Thursday, November 30, 2006

An epitome of the flat Lexusness of Thomas Friedman, all courtesy of Matt:

"You have a global brain, my friend," MSNBC host Chris Matthews once told Friedman.
On an ideological level Friedman's new book is the worst, most boring kind of middlebrow horseshit. If its literary peculiarities could somehow be removed from the equation, The World is Flat would appear as no more than an unusually long pamphlet replete with the kind of plug-filled, free-trader leg-humping that passes for thought in mainstream America. It is a tale of a man who walks ten feet in front of his house armed with a late-model Blackberry, and comes back home five minutes later to gush to his wife that hospitals now use the internet to outsource the reading of CAT-scans. Taibbi
“He was totally disconnected from the Web, but totally in touch with the incredible web of life around him. I wonder if there’s a lesson there.”
In sum, the diplomatic correspondent for the NYT supports ethnic cleansing and terrorism, but only when done by the United States or one of its clients; Edward S. Herman

The mucilaginous moustache.

[update:] Thomas L. Friedman of the New York Times, explained that "the next big thing almost always comes out of America . . . [because] . . . America allows you to explore your own mind." Bonner via Scruggs via Frank.

Monday, November 27, 2006

That's not the lede, it's the bunk

WHITE HOUSE -- President Bush is launching, heh, another round of global diplomacy, this time in Europe.
Anxiety is the lifeblood, the legal tender, of USian media that pose as news. See that then you see how it was that USian media had no choice but to stand shoulder to shoulder with George W. Bush, Rudy Giuliani, and their co-stars of 2001, 2002, and 2003. There is no way to critique fear when fear is juice. You go with it, you know that right or not, papers will sell, advertisers will advertise, the public, once the initial shock is over, will seek again to anchor itself upon the sandbar of public-opinion-driven news, assuage itself with a new Hummer.

A newspaper of record like the New York times can always spin its wayward news judgments as effects of government malfeasance or, less appealing but still safe, lousy personnel. It takes no special skill to report stories, and little more to write them. But it takes exceptional talent to retroactively either justify them, or make them vanish without notice.

Given this, I suggest a working rule: Any news story that begins by telling us that some political leader, say Bush, has scuttled off to Latvia to discuss x, or y, with a, or b, is not news. Any story that tries to take it to "the next level," e.g., one that begins in this manner:
Escalating bloodshed and political tension in Iraq will shadow President Bush at a NATO summit this week... #
is the bunk. This sort of story needs to begin beforehand, back with Reagan, whose presidency in 1986 was in shambles, who hit the road even unto the very monumental Berlin Wall, to bravely beard the good Gorbachev, among other stunts, all calculated to get the 20-mule-team-borax shill off the stage with his trousers not entirely down around his ankles.

At this moment, any coverage of Bush that fails to indicate as much is merely what that wretched metaphor implies.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

ruthless philanthropy (for the happy tutor)

"Hegemonic incorporation is the taking into the self of the worldview by which one is subjugated." Thank God, we are Free in Wealth Bondage.
[David] NASAW: Carnegie early in his career said, and acted on this, that he believed in unions. Then he looked into the future and he saw not only the promise of steel but he saw the danger to Pittsburgh of Chicago steel manufacturers. So he made it clear that in order to continue to make a profit he had to cut their wages. And he had to increase their workday from eight hours to 12 hours.

Carnegie's decision to become a philanthropist made him much more ruthless. And he legitimizes it and says so quite frankly that if the money goes back to his workers in higher wages, they're going to eat more meat, drink more alcohol, spend more on clothes. It is better for him to take those few dollars a week out of their salaries and build a library or a concert hall for them.

RYSSDAL: Do you think he would recognize large-scale philanthropy today?

NASAW: No. He'd be very distressed and he'd sit down and lecture Warren Buffet.

He'd say it's not enough to give away 85 percent of your Berkshire Hathaway stock. You've got to dedicate yourself to making sure that money is well spent. Carnegie was very much a beliver in Herbert Spencer's social Darwinism. And the fact that he had all this money was proof that he was smarter, and therefore he was in a better position than anybody else to spend it wisely. His greatest disappointment in life was that he couldn't give away all his money. He was defeated by the inexorable piling up of compound interest. In the end he realized he had no choice but to set up the Carnegie Corporation.

Friday, November 24, 2006

the urge to convene

that which is always there–

the arranger of the great verb tense convention.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Cold Comfort of Philosophy

sources close to Spears report she is “seriously thinking about” giving away a digitally re-mastered copy of the four-hour long sex video.

