splendid and useful site:
One of my sources for this work was Dr. Ernest Klein's A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the English Language (Amsterdam, 1971). Klein, Rabbi of Nové Zámky in Czechoslovakia from 1931-44, was deported to Dachau and returned home after liberation to find "that my father, my wife, my only child Joseph, and two of my three sisters had suffered martyrdom in Auschwitz." He moved to Canada, and out of his sorrow and urged on by his surviving sister he set down his lifelong love of etymology into a book, and in its introduction he wrote:
"May this dictionary, which plastically shows the affinity and interrelationship of the nations of the world in the way in which their languages developed, contribute to bringing them nearer to one another in the sincere pursuit of peace on earth -- which was one of my cardinal aims in writing this dictionary."
"This work" is the Online Etymological Dictionary - compiled and built by one person, Douglas Harper, freely offered to us all. More about it here.

Other than Perseus, what's Academia done that's remotely so fine? Perhaps it hasn't lost enough to gain the motivation.

Monday, June 06, 2005

chirpy monday note

Walter Benjamin notes that Malebranche called attentiveness "the natural prayer of the soul."

Monetized attentiveness is eyeballs.

Gods of capital prey on prayers, sucking our eyeballs until they bleed.

What was that problem with the Aztecs?

Friday, June 03, 2005

Load to Verizon

While waiting for this page to load, I put out the dog, and saw a neighbor, who was cutting his lawn. He started telling me about his divorce -- we were there a while when a guy from down the street strolled up, asked me if that was my dog who/which/that had laid a sumptuous steaming pile on his manicured tetragon of grass, to which I assented, upon which he up and pulls out a gun and tells me he's making a citizen's arrest under article 5832B of the penal code, for which high crimes and misdemeanors I will truly pay. A scuffle arose during which the gun went off. I spent five years in prison, after a lengthy trial, during which I wrote a country music ballad with a raga feel that went to the top of the charts. A movie based on the song came out three years ago. I get no royalties since that would be profiting from my bad behavior. Now fully reformed, I am on the lecture circuit of the Church of the Sons of Simpering Scottish Accountants, 7th Reg., HMSS. My career on the rubberstemcell circuit brought me to the attention of Karl Rove, who approved my White House credentials after my seventh lobotomy (Karl's had 78!) so I'm now responsible for all US foreign policy, and -- ah, it's loaded.