Who's sorry now?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

dead poets' society

"Both Mandelstam and Akhmatova had the astonishing ability of somehow bridging time and space when they read the work of dead poets. By its very nature, such reading is usually anachronistic, but with them it meant entering into personal relations with the poet in question; it was a kind of conversation with someone long since departed." Nadezhda Mandelstam, Hope Against Hope.
I'm not buying the "usually anachronistic" part -- curious what others -- you there -- not you, Macaca, but you in the white t-shirt and burkha, think. Seems to me the point of reading things that are worth reading as in, you're gone, lost, out of mind and body for as long as you are immersed, which can include times when the book is just sitting there and you are rollerblading, sandblasting, or whatever it is you do when not reading.
le uscìo di bocca e con sì dolci note,
che fece me a me uscir di mente;
That is to say, the experience of "a good book" can rival or exceed the intimacy you think you have with your dear ones. Which latter relations could indeed offer some interesting resemblances to certain of the books you've read.

No, anachronistic would not be the word I'd use, unless to describe what the quotiddly self can seem to one who happens to be reading something pretty good. Some books remain distant cousins on first, second, nth readings, but then somehow, with the "conversation" underway, you're now putting your thoughts where and surely how the text puts its thoughts, less of a conversation than a putting on of the idea and of its fashion, taking in and being taken, discovering the wonderings it has are those you seemed to have but didn't know how to ask, back when your mind worked at all, that then of your mind voiced now and then in the now of the book that then can be an anachrony, a summoning of your dispersed wits to play with a fuller deck, filling and fitting out this ghost you cap-a-pe in volumes of attitude, graces of diction, cadences of logic, where you "live" when not engaged in podcasting, sandblasting, or piano tuning, though some of the best conversations with and about dead poets can be had during these activities of the allegedly living citizen-at-large.
"This would probably have been understood by Keats, who wanted to meet all his friends, living and dead, in a tavern," says Nadezhda Mandelstam.
чуть-чуть, Za Vas!

does "lure" rhyme with "cur" or "cure"?

What USian accent do you have?
Your Result: The Northeast

Judging by how you talk you are probably from north Jersey, New York City, Connecticut or Rhode Island. Chances are, if you are from New York City (and not those other places) people would probably be able to tell if they actually heard you speak.

The Inland North
The Midland
The South
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

via mr. nawmal

(if the above looks odd, try IE)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

a short familiar trip it's been

Not surprisingly, Western views of North Korea tend to remark the sense of constraint, a mannered sense of disproportion in its self-made images and modes:
His [Philippe Chancel] portrait of the capital city Pyongyang offers no evidence of individuality, nor of business or a local social life. Instead, you see a city outfitted in images glorifying the reign of Kim Il Sung -- the "Great Leader" who is designated in the country's constitution as the country's "Eternal President" despite his death in 1994 -- and his son, the "Dear Leader" Kim Jong Il. The propaganda requires no satire -- the leaders, with their shining white teeth and frozen smiles, look more suited for a toothpaste ad than national leadership. Spiegel Online

Harder to see is that the front page of any USian paper exhibits precisely the same effects of disproportion.

When one has been there iteratedly,

it's less of a trip.

vicus: db bmo

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

agree your way in

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Web 3....oh

Sheila on Providential 3.0. Jeneane and Shelly on Sheila.
"Twenty years from now, we'll look back and say this was the embryonic period," said Tim Berners-Lee, 50, who established the programming language of the Web in 1989 with colleagues at CERN, the European science institute.

"The Web is only going to get more revolutionary," he told delegates Tuesday at the opening of the 15th annual International World Wide Web Conference.

For example, Berners-Lee said, a Web site that announces a conference would also contain programming with a lot of related information embedded within it.

Of all the possible hoohas in all the possible universes...

A stylus - child picks it up, discovers it can represent what until then has been mute, offstage. Soon the impedimenta of everyday life are all around it: mother, tree, rock, puppet, graduate student french exam, history of bees, Bush's cabinet, my catty friend, the introduction to Oblomov, clouds, viable alternatives to global warming, the question of Palestine, the entelechy of irony, a most lively comic talent, what I saw on Youtube, the reason we beat the Persians, 40 centimes, Blessed Event, pissing from Mexican balconies, Clem, giant windmills, teeth set in the skull, spiders, Berubeanism, cojones, my USian friend, the bowling ball...


Saturday, November 11, 2006

Look homeward

With your drums and guns and drums and guns, hurroo, hurroo
I've worked with [Rumsfeld] three times in my life. I've been to each of his houses, in Chicago, Taos, Santa Fe, Santo Domingo, and Las Vegas. I'm very, very fond of him, but I'm crushed by his performance. Did he change, or were we wrong in the past? Or is it that he was never really challenged before? I don't know. He certainly fooled me. Kenneth Adelman via alicublog.
He seems not to have been invited to Mount Misery. (asslick @ nyt)

With your drums and guns and drums and guns, With your drums and guns and drums and guns, With your drums and guns and drums and guns, With your drums and guns and drums and guns, With your drums and guns and drums and guns, With your drums and guns and drums and guns, With your drums and guns and drums and guns, With your drums and guns and drums and guns, With your drums and guns and drums and guns, With your drums and guns and drums and guns and
Vice President Cheney's nine-acre place, rambling and white...It is also unapproachable. "The last time I went up Fuller Road," Katie Edmonds, an agent at Meredith Real Estate, said, "S.U.V.'s came out of the woods at me.""She is grateful that the air space above the Cheneys' house is blocked." (asslick p. 2)
"I mean, the virtual world is a bit paradisal, isn't it?" explains Heaney. (via db)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

excretextual: second movement

I thought it well to let Beatrice's steaming self-exteriorizations speak for themselves. Until last evening, at any rate, when, as I walked Max, AKMA's little text devoted to the behavior and offerings of his dog during their regular morning exercise came again to mind -- triggered, no doubt, by Max's similar elaborate reconnoitering of the precise destined coordinates of his own prolific excremental obligations.

Citing Augustine, AKMA first teases us with hope -- a hope denied in his book, Faithful Interpretation -- that meaning will be found "in" the sign:
Within the highly limited sense in which one can discuss any matter of cognition with regard to a dog who has fluff for brains, the location of her morning donation seems meaningful. Now, if that premise be in any sense true, this seems to present a case in which the meaning truly is in the text. Her text constitutes as it were a natural sign of Bea’s existence and digestive activity (“Natural signs are those which, apart from any intention or desire of using them as signs, do yet lead to the knowledge of something else, as, for example, smoke when it indicates fire”; On Christian Doctrine II.i.2).
Augustine's natural signs here seem congruent with Pierce's indexical signs -- that is to say:
Indexical: These signs have a causal link to their referents. Often, these signs can be considered to be parts of their referents: smoke, for example, is an indexical sign of a fire. A footprint, too, is an indexical sign: the print is caused by the foot.
Another example might be a scar, which, instead of being a cause, is understood as the direct effect of some other cause - Odysseus's scar, for example, is a sign
from that time when the boar struck me with his white tusk when I was in the region of Parnassus along with the sons of Autolycus.
Although it turns out also to be an identifying mark that enables Odysseus to establish that he is actually himself to several members of his household. Already, then, we have a mark that "reads" in more than one way -- it both looks back to a moment in the hero's childhood as well as serving as a signature, or unique warranty, that confirms that this old decrepit beggar who suddenly showed up is in fact the lord of the premises.

The scar is a fact, but one that, to certain readers within the local interpretive community of those familiar with Odysseus, admits of more than simple scarness. It's an old wound, yet one that in the presence of the right community opens and speaks volumes.

We quickly see how contingent such readings are in Homer's world: Odysseus finds that his Penelope, the unweaving arch-skeptic, will not be content with this sort of evidence. She's seen and heard it all - every story, every pseudo-Odysseus, fake scars and all. She sets a higher bar -- the stranger must disclose the secret of their marriage bed -- a sign forged within a community consisting of the singular intimacy of only two:
Woman, by heaven you've stung me now!
Who dared to move my bed?
No builder had the skill for that -- unless
a god came down to turn the trick. No mortal
in his best days could budge it with a crowbar.
There is our pact and pledge, our secret sign,
built into that bed -- my handiwork
and no one else's! (Odyssey 23, Fitzgerald trans.)
The sign is not signifying until someone with certain additional knowledge comes along. The act of interpretation involves the sign, the knowledge/context to which the sign is a clue, and the knower who puts together these things in a syllogism:
  • (I see) This man has a scar just so on his knee.
  • But (I remember) Odysseus had such a scar.
  • (I say) This man is Odysseus.
Getting back to Beatrice and AKMA: barely has AKMA suggested that some meaning could lie within Beatrice's externalizings than he takes it back:
On the other hand, the “meaning” in this interaction isn’t an ingredient of the text. Other dogs may infer Bea’s identity and salient characteristics on the basis of the textual deposit, but those remain inferences — not the extraction of a meaning-constituent within the text she leaves.
To the extent that Bea has done something expressive, something meaningful, the expression and meaning depend on a system of instinctual (?) expectations and conventional interactions. Even considering this quite material example, I don’t see how we can ascribe intrinsic “meaning” to the text.
Fair enough. Signs do not "contain" meaning because meaning tropes the sign -- gives it a spin, -- a subtle process of a first (signifier) occasioning a second (signified) thanks to the offices of a third (reader).

But this is altogether separate from the question of whether we have only texts and interpretations, or some facts too.

(A digression: It is quite possible that within the semiotosphere of dogs, part of Bea and Max's seemingly disproportionate locating behavior is due to some obligation they feel to read the signs around them, using their best sense, the nose. Their acts of sniffing and precise positioning could possibly suggest a scanning of the traces of prior texts, with all the identifying and signifying possibilities thereof. Bea and Max then would be readers who seek quite purposively those texts which occasion the sort of visceral response that provokes a meticulous comment pungently applied to the margin. No matter that AKMA happens to pick up the bulk of the material, the next wag that comes along will sense the play of the palimpsest well enough.)

On the other hand, suppose that -- entirely outside this caninical order of signifiers -- AKMA encounters a neighbor during his walk, and, while engaged in lively conversation, fails to observe a lengthy gloss left by Bea upon the grass behind him. If some unsuspecting soul were to unwittingly step into the marginalia, who would question the factuality of the signifier?

In short: addressing the question of where meaning resides does not annihilate fact. There might be some question about whether a certain text has one or several Q's, if other circumstances warrant it - i.e., handwriting, or code, or mistyped letters. But this is not a question of interpretation, any more than the convention of a stop sign makes it pretty difficult not to acknowledge that something is a stop sign. Interpretation does not arise out of the disappearance of the sign, but out of its being woven into a textual arena in which strange things can and do happen to signs. I hope it will not be out of place in this context to suggest that before a community of readers can interpret certain signs, they must be given some indication of what to expect.

This need becomes more urgent when someone clearly takes extra pains to impose new meaning by using a sign in a way never before used. Much depends on whether, for example, we decide the speaker means "this is a sign of my body," or whether he means, in fact, "this is my body." Nothing indexical can tell us. Nor can some pre-existing community of interpreters who re-cognize this saying, like Odysseus's scar, as an iteration, or replication, or indication, of something already knowable and known. No, when we have none of these fall-back positions, how do we decide whether we are witnessing a sign that puts the sign of the bread and the interpreter at the usual interpretive remove from the significance being declared, or whether, as a matter of fact, some new thing has entered the world?

Rummy's immune defenses on high alert

War crime prosecution of he-who-does-not-know-what-he-does-not-know-about-that-
which-may-or-may-not-be-unknowable? Here and here.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

fairie dust

bmo locates a yes men video with a clip of Bush ca. 1999.

est-ce que c'est possible that this callow, elfin-eared creature existed? that it ran for elected office and received votes? what's with its eyes? woody harrelson? was its identity corrected for prime time?

That was the campaign! Now it's about going forward with good will and bi-...

Atene e Lacedemona, che fenno

l'antiche leggi e furon sì civili,

fecero al viver bene un picciol cenno

verso di te, che fai tanto sottili

provedimenti, ch'a mezzo novembre

non giugne quel che tu d'ottobre fili.

(Athens and Sparta, which made the ancient laws
and had such civil order,
gave only hints of the good life compared to you,

who make such fine provision
that the threads you've spun but in October
do not survive to mid-November.)

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Some further thoughts on Faithful Interpretation

David Weinberger here and with AKMA here. Frank Paynter here. AKMA here. More to come. E.g., Tutor.

Perle jam

A key US proponent of the invasion of Iraq has now said that devastating dysfunction has turned US policy in the country into a "disaster".

Richard Perle, a former defence adviser to the Bush administration, told US magazine Vanity Fair the president was responsible for the failure.

"The levels of brutality we've seen are truly horrifying," said Perle, "...and may George W. Bush drink the blood of every man, woman and child in Iraq